Calling Wendy Davis an Abortion Barbie Is Not OK

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Seriously? Do I seriously have to explain why it is not OK to call Wendy Davis an “Abortion Barbie”? Is this not a fact evident unto itself?

In case you don't keep your finger on the frail pulse of hyperconservative online news outlets, let me catch you up to speed. Erick Erickson, the editor of the blog, recently dubbed Wendy Davis “Abortion Barbie” in a tweet.

Erickson is known for his offensive, half-baked digs at women: He recently told liberals to “go bookmark this site now,” referring to an online store that sold coat hangers.

His remarks are repulsive, certainly, but anyone who considers “botched abortion” to be a punch line is clearly a sociopathic troll. And I try to avoid feeding the trolls.

But the slur “Abortion Barbie” is catching on. I recently saw a tweet from a conservative blogger for the Houston Chronicle that said, “We are going to deal with that abortion Barbie one way or another.” Another one of Erickson's Twitter buddies claimed, “You'll never see the name Wendy Davis without thinking 'Abortion Barbie' again.”

“Abortion Barbie” is entering the conservative lexicon as an appropriate thing to say. That is not acceptable, and we–not just Democrats, not just Republicans, not just women, but we as people who believe that the world is better when we respect others as humans–should not let it happen.

Read more about “Abortion Barbie” comments after the jump.I often feel genuine sympathy for the political consultants tasked with helping Republican party politicians appeal to women voters (and Latino voters and black voters and young voters and poor voters). How do you hold someone's hand and walk them, step by step, through the reasons why they should value women as moving, breathing, thinking agents with free will?

Here are a few suggestions for how I think that talk should go.

Do not call women “Barbies” because women are not dolls.

Dolls are nonliving objects designed to be playthings for their owners. Dolls cannot make decisions. Dolls cannot have feelings or experiences. Dolls cannot give or revoke their consent for what others do to their bodies. Dolls cannot experience the tragic consequences of an unforeseen event, and dolls cannot be faced with the harrowing burden of an unplanned pregnancy.

When people conceive of women as dolls, they are contributing to the widespread belief that women are objects who are incapable of making decisions. On an institutional scale, silencing women and making their decisions for them is an act that always ends in violence.

Do not call women “Barbies” because women are not playing dress-up with their careers.

When a woman has the opportunity to graduate at the top of her class, then attend Harvard Law, then run for office and become a state Senator, she is not putting on an “elected official” costume on over her apron and pearls.

I should note that when a woman in Alaska runs for office, she is not putting on her “Caribou Barbie” costume. Misogyny is not a single party's issue, even if a single party flaunts it more.

Do not call women “Barbies” because women should not be defined by their attractiveness, their hair color, or their accessories.

Because dolls don't have personalities, they are defined by their appearance: The color of their hair, the color of their shoes, their body size. Luckily, women have personalities, so they are defined by their identities rather than others' judgment of their bodies. Women in positions of power should not be forced to change their appearance or physical presentation to be acceptable for men.

Unfortunately, this “Abortion Barbie” rhetoric isn't some isolated instance of disrespect toward women in discussions about abortion. State Sen. Dan Patrick's comment during the final minutes of the omnibus abortion bill debate illustrate the same cavalier, insensitive attitude toward women. Claiming to be an ally with the unborn, he mimicked a woman's distressing decision process by saying, “You know, this just isn't really convenient to give birth to you right now. Do you mind dying?”

Individuals who disagree about the ethics of abortion can have productive conversations about the consequences of abortion policies, but only with mutual respect. The political status quo, which relies on denigrating women as thoughtless objects who must be managed and controlled, will never produce effective policies that reduce the need for abortions and keeps women safe — a goal that (I hope) both parties can value.


About Author

Natalie San Luis

Natalie is a native Texan, a feminist, and a writer, focusing on reproductive justice, race, and pop culture. When she's not writing (and sometimes when she is), she's brewing beer, drinking beer, and reading stuff on the Internet. Her work has been featured on The Huffington Post, xoJane, The Billfold, Culturemap, and E3W Review of Books. She tweets from @nsanluis.

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