Courtney E. Martin has posted an article on Alternet asking if we should look past the men who use abortion politics as an attempt to control women, in order to embrace male pro-choice allies who are also traumatized by abortion choices? At least, that’s what I got out of it. The article is difficult to sum up; it’s not “what about the menz”, but it is definitely asking a question about how to reach out to male allies in a way that is simply fair to everyone.
Perhaps that article combined with my recent 80’s flashbacking caused me to remember an episode of Spenser: for Hire, a detective drama in the mid-80’s starring the unfortunately deceased Robert Urich and a young Avery Brooks. My mom watched the show every week, and I often watched it with her.
At one point in the show, Spenser’s girlfriend Susan became pregnant. She didn’t want to have a child with a father who was constantly risking his life, and so she had an abortion. I remember the scene in which she was in a hospital bed and, if memory serves (the show is not being re-run nor is it on DVD), he’s sitting there with her, unhappy. He hadn’t wanted the abortion. But neither had he volunteered to stop risking his life and take impending fatherhood seriously. He had made his choice; she had made hers.
I was young, so maybe I missed something. But I don’t recall a feeling of either character being judged. I remember her offering poignant arguments why this was the better choice for her. I remember him wanting the baby but refusing to interfere with her right to choice. Because he too had a choice: to show how important fatherhood was to him by growing up and taking it seriously, or not.
I was quite stunned in the 90’s to hear men talk about not having choices in abortion. That they should have the right to prevent a woman from getting one if that’s their sperm in there, no matter how thoughtlessly it was contributed. It’s painful to look back and realize 80’s pop culture showed a deeper understanding of all the many choices both partners make leading up to an abortion or birth than allegedly serious news media shows now.
In the 80’s, it was much easier to sympathize with men like Spenser, because pop culture assured us these men recognized their own contributions to the difficult situation. That assurance is gone partly because of the attitudes of real life men who take no responsibility for their own actions but want to control someone else’s, but also partly because of a media that would rather show some blithering nut go on and on with generalizations of straw women who hurt men than show real people, struggling with real choices and real responsibility.