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Pressing Issues

Oh, So Now Media Men Want to Talk About ‘Roe’

Cis-male pundits have entered the chat on abortion, and pushed out the women who have been on the front lines of the fight from the conversation.

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If there was ever a moment to center women’s voices, it was in the coverage of the destruction of abortion rights in this country.

But never let it be said that men missed an opportunity to shout over us. To center their own voices. To show off their savvy and political smarts and deep, vital knowledge of how things would poll. To quote one another as they dispassionately discussed the ramifications of allowing the government to force us to bear children.

From the moment Politico published Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion striking down Roe v. Wade and allowing states to ban abortion without exception, America’s Media Men began talking and they haven’t stopped all week.

They’ve said that maybe this is good news, actually!

They’ve talked about the ways in which overturning Roe might be good, actually, by motivating voters who overwhelming support abortion rights in this fall’s midterm elections.

They’ve talked about the sacredness of the U.S. Constitution and how this decision might impact that venerable document.

They’ve spent endless hours debating what the leak of a draft opinion means for the feelings of the justices for one another, and most importantly the man in charge of the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts.

“This news is simply stunning for the Supreme Court as an institution,” Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law, told the network. “Not only is the result it portends—the overruling of Roe and Casey—a shockwave to our constitutional politics, but we have never seen a leak remotely like this from inside the Court, where we’re not just hearing what the result is going to be, but we’re seeing the draft majority opinion in advance. It’s hard to believe that the former doesn’t help to explain the latter, but it’s an earthquake in both respects.”

“It thus seems possible that Kavanaugh, and maybe Barrett, will urge Alito to soften some portions of the opinion that call other precedents into doubt or depict pro-choice justices as idiots and partisan hacks,” wrote Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern. “Will it work? This leak may make that task more difficult, as Alito will not want the public to think that he caved to more moderate squishes. And where is Chief Justice John Roberts in all this?”

They’ve filled the internet with takes about how women should protest, how women should react, what women should and should not say to the prospect of their right to bodily autonomy disappearing.

They’ve even weighed in on how legendary liberal women have failed America by … working too long and then dying of cancer inconveniently, making it possible for Republican men to ruin everything:

Even the anti-abortion movement’s voices in this moment are male, and focused on abstractions like court comity and the weight of history. Quoted by NPR, Steven Aden with Americans United for Life “says he likes what he’s seeing, and that the leaked draft opinion means it’s time for state lawmakers to get to work.”

At The Dispatch, David French wrote: “It represents a restoration, not a rupture of our constitutional fabric … Roe was the rupture, and our nation has been dealing with the legal and political consequences ever since.”

The moral consequences, too, one might expect an anti-abortion voice to say, but a Media Man has never thought of anything except a political horse race.

Quoting President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are all defensible, of course, those being men in positions to address or redress the consequences of Alito’s writing. But headlining and retweeting dude after dude after dude to provide “analysis” is absolutely indefensible in the context of abortion politics. Reporters and editors have known for months that this opinion, or one substantially similar, was on the way, and had plenty of time to build a list of commentators, writers, and consultants with deep expertise and empathy for those who are personally at risk from an abortion ban.

Male lawmakers already treat women, cis and trans, as an exotic constituency they know not of, whose bodies should be subject to regulation like dangerous animals or narcotic drugs. They routinely opine that our internal organs can voluntarily prevent pregnancy. They talk about “legitimate” sex crimes and fantasize about the kinds of sexual assault they think should justify a rape exemption in abortion law.

They can’t even name the body parts they’re trying to pass laws to control, and when called on their ignorance they hide behind religious reasoning that has no place in matters of state.

Even when they’re attempting to convince us how much they care for us, they do so by objectifying us as sainted mothers, objects onto which they can project their fantasies of childbearing unimpeded by the infrastructure needed to nurture those children.

They turn us into lists of circumstances under which they find our lives worthy of consideration and ignore anything that doesn’t fit their narrative.

We are hypotheticals to be discussed secondarily to things like reverence to the Constitution or the comfort of the Supreme Court.

We are scary stories, to be used as cautionary tales for polling purposes, as motivations for this or that constituency and bulwarks of support for a party.

We are anything and everything but people who need the freedom to decide if, when, and how we will get medical care.

It may be beyond the realm of the possible for Republican politicians, enamored as they are equally of stupidity and fascism, to consider that, but our brothers in the press might want to consider taking a step back and letting their female colleagues speak for ourselves.

Instead of approvingly retweeting every savvier-than-thou take on what this means for the holiness of the mostly male Supreme Court or the mostly male U.S. Senate or the entirely male U.S. presidency, media bros should be amplifying the voices of the people whose lives are under attack today.

That the corporate press considers their views less legitimate, less urgent, less fundamental to the future of this country, is a large part of how we wound up here in the first place and we’re not going to get out of this without listening to them.

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