Monday, February 20, 2012

An Open Letter to Foster Friess


This is a response to Mr. Foster Friess, a prominent Santorum-backer (gigglesnort—if you didn’t get that admittedly puerile joke, google ‘Dan Savage Santorum’) who is now dubiously famous for the following quote, uttered in the midst of the recent Republican contraceptive rigmarole: “This contraceptive thing, my gosh…back in my day they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives…the gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.” 

Mr. Friess,
I will attempt to keep this response civil, free from both ad hominem attacks and gratuitous profanity. Thus, I will leave aside the fact that your name makes you sound like a comic book villain. You don’t look like an evil man, Mr. Friess--while you don’t look like either of my grandfathers,  who were more the wiry athletic type, you certainly look like someone’s grandfather (many someones’, if you conduct your personal affairs in the same manner you seem to be suggesting to all American women). 

Perhaps this was your idea of a joke. I’m willing to consider that. Here’s the misstep you made, though: it wasn’t funny. Now, before you start singing the tired old “feminists have no sense of humor” rag, please look at the jokes I’ve included at the end of this letter. I would include them here, but I think I’ve got a flow going and I’d rather not get derailed. I’m sure a happening guy like yourself will find them hilarious. Thanks.
PS. You know how you look around the room and make sure no one nearby will hear and be offended before you tell an off-color racist/sexist/anti-Semitic/homophobic joke? Maybe if you’d considered that your ‘joke’ was going to be on national television, and thus that the ‘room’ was essentially the United States of America, you’d have kept it to yourself. I know I would have. But then again, I don’t try to use my personal preferences to legislate other people’s behavior, so I can’t really force that reticence on you. Just consider it a suggestion. I won’t even charge you for the image consultation.

Now, jokes aside, I’m going to assume that you intended this as a (quasi) serious statement and ‘unpack’ it a little bit. So…women who don’t want to get pregnant should just close their legs. That’s basically what you’re saying, right? Given your ‘family values’ stance, I guess you think that couples having premarital sex are doing something immoral. That’s your opinion. But what’s immoral about it? I’m guessing you’d say they’re being irresponsible, that they should exhibit some discipline, some control. But I’d ask you, Mr. Friess—who’s really being irresponsible? Women who are PLANNING their lives by controlling their fertility, and who have made a conscious choice to use contraception because they KNOW they aren’t ready for the difficult and demanding job of bringing a life into the world? Or a group of men who, sight unseen, would seek to wrest that control—that ability to decide, that ability to plan—away from women en masse? Is it responsible to endorse a course of action that will lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies?

You didn’t specify what kind of ‘gals’ used aspirin as birth control in your day, so what about married 
women? I know lots of married women currently in medical school and residency who know that they don’t want to have kids until this physically and emotionally draining period of their lives is over. Are they supposed to abstain from sex with their partners for the next couple years? For some reason I’m imagining you crying out, “But a man has needs!” Indeed, Mr. Friess—and women, too. Alright, abstinence is out—so that leaves the not-so-successful rhythm method (What do you call a woman who uses the rhythm method? Mom! See, I told you feminists have a sense of humor) or…pregnancy. And here, I think, is where you show your hand—where the real agenda of anti-contraceptive activists is on display. This mindset, Mr. Friess—whether intentionally or no—reduces women to their reproductive potential, to perennially barefoot and pregnant baby factories. At its heart is the idea that ALL women’s first and primary calling is motherhood. There are some women who may choose that for themselves, Mr. Friess, but the operative word is CHOOSE. It is a grave insult to someone’s humanity to deprive them of the chance to choose their own life path. It is, to my mind (and to answer your evangelical base) a sin to look at someone as a means of production, or as a uterus and ovaries, rather than as a whole human being.
Yours sincerely,
Anne G.
PS. How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb? THAT’S NOT FUNNY. (We also would have accepted “Two if they’re really small.”)

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