Apr 18 2008

Miscarriage art cube provokes “outcry”

Art student Aliza Shvarts’ unholy, cavalier attitude toward the sanctity of the human blastocyst has squanked out the Yale undergraduate art department.

To obtain materials for her senior art project — a cube encased in plastic and blood onto which video is projected — Shvarts, over a period of nine months, inseminated herself “as often as possible,” induced an undisclosed number of miscarriages, videotaped the events subsequently transpiring in her bathtub, and preserved the effluents.

Ours is a quaint, superstitious culture with strict rules about where and when and why and how male and female reproductive materials may touch. There are different consequences depending on the sex of the parties involved. For example, there are no consequences at all for men (unless they are homos). But women sure have a lot of explaining to do if their genetic material touches someone else’s before they have secured the permission of a bunch of authority figures, such as the ghost of a dead Nazarene on a stick, their dad, their boyfriend, or the U.S. Government.

Genetic material co-minglings that end before a live birth can occur are sometimes overlooked if they are seen as the expression of a popular deity’s capricious nature. These are called “miscarriages” and are God’s will. However, exceptions may obtain if the woman miscarrying is of low moral character, say, a teen slut (as we saw last week, if a teenager exhibits the poor judgement to (a) get knocked up and (b) expel the tissue on a plane, Homicide marches her straight off to the hoosegow), or an art student.

Should a free-wheelin’ Bohemian chick expel reproductive material as a function of her own agency, her motives (unlike those of the deity) can only be interpreted as insufferably self-serving and nefarious, an affront to human decency, even sociopathic. According to the Yale Daily News, the general tone around campus (among those who have heard of Shvarts) seems to be one of “shock.” One undergrad opined that inducing miscarriages for purposes of senior art projects is “morally wrong.” Another was quoted as being unimpressed with the work to the extent that she feels it violates the Constitution.

So a woman may have a miscarriage, but only if she doesn’t want one.

And lard help her if she should try to make a political statement with it.

Whether or not the reproductive material from a young bohemian’s uterus may be exhibited without incident on cubes in Undergraduate Art Shows at Yale remains to be seen; few authority figures know about Shvarts yet. The Yale paper says that, as of yesterday, the even campus reproductive activist groups were unaware of the piece. I suspect that the reason the uterus cops haven’t called out a hit on Shvarts is that they haven’t yet had the pleasure of being scandalized and titillated by her flagrant abuse of her magic feminine powers.

UPDATE: Turns out Shvarts was just pulling our leg! Obviously bucking for a slot on “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.”

According to the Chicago Trib: “When confronted by three senior Yale officials, including two deans, Shvarts acknowledged that she was never pregnant and did not induce abortions.” Even so,

Ted Miller, a spokesman for NARAL Pro-Choice America, called the concept offensive and “not a constructive addition to the debate over reproductive rights.”

Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, an anti-abortion group, said his anger was not mitigated by the fact that Shvarts may never not have been pregnant. “I’m astounded by this woman’s callousness,” he said.

I’m kind of disappointed. If it had been real, it would have been gross and asinine, but worth an hour and a half of my life writing an essay about. Now that it’s fake, it’s just asinine. Shvarts owes me an hour and a half.


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  1. TP

    [Shvarts’ exhibit] turns what is a serious decision for women into an absurdism

    Actually, I think the woman ought to be getting a medal or something for sacrificing herself this way in order to make a very obvious point about the freedom women have to control their own bodies. I’m sure it was quite an ordeal, and for someone to call it absurd instead of heroic is just willfully refusing to acknowledge the emotional and physical commitment she endured for this performance art piece.

    When I heard the much-maligned and brilliant performance artist Karen Findlay talk before one of her performances she said that she regarded performance art as a radically new kind of art mostly created by and enjoyed by women. She had points to make about how performance art was about direct representation of emotional themes without the insertion of object/physical proxies, like paintings or sculptures, to be possessed and sold. Selling a thing which can be resold for more money later is the kind of uber-patriarchal quality that makes art into a market-based and male-dominated world.

    Maybe I’m remembering the talk through my relatively sharpened lenses of radical feminism, or maybe I’m just now understanding what she was talking about that was unclear to me since I didn’t understand the relation of women to objectification like I do now. However, this piece makes the same kind of explicitly feminist statement, while providing, as an object, which in the patriarchal world of art, is essential to fulfill the capitalist currency of art, the sacrifice of her own body.

  2. Panic

    If it had been real, it would have been gross and asinine, but worth an hour and a half of my life writing an essay about. Now that it’s fake, it’s just asinine.
    I could not agree more. It’s lazy, is what it is. I imagine her fellow art students are pretty pissed they spend a lot of time and effort on their senior works, and will spend most of their lives toiling in obscurity. This person wrote a small press release, about something she didn’t do, and everyone’s talking. Terrible stuff.

  3. Metric

    Not related to topic, but still interesting

    definition of rape widened

  4. Anji

    She is actually now saying that the university is not telling the truth, and it was in fact not a hoax. I wish they’d make their minds up.

  5. Thealogian

    You know, I spent a good 15 minutes writing a comment on Feministe in response to this, but it got lost in between that “fill in these squiggly numbers so we know you’re not a computer trying to advertise penis enlargements” type thing–thanks for not having that particular security feature by the way–and so instead of duplicating it here, I’ll just say: thanks for giving the forced pregnancy people a new urban myth to give our kids in abstinence only education class and another excuse not to fund the arts, great job Yale.

  6. Jessant

    I’m getting whiplash. Is it true? Is it false? Is it the kind of freak show that conservatives love to turn to when the world stops making sense to them? Yes, yes, yes.

  7. Anastasia

    Here’s what I read in this story:

    she inseminated herself regularly
    she took abortifacients regularly
    she collected the blood regularly

    What she did not do is wait to confirm that she was ever pregnant. I could be wrong about that but that’s what I read. If I had the link, I’d post it…right now I don’t have time to look again.

    The point is whether or not she ever became pregnant is unclear but she didn’t not do anything. She’s quoted as saying the uncertainty was part of the point. It could have been menstruation or it could have been miscarriage. I take some part of the point to be the continuum between regular menstruation, pregnancy, early miscarriage, and abortion. These are all things we react to quite differently, as if there were stark differences between them. A fertilized egg that doesn’t implant and a non fertilized egg are both going to result in menstruation and you’d just never know.

    Anyway, my main point is that she did do something besides write a press release.

  8. mearl

    How does one induce miscarriages? If it were so easy, don’t you think women everywhere would be doing that instead of going through the rigamarole to get a legal and/or safe abortion?

    Still, Twisty, your post isn’t a waste. Without it, the Blamers would have missed out on your razor-sharp analysis of the arguments about ethics, decency, ownership of bodies, and of what those bodies produce. It seems to me that society is just a tiny bit confused about what women are allowed to do with our bodies. The thing I find most interesting is that, as a woman, one is sanctioned by liberals to terminate a pregnancy or “suffer” a miscarriage, but not if you got pregnant in the first place BY CHOICE. It’s ethical only if the pregnancy was unintended. That brings up a host of scenarios in my mind that are confusing in terms of ethics. Such as, say you get pregnant on purpose, but three weeks later find out your male partner is a serial killer. Is it ethical to abort?

    And I also link this sort of discussion in my head to the idea that a woman can get pregnant and decide to KEEP the baby, but if she boozes, does crack, or smokes her face off during pregnancy, no one can stop her, it’s HER CHOICE. That one’s way more difficult for me in terms of the legalities surrounding care for a baby in utero vs. the rights of the individual woman.

    ARGH! It’s only noon and already my head hurts! But thank you Twisty, I need to think about this stuff.

  9. mearl

    Humph. Just looked up “RU486” to discover that it’s not legal yet in Canada. No wonder I am so uninformed.


  10. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    Twisty, don’t let the shocked, shocked response of the nation gaslight you out of your essay! The essay stands as is. If I could, I’d knock off your addendum with my trusty little two-headed ax.

    Squeeze semen out of baster into vagina, wait four weeks, take herbs, menstruate or miscarry. Repeat. If she did it for nine months, there could only have been nine menstrual cycles or nine miscarriages, or some combination thereof. If she took the herbs at a particular time in her cycle each month, presumably the artist doesn’t even know whether she miscarried or menstruated.

    So the Truth is that she’s a monster if she miscarried and a fucked-up bad artist if she menstruated? All she did is squirt semen, take herbs and menstruate? The eggs may never have been fertilized or they might have been fertilized—I suspect her point is the flip-flopping nature of the responses.

    The response to her work measures the effects of the patriarchy’s grip on our thoughts, our morals, and our ethics.

    She can truthfully say, “To the best of my knowledge I was never pregnant and did not induce abortions—because all I did was menstruate on time each month.”

    Perhaps one of her points is about the sacred mixing of sperm and egg. And she made it. It’s definitely art. Conceptual art, that is.

    I’d have to see the bloody plastic cube and videos before I went on the record as to whether it was bad or good art, because, alas, execution counts, but the idea is an excellent thought experiment.

    She doesn’t owe you an hour and a half; you owe her another hour and a half.

    Rock on, TP! And Anastasia! –Just saw your comments!

  11. Intransigentia

    I’m inclined to agree with Anastasia. It might be able to be called a hoax in that there were no positive pregnancy tests that we are aware of, in which case there’s no way of knowing if there was a fertilized egg in with the blood clots. At first I was squicked out by the idea – “how could you do that to yourself, and omg what a risk to take, what if the abortifacient doesn’t work” not “oh noes baybeez” – but then it occurred to me that when fetus worshippers bleat about the morning after pill causing abortions, my usual retort is that if that’s the case, why don’t we have funerals for our used tampons.

    It also occurs to me that when she says “abortifacient drugs”, according to the fundagelical fetus fetishists, not only the morning after pill, but the regular, daily Pill, is an abortifacient.

    Now I think it’s brilliant, regardless of whether she ever conceived; I’m just glad that whatever abortifacient she took worked every time. I know I’d never have the guts to go through with something like that.

  12. Panic

    Anyway, my main point is that she did do something besides write a press release.
    I’ll believe that when I see it. I’d be happy if I was wrong, so my head can stop hurting.

  13. Kenzie

    Hmph. I was just in the midst of writing some lengthy treatise in a comment when I hit some random key combination and the window closed abruptly. I’ll try again…

    Whether or not she did the deed as described, I find it interesting the way that so many folks on other feminist blogs are reacting. They don’t want to lose their pro-choice street cred, but they’re clearly uncomfortable with what she’s done.

    So, instead of calling her out on the basis of morality, which would clearly be off-limits for a pro-choice person, they’re doing so on the basis of her own personal safety. “Oh, but she didn’t see a doctor! How can that possibly be good for her body? I don’t know if she should have been allowed to put herself at risk like that.”

    On the one hand, by heck I wish people were a little more informed about the subject. Early miscarriage is what human women DO, possibly even more than full-term pregnancy. We’ve been doing it safely for millenia, and somehow we still managed to grow our population to over 2 billion before any doctor ever took a hand in the process (and our subsequent population growth is unrelated to doctor-assisted spontaneous abortions).

    But on the other hand, even if it was unsafe, so what? So’s Formula 1 racing, downhill skiing, mountain freeclimbing, skydiving, ballooning, eating toxic blowfish flesh and a million other things, including driving a car in ordinary traffic (something we most of us do every day).

    It seems to me it’s a pretty basic human right to do with our bodies (the one thing we truly own) whatever the hell we like, whether it be unsafe activities like those listed above, or even body modification, including surgical.* Inducing (or not) early miscarriage seems downright tame to me compared to (gah!) tongue splitting, or suspension piercing.

    If a blastocyst/embryo/fetus is a wanted (by the adult human woman involved) blastocyst/embryo/fetus, then call it what you like (baby/person/he/she/alive). If not, it’s just another bunch of cells to shed come bleedin’ time, however it got there.

    *Note: this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for feminist analysis of why women are overwhelmingly the ones choosing risky cosmetic plastic surgery, of course.

  14. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    Just found a column she did, explaining what she thought she was doing:


    If you iron out the jargony pomo-language (presumably from her senior thesis), she seems like a smart young blamer.

  15. lump

    The first thing occurring to me on reading the article was a perennial gripe of mine on the way menstruation is constantly viewed as unclean and/or disgusting. Those adverts with the pale blue antiseptic solutions poured onto a menstrual pad designed to soak up blood never fail to give me a bad case of involuntary jaw-clench. I am reminded of Germaine Greer and her challenge to feminists to taste their own menstrual blood without succumbing to the “Oh, but it’s dirty” response we’ve all been indoctrinated with. Whether or not she ever actually miscarried Aliza has impressed me first of all in regard to addressing that taboo.

    If it were only menstrual blood in her suspended cube we could anticipate the usual cries of ‘revolting’, ‘sick’ and ‘crazy feminist’ as common reactions to this art work. But by daring to disrespect the sacred formula of sperm uterus = no longer my body Aliza’s caused quite a stir. Of course it might also have just a little bit to do with the use of plastic syringes for artificial insemination, neatly robbing everyone of the fun of shooting her down as a dirty slut.

    Oh and let me just say as well that I for one do not equate an orally taken herbal abortifacient 28 days after menstruation with abortion. I believe Aliza took the miscarriage-inducing drugs every month without first determining if pregnancy had occurred. Maybe I’m splitting hairs but I really can’t equate the two.

  16. Shae

    The problem that this poses for feminism is that she wants credit for believing that reproduction is no big deal, and that she isn’t too morally or physically squeamish about inducing miscarriages to do so for an art project, when — we can only conclude — she IS in fact too squeamish. Otherwise she would have done it, since she recognized it as a good idea and statement.

    It kind of reminds me of the kids in junior high who’d pretend they were taking drugs. Hey, if it’s cool, then just do it, and if it isn’t, stop pretending it’s cool.

    It would behoove feminists to go ahead and not make claims they can’t back up.

  17. Panic

    Thanks for that link, Lieutenant Lee. I’ve been wanting to see an artist statement since I first heard about this, and there wasn’t one to be found. The wild conjecture about what it “meant” was pissing me off, since the artist herself never specified anything in the first article.

    “It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership.”
    Translation? Anyone?

  18. Shira

    I think lump hit the nail on the head. What makes her art powerful is that she’s forcing people to address the contradiction of, on the one hand, seeing menstrual blood (and women, by extension) as this dirty, gross, contaminating, quasi-sinful insult to human decency, and on the other hand, claiming to believe all the sentimental crap that posits that embryos are these sacrosanct snowflakes from conception onward, whose personhood is inarguable and whose beauty and symbolic value is as an extension of the presumptively extant father’s virility.

    The reason people are pissed about this, then, is because of the cognitive dissonance inherent in facing the fact that no, there’s no magic line between miscarriage, abortion, and menstruation – that it’s all fundamentally the same uterus expelling the same damn tissue, sperm magic notwithstanding. I would argue that this is the primary reason, and that it beats out, however slightly, the competing anger about a woman (1)attempting to impregnate herself (and thereby co-opting that sacred male prerogative) and then (2) attempting to abort (further emasculating the male prerogative) while (3) thinking she had the right to go and talk about it. And trailing all those reasons is the concomitant squickiness at seeing what could very well be The Curse on public display.

    This dynamic shows up other parts of, to use Twisty’s terminology, the megatheocorporatocracy. Think of the hypothetical fundie squawking about depictions of sexuality that do not conform to the man and woman in obvious heteronormative marriage norm. It’s not that there’s something obviously different about unmarried or even (gasp) queer boinking that makes it intolerable. Indeed, the undeniable similarity between the actual acts of a married heterocouple’s sexing, and any other kind of sexing under the sun, has forced patriarchy enthusiasts (Twisty, you have broadened my vocabulary in such endlessly useful ways) to invent the whole goddamn sex-gender system itself in order to carve out these bullshit value-laden distinctions where previously there were none. Give these asswipes a few millennia, and – oh wait, they’ve already done that for we members of the temporarily functional uterati!

    The fact that anyone cares at all whether she did what she said she did makes this art (or rather, makes this a patriarchy, to which she is responding with art). In a sane world, no one would give a rat’s ass about what’s going on in anyone else’s reproductive tract, and she would have had to do something else for her senior project.

  19. narya

    Despite having written several hundred pages about how language is important and intertwined with practice and kinds of other fancy-ass philosophical shit, conversations about Art and Meaning, especially ones with lots of pomo jargony thingies going on, tend to make me want a beer to drink and a hockey game (or a Formula 1 race) to watch.

  20. alice

    “It creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership.”


    “Because the cube is ambiguous- it could be miscarriages or periods- the physical cube itself isn’t the art. The interpretation of the cube, as people think ‘what the hell is going on here?’ is where the art is at.”

  21. Kathleen

    I think Shira’s analysis might be smarter than the original project, and I don’t believe she ever took any abortifacient “herbs” (whatever those might be — that only she knows about?), but all the same turning menstrual blood into a performance art project about the bloody contents of the uterus (sacred and everyone’s business when potential babies, gross and disgusting and never to be mentioned when not) is pretty sharp and well worth the time I’ve spent reading and thinking about it. Because it raises that exact issue: bloody expelled material MUST BE POLICED BY EVERYONE if mixed with sperm, MUST BE HIDDEN AND NEVER MENTIONED if not. What IS up with that seems to me to be a legitimate feminist ethics & aesthetics problem.

    And sure, she’s not the only one to ever wonder about these things but that’s sort of comes with the territory of being a 22 year old art major, I’d reckon.

  22. Cranium

    Comment by MRA sympathizer deleted by Twisty on grounds that it violates the “Do not begin your comment with the word ‘um'” rule, the “Use appropriate capitalization” rule, and the “Antifeminists can go to hell” rule.

  23. narya

    Though I do see everyone’s point about thinking and blaming and stuff.

  24. PhysioProf

    Yale undergrads tend to be both exceedingly brilliant and exceedingly self-absorbed.

  25. Rachel

    I love how ambiguous the project is! I also love how the artist talks about “heteronormative structures” that seek to define what is a normal function for body parts (esp. female parts.) It is indeed hard to get away from the shock value of the piece, but once you do there is a cornucopia of good blaming here.

  26. Natalia

    Shira, that was brilliant and well said.


    Yale undergrads tend to be both exceedingly brilliant and exceedingly self-absorbed.

    while I can see where you’re coming from, I feel that this generalization was unnecessary.

  27. Joanna

    I like your translation, Alice!

    So, Ted and Peter didn’t like her project? They can both bite me.

  28. Twisty

    I learned of the hoax/not hoax just minutes before I had to biff off to Spinster HQ this morning, so my remarks on the update were hurried. Upon further reflection:

    Even if, as the Lt Rev BDL suggests, Shvarts herself never knew precisely the degree to which she was parturient, but in fact did the nasty, “took herbs,” and menstruated once a month regardless, (a) isn’t that pretty much what all college seniors do all the time, and (b) what’s with the videos, which are purported to depict the artist experiencing actual miscarriages in her bathtub? I mean, this isn’t just about some chaos theory of menstrual effluent, although I’d be down with that if it were. I’m sensing a definite theatrical element which suggests not so much art school conceptual hijinx as intentional misrepresentation meant to extract from the piece a lot more gravitas than is actually warranted by a garden-variety multimedia blood-cube. If we can’t rely upon Shvarts to have had genuine miscarriages, can we rely on her for anything? It’s a con. I bet she bought that blood-cube at Home Depot! And now we’re all talking about Shvarts instead of about issues of personal bodily sovereignty and all that rot.

    I’m sayin’, these kids today, they just don’t know how to commit!

  29. Twisty

    Oh, and Shira?

    The reason people are pissed about this, then, is because of the cognitive dissonance inherent in facing the fact that no, there’s no magic line between miscarriage, abortion, and menstruation – that it’s all fundamentally the same uterus expelling the same damn tissue, sperm magic notwithstanding.

    Hell yeah.

  30. Shira

    Why does the linked article refer to these as “forced miscarriages?” Is someone forcing them on her? It’s utterly bizarre to refer to someone doing something to their own body as “forced,” as if her uterus has an independent, gestational will that she is thwarting. I guess if the woman is right there telling you herself that she doesn’t want to be pregnant, telling her that her uterus disagrees is one way of defending the position that all women want to make babies all the time.

    This is related to the cognitive dissonance these people are trying to resolve. The dudely author of this article took the belief that embryos are people with interests independent of that of the mother and, since he can’t be sure there are actually any embryos involved in the icky gross menstrual blood, simply transferred that argument to the uterus! So now the uterus is interpellated as a subject that can have miscarriages “forced” upon it!

    It’s not, nor has it ever been, about the babies. When confronted with a woman who so clearly must be controlled, but who so inconveniently lacks a precious snowflake to be defended with paeans and state power, these people begin moving on to the surrounding organs. Pretty soon we’ll be hearing about how Ms. Shvarts shouldn’t be in college at all, since reading takes blood away from the uterus, and we wouldn’t want to aid and abet utericide.

  31. Pinko Punko

    I find it provocative in the good way, because of the way it shoves in all our faces the fact that if sperms might have touched something all of a sudden the miniscule chance something was fertilized let alone, implanted, developed, and born it’s all the same thing to conventional cobag wisdom. And the spell-checker can eat me, miniscule should have an “i.”

  32. walkingg

    Intentionality is a big factor when considering the success of an art work and although the statement over does the art-speak a tad, and knowing the type of environment that Ms Shvarts is working within this is excusable, she seems really conscious of the many issues and ambiguities that this work raises. I think it is a really intriguing and successful work.

    As an artist it is a relief to see that the elite art schools are still fostering smart young feminists who persist in the belief that women’s bodies and experiences are valid subjects for art making. Of course that belief is ludicrous, as most curators, gallerists and art collectors will tell you women’s bodies are eminently sellable, work made by women about women’s bodies not so much.

  33. Alan

    Schvarts counters Yale statement of “performance art”, re-iterates that this is all real and will be on display somehow/somewhere.


    I don’t think i would have seen the reaction to this coming though. i’m sure I’ve heard of other, more dander-raising “fuck you” projects that wouldn’t get much more than a labored scoff from the irony crowd and at best get the 8-5 grossed out enough to wax plebian on what art is and isnt, but APPARENTLY NOT.

  34. walkingg

    Also, calling the sperm donators “fabricators” is pretty amusing.

  35. Twisty

    I believe Donita Sparks of L7 achieved a similar result, with a somewhat more elegant economy of word, deed, and premeditation, when, after being pelted with mud while onstage at the 1992 Reading Festival, she whipped her tampon out, threw it at the crowd, and yelled “Eat this, motherfuckers!” (or something like that).

  36. another outspoken female

    I was marveling at the woman’s ability to abort on whim, as from my experience those blastocytes are tenacious thangs. I love this hoax. And yes, I’d call it art.

    A recent Art School undergrad in Melbourne (Australia) recorded herself having sex with a bloke in a toilet, then videoed her mother watching the piece. Yes art. Loved the concept

    Anything that makes people think, feel, react – ie: wake us from this living coma induced by televised pap, is worth it.

  37. PhysioProf

    Wow! Now that’s some fucking performance art!

  38. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    Definitely adolescent art school hijinx, but she did take a fairly tired art school cliché–vagina art—and made it shocking and fresh! And pissed almost everybody off! She’s got big brass tits! I like her! Now I’ve used up my monthly allowance of exclamation points.

  39. anonymous_poster

    Comment by MRA sympathizer deleted by Twisty on grounds of off-topicness, use of screen name “anonymous_poster,” and authorship by the same chump who always tries to post with the email address “falserapesociety@blahblah dot com”

  40. rootlesscosmo

    Yeah, Lt. Rev. and Shira [nods vigorously while applauding]! And Twisty, yes about Donita Sparks, but if a point’s worth making, it’s worth making more than once, and besides, in 1992 (I know, I don’t like this either) Shvarts was six years old.

  41. coathangrrr

    It isn’t a hoax. The artist has written an article/statement about the piece.


    It seems pretty clear that the Yale admins really want for this to be a hoax, but I really don’t think it is. I’m going to stick with this woman being totally genius.

  42. Ron Sullivan

    It’s the same joke* as “Piss Christ,” right? Only more, shall we say, down-to-earth.

    I’m thinking the performance is happening right now, in blogs and other media all over the place. Some good writin’ going on out here. Whee-hah!

    *How do you know it is? You have to take it on Faith.**

    **Faith is thinking of charging rent after all these years of being taken on on.

  43. Panic

    Thanks very much, Alice. The art speak totally lost me.

  44. Nerdy Niece

    Mearl, I think there are many safe and accessible herbal abortifacents that are not public knowledge because data-based herbal medicine is not distinguished from quack medicine in mainstream American culture.

    For example, it is common practice in China and India for women to induce abortion with approximately 40 grams of ginger, a strong anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning agent. For many women, it takes less than 1/10 this dose (

  45. Jen

    I’m all confused with this talk of fakeness and not fakeness. Regardless of whether or not she really got pregnant, I have got to give her props for horrifying and shocking the conscience of all. There’s really something to be said about that. All things considered, I think it’s enormously funny how people are reacting to this story.

    Godforbid a woman use her body for making something other than babies and fantasies for perverts. I have the urge now to take my menstrual discharge and paint some horrifying pictures with it, like of a woman ripping a fetus out of her stomach. Get it? Drawing abortion with the wasted tissue of an unfertilized egg is so beautifully ironic.

    In all honesty, I really approve of this blurring of the lines. I think it raises the marvelous point that the only thing that separates menstrual fluid, miscarriages, and abortions is a bunch of neofundamentalist nonsense about Cloud-Fathers and souls.

    The only way I could be more deviously pleased with this “art” project if women took pictures of their abortions and mailed it to the legislators that try to pass anti-abortion laws. Just to be shocking.

  46. Lara

    Where do you all get to see the video or art? I have no clue of where to find the link or information. I did read the artist’s statement though, and it sounds really fascinating.
    Please help.

  47. luxdancer

    Artistic impact and social commentary aside, I can’t shake the instinctive ew! factor for this performance, or any other involving bodily effluvia. Which is weird, considering I have no problems with handling my own blood or effluvia in a laboratory context.

    It’s still less gross than Merda d’artista.

  48. Twisty

    Lara, Ron Sullivan’s right (again); the art is right here. These lazy kids today, making all the old farts do their art for’em.

  49. marzipan

    What she did or didn’t do is irrelevant to art. What’s art is the ongoing reaction to what she may or may not have done. That’s what conceptual art does, I think. She made a big wave, and no one knows what’s up. She’s pissed off people on all sides. Again, a good function of art. Everyone needs to think and be challenged. Menstruation? Miscarriage? How does it affect us other than the knowing of it? All it affects is our opinions. How about that?


  50. denelian

    Can someone explain WHY mentral blood is “ick”? why is it more ick than blood from an arm? i really really don’t get it!
    I remember being very very proud when i had my first period. 20 years later, i wanna rip my uterus out (crampcrampsCRAMPS; also, my period is a trigger for my porphyria and makes my fibro worse for a week…), but i STILL REMEMBER being all proud of that first one. i was Growing Up. it was a sign that soon (relativly; i was 11) i would be able to drive, to live on my own, to eat what *I* wanted, to have sex with condoms (what can i say? my parents starting force feeding me sex ed when i was 6. i STILL have not had sex without birth control)
    And then i was 16 and my boyfriend thought it was gross. Many, many people have told me its gross. (not my current boyfriend. he just leaves me alone when i say to…). What is gross about it?

    i really really don’t know, and it makes me feel stupid that i don’t know something so basic. I didn’t even know that i didn’t know why menstral blood was “icky” until this storm blew up, so thanx for that, anyway.

  51. Subversive Female

    Ha! I was just talking to the gallery owner I show with about this today. He heard about it before I did, so I had to check out the Twistyverse’s line up on this. IMO, this is a really tight piece. The fact that she’s so young and painting HER statement with the Patriarchy’s own brushes is virtuosa! I think the message is lost a little in the translation to those who served as her pigments, but just seeing everyone form her palette as they line up to weigh in on whether a uterus is good for anything but birfin’ da babyeez (for instance, making art) is fantastic.

    It’s fine to use all your other non-fem body parts to make art, and men can use their cocks all they want (I just saw an installment of cock-hammers last week), but let a woman use a uterus to comment through art and BAM! She’s Not Allowed. She’s evil! And the best part is that you don’t know if she really did do anything that wasn’t heteronormative to her uterus; you have to read into it what you will and create her uterus into the icon for the message that she intended, which is really what the whole abortion debate is about. I love it, and will remember this performance my entire life.

  52. Alan

    “She’s pissed off people on all sides. Again, a good function of art.”


  53. Princess Rot

    It’s an interesting point that society believes menstrual blood to be “unclean”, fertilized or not. Another poster said, somewhere up-thread, that the blue gunk they use to advertise sanitary towels is annoying and inaccurate. After all, television doesn’t have a problem with showing blood if someone gets stabbed, shot, wounded etcetera. Why the problem with menstrual blood? Its the same body, same blood. But I digress. Another thing that really gets on my nerves is using the blue gunk again in ads for diapers and such. Its so sanitized, so unrealistic. Why not show it for what it really is – where’s the harm in that?

    That’s just the root of it, though. Fundies care about the fetus when its in utero, because then its attached to the mother, and we all know she’s a worthless, sinful, selfish creature until she fulfills her one useful function – carrying some brat to term and birthing it. When that’s over, they don’t care anymore. Once its born, its separate from the mother and the patriarchs forget about it. They automatically lower its status to something pink and icky that the lowly mother should have to deal with – including the piss, shit, sleepless nights and nappy rash. That is what annoys me about nappy ads. Mothers know what excrement looks like, why must they be patronized by fundie-friendly adverts? IBtP.

  54. Twisty

    “She’s pissed off people on all sides. Again, a good function of art.”

    Since when is it a function of art to “piss off people on all sides”?

    That is the function of thugs. And bloggers.

  55. Cass

    “Since when is it a function of art to ‘piss people off’?”

    Of course it is. No one would remember Michelangelo today is it weren’t for that massive display of philistinism in 1527, when German mercenaries sacked Rome over the sight of Moses’s wang in the Sistiene Chapel. And I needn’t remind you of the riots that attended the first publication of Emily Dickinson’s work.

  56. Cass

    “Definitely adolescent art school hijinx, but she did take a fairly tired art school cliché–vagina art—and made it shocking and fresh! And pissed almost everybody off! She’s got big brass tits! I like her!”

    Me too!!

  57. lindabeth

    Actually, it was the school that said it “wasn’t real”–the artist never did at that point, then after the school made that claim she contradicted them.

    The “real” part being, of course, that she really went through the process she claimed she did. She of course could not know, and that was part of the project, whether she was indeed pregnant and miscarrying or menstruating.

    I commented a bit on this on other threads, but what’s the most interesting to me is the way pro-choice women have responded to this as being “politically irresponsible” and reprehensible, calling her crazy and a nutcase. As I said elsewhere: And as far as being “irresponsible”…I don’t know. Who are we to say that? If we stand by a woman’s right to her body, do we cease that right when we are artists? Or when the woman’s body and bodily functions is the art? Is that maybe what the piece is about?

    I suppose that’s been the most surprising thing to me. Yeah, she’s pissed people off, but enough to have a discussion and I think that is a vital and important part of the “art”. She has made many feminists deal with these “grey” areas that they may have never really acknowledged were there.

    So a woman may have a miscarriage, but only if she doesn’t want one.


  58. caffeinatedqueer

    I’m still working out my feelings about Schvarts’ piece, and appreciate all the thoughtful perspectives/comments at IBTP.

    I did want to share another blogosphere perspective on self-induced miscarriage/abortion, however:

    From Carol Joffe, at RH Reality Check:
    “If she had really terminated her own pregnancies repeatedly, she could have been subject to legal prosecution — as occurred recently to a number of poor, mainly immigrant women who have tried to terminate their unwanted pregnancies by themselves, in situations vastly more grave than Schvarts’ ‘senior project.'”

    I do not agree with all that Joffe writes, but the point she makes about the criminalization of immigrant women who self-induce abortion is a very important point.

  59. Lara

    “That’s just the root of it, though. Fundies care about the fetus when its in utero, because then its attached to the mother, and we all know she’s a worthless, sinful, selfish creature until she fulfills her one useful function – carrying some brat to term and birthing it. When that’s over, they don’t care anymore. Once its born, its separate from the mother and the patriarchs forget about it. They automatically lower its status to something pink and icky that the lowly mother should have to deal with – including the piss, shit, sleepless nights and nappy rash.”

    Princess Rot, I agree with you completely about the fundie influence in those annoying “sanitized” ads, but can we refrain from a few things here?:
    calling babies “brats” (my sister’s best friend just had a baby, and it isn’t a brat by any means), it’s just unnecessary; and not all babies are “PINK and icky”, thankyou. Some of them are brown and yellow.
    That said, I guess I just wanted to see the piece for myself Twisty, since I am an artist and photographer and I would love to get an idea of how she made it, the media used, how it looks, etc. Because I don’t like forming judgements about a physical art piece based off of second-hand accounts. Certainly, the discussion is most of the art, I already knew that. But I would like to see the piece for myself as well, out of curiosity.

    “It’s fine to use all your other non-fem body parts to make art, and men can use their cocks all they want (I just saw an installment of cock-hammers last week), but let a woman use a uterus to comment through art and BAM! She’s Not Allowed. She’s evil!”

    Good point Subversive Female. Although, I’d have to say I would be driven to smashing and castrating those cockhammers in that exhibit, hehe. Blech, men’s positive obsession with their deformed-looking members is repulsive :P

  60. delishk

    What this project is to me, is on the level of someone stepping on an earthworm. I don’t do it if I notice, and I feel a little bad for the earthworm if I accidentally do so, but it doesn’t really ruin my day. I do believe that it would be wrong to raise an earthworm farm for the specific purpose of stepping on the worms. I wouldn’t stop someone from doing so, but I would definitely dissaprove of their actions. If you were raising them to eat, I would be alright with that. Okay, I would think it was gross, but I wouldn’t think it was morally wrong. If I made a pie, or a chair, or a house and then destroyed them, I believe that would be wrong, because it’s wasteful and frivolous, and disrespectful to people who don’t have pie or chairs or houses to burn.

    Looking through that, I guess it just reveals my essentially lazy nature. What wrinkles my eyebrow about this art project is the futility of the concerted effort to concieve paired with the effort to abort. Working so hard towards opposing goals, the artist is left with the same results as if she had expended no effort at all. I like to have something tangible for my efforts. Like pie.

    Speaking of worms, I wonder what the response would be if she had infected herself with tapeworms or trichinosis or something, and then removed them. Would the parasite’s right to life be considered more paramount than an accidental infection would, because she had deliberately welcomed them into her body to sustain themselves on her?

  61. Nerdy Niece

    Sorry my earlier comment (which is now somewhat off-topic) appears to have cut off. I was responding to the question of whether herbal abortifacents exist, are easily accessible, etc., and this seemed like important information to (hehe) disseminate.

    I believe the gist of it was the (by no means exhaustive) listing of OTC abortifacent stuff:
    ginger, pennyroyal, blue cohosh, black cohosh, carrot seeds, celery seed, parsley, vitamin C, and coffee, in approximate descending order of potency.

    Then I listed (or thought I had entered a list of) some well-respect herbalists who write on relevant issues:
    Susan Weed, Deb Soule, James Duke, Jeannine Parvati.

    These professionals generally write about emmenagogues and labor-inducing herbs, and one does the minimal guesswork from there. Their work is widely available, and the herbs they talk about (such as those listed above) are also widely available – from chains like Whole Foods, local health food stores, and online discount vitamin and supplement stores that can ship to basically wherever you are.

  62. shermanvolvo

    So there has been a lot of discussion (particularly by anti-choicers although not exclusively) about those poor fetuses (if she did in fact get pregnant) and minimizing/trivializing abortion (even if she didn’t).

    But where are those protesting the murder of the poor sperm? Every month she killed these poor little baby makers. Whether or not she actually became pregnant, the real losers in this murderous plot are the squigglies.

    Now for a round of “Every Sperm Is Sacred” everyone!

  63. luxdancer

    When I meant the ick! factor, I was more thinking of ALL bodily effluvia – blood, vomit, urine, feces, mucous, whatever. It’s a little bit like – this stuff is supposed to be on the INSIDE of my body, not on the dinner table. Any effluvia used in art hits that instinctual response.

    Conceptually, I recognize menstrual fluid as belonging *outside* my body – but, weirdly, BECAUSE it’s blood “just like the stuff that comes out my arm” that I have a “gross” reaction. Because blood, in general, should usually be inside me unless something is wrong. I have to remind myself when handling my Diva Cup that this blood is the good kind, not the “I’ve just cut myself badly” kind.

  64. lawbitch

    I suspect that Princess Rot is a mom who’s dealt with the yellow peril (all breastfeeding moms are familiar with it!), the screaming ear infections, projectile vomiting, etc. The patriarchy pays mere lip service to motherhood, while those in the trenches (myself included) deal with an overwhelming job with little support (or even recognition). After the revolution, when mothering has true value, I hope this will change.

  65. Twisty

    “I do not agree with all that Joffe writes, but the point she makes about the criminalization of immigrant women who self-induce abortion is a very important point.”

    I read Joffe’s piece this morning, disagreed with it (the part where she avers that Shvarts’ piece hasn’t promoted a useful dialogue,) and then tried, in vain, to find out anything about the “immigrant women” to whom she alludes. Where and when are these women? Anyone?

  66. Twisty

    Ah, nevermind. Found one article. My Google skills are not as mad as I’d like.


  67. ripley

    I thought her piece was a great example of something that you can do when you can afford good healthcare and can afford the risk of prosecution or investigation (something Twisty has blogged about, right? people being “investigated” for questionable miscarriages?). So although I don’t know about immigrant women in particular, i do find this piece to rely problematically on privilege that I didn’t see her examining (or including in her discussion of what it was all about).

    Although there has been useful dialogue here, I think that is as much a tribute to the commenters and Twisty as it is to Shvarts.

    I also am not surprised that although her explanation is interesting, it is totally not how the piece is being discussed/explained in the larger world. At the least, I wished she had put it in slightly simpler language, and not used the term “self-induced miscarriages” if the point is ambiguity. Not that the patriarchy would have interpreted that more carefully, I suppose..

  68. Lara

    Ripley has an interesting point. And it’s sad that menstruation, gestation, and birthing have become so medicalized that a woman needs affordable healthcare to take care of these processes of her body. I am assuming Schvarts is white and middle/upper class? I am assuming this because of her name, mostly. I wonder how people would have reacted had she been a black woman, or a Latina.

    Something I think is very interesting to point out in regards to the ovum and sperm, and their interactions/relationship with each other once in contact:

    Contrary to what your patriarchy-loving sex ed teachers spout, the sperm does not actively seek the egg and “compete” with other pathetic spermies to “invade” the egg and “impregnate” it. Rather, what happens, and this is what I have heard, is that the egg actively seeks out the particular sperm it “wants”, and then draws that preferred little sperm into it and uses the sperm, in a sense, to form what will eventually be a fetus.
    I bring this up because that can raise further questions about Shvarts’ use of her own body, and the use of the sperm to try to impregnate herself. It says something about the power and complexity of the female body during this process too. I really believe that the female body is very active in deciding what it “wants” to do, whether to shed off the egg during menstruation, whether to keep the egg fertilized, etc. As others have pointed out, the distinctions made between menstruation, miscarriage, and the like should be blurred, if not wholly rid of.

  69. TwissB

    I can’t believe that this tiresome little showoff is being taken so seriously – by anyone, Yale or otherwise.

    If it’s not menstrual blood that’s being passed off as art, it’s urine or dung or something else that is supposed to make us all go oooh did you see that?? Accomplished photographers like Sally Mann and Robert Mapplethorpe could have blushed unseen and wasted their sweetness on the desert air ’til hell froze over if they had not had the clever idea to sexually exploit children, gays or Blacks.

    It did not escape my notice that Karen Finley and Eve Ensler get lots of male approval for making asses of themselves in the name of feminism. Is that the inspiration for Ms.S’s notion, I wonder.

  70. denelian


    now, THAT answer i get! the inside belongs in the inside…

    but in general, everyone seems to think that menstral blood is extra icky (except for you and me and probably Twisty Herself…)
    and THAT is what i don’t get.

    my mom is an OB nurse practicioner, and so on, so i never had any questions or surprises, and it was never “icky” except in the sense that it was sometimes “messy”.

    bleh, someone will explain in a way i get sometime… thanx for responding and explaining how you see it

  71. ate

    I think this piece is amazing and awesome. It challenges ideas, it gets attention, it gets people talking. She takes a cube, fills it with blood and says ‘this is how i did it’. It doesn’t matter whether she bought the blood at the butcher or actually went through the processes she described – though it would make it more ‘legitimate’. What matters is that you look at or hear about this cube and think about whether the fact she was ever pregnant matters and whether the actions she took with/on her own body are ‘acceptable’ and if not, why?

    To me it doesn’t matter if she was pregnant. She is bringing to the fore the outrage the patriarchy has when a woman takes control over her own body and reproduction. She is also bringing to the for the fact that even pro choice groups see abortion as some form of special ritual. Yeah, it sucks, but only because the patriarchy tells us it should. I totally support if people want to have children and get joy/meaning/happiness out of that. I also feel a great amount of sadness for women who want to be pregnant and miscarraige, as i imagine it must be heartbreaking. But nonetheless aborting the growth that has attached itself to the womb really shouldn’t be as big a deal as we seem to think. An unwanted pregnancy is an inconvenience, an irritation. You get a cancerous mole removed, kidney stones out, gall bladders out, apendix’s out. Why not an abortion? Because the patrarchy likes us to believe we should be mothers, that we should nurture infants, that we have life growing inside us and we shouldn’t diminish the wonderfulness of this! Women have been painted as mothers for so long, vessels to create life, that even when we believe we should have control of this we still can’t get away from the idea that it’s a huge deal. No, it isn’t. It should be seen as the same as any other procedure and I hope that Aliza’s work starts waking people up to that.

  72. Foilwoman

    I’m just remembering Lily Tomlin in The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe showing the difference between soup and art using a soup can and an Andy Warhol rendition of same. I don’t get artists. Cearly this is some lack or ignorance on my part, but works of blood, poop, and pee? Gosh, I want those handing on the wall in my nonexistent dining room.

  73. Cassie

    When I had a miscarriage, the doctors called it an abortion – it’s just the medical term. I was a little confused until they explained.

    I think this art project is really good for all of us, because it confronts us so directly with some basic questions. As a physicist I also like the Schrodinger’s cat part of it: no one can know if she was pregnant or not. Heck, she might even be infertile. I find the “well she was probably never pregnant” discussion utterly unhelpful – maybe she was. The point is she made sure she didn’t stay that way by day 28. This is indeed the purpose of a lot of contraception, although contraception is supposed to be a lot safer than what she was doing to herself (but that’s her choice).

    A woman’s body can do many things and have many things done to it. A woman’s experience and free will can make each of these bodily capacities different, subjective. One woman’s tragic miscarriage (loss of a baby) is another’s escape from a surgical abortion or a life-crushing experience (having a baby one does not want). One person’s recurring tragic period (because she wants to conceive) is another’s monthly “get out of jail free” card.

    Since we are more than bodily functions, this art project really confronts us with the importance of our own views and wills in seeing our reproductive capacities. And of course how unacceptable women’s views and wills are to many on the outside.

  74. thatgrrl

    In her essay, the artist said that “[her project] creates an ambiguity that isolates the locus of ontology to an act of readership.
    Ontology: the branch of metaphysics that deals with the nature of being (American Heritage Dictionary 3rd Ed.).
    As I understand it, her purpose is to demonstrate that the nature of being is a matter of personal interpretation. Every comment (here and elsewhere) that expresses confusion and concern about whether the project was real or a hoax thus proves her point. There is no verifiable truth, only presumptions, assumptions, and conclusions in the minds of each reader of her piece. Think of it like an inkblot; there is no absolute and true picture present in the inkblot, yet our individual perceptions of the blot create in each of our minds an image that seems so obvious as to be true.
    So how and why is this feminist? Because femininity and femaleness are similarly concepts devoid of any inherent truth and thus open to individual contextual interpretation that takes on the appearance of truth, so much so that when most people are confronted with the idea that there is no inherent truth to femininity, their heads are likely to explode.
    And thus I say: Go Aliza! Explode more heads!

  75. kate

    The artist says herself:

    “Because the miscarriages coincide with the expected date of menstruation (the 28th day of my cycle), it remains ambiguous whether the there was ever a fertilized ovum or not. The reality of the pregnancy, both for myself and for the audience, is a matter of reading.

    This ambivalence makes obvious how the act of identification or naming — the act of ascribing a word to something physical — is at its heart an ideological act, an act that literally has the power to construct bodies. In a sense, the act of conception occurs when the viewer assigns the term “miscarriage” or “period” to that blood.

    In some sense, neither term is exactly accurate or inaccurate; the ambiguity is not merely a matter of context, but is embodied in the physicality of the object. This central ambiguity defies a clear definition of the act. The reality of miscarriage is very much a linguistic and political reality, an act of reading constructed by an act of naming — an authorial act.

    It is the intention of this piece to destabilize the locus of that authorial act, and in doing so, reclaim it from the heteronormative structures that seek to naturalize it.”

    I think that’s a pretty damn good backup for her project myself and its making me consider the possibility of having a zipper put on my abdomen to open to my uterus. It would probably make for a good portable place to carry my valuables whilst traveling.

  76. xochitl

    Cassie: “One woman’s tragic miscarriage (loss of a baby) is another’s escape from a surgical abortion or a life-crushing experience (having a baby one does not want).”

    I’ve heard that miscarriage is quite painful–much more so than a surgical abortion.

  77. Foilwoman

    xochitl: I had three or four miscarriages (one was pretty ambiguous and not confirmed — I’d had the prior three and didn’t really need the depressing news right then). Some miscarriages may be quite painful, probably more so later in pregnancy. Mine, at 8-10 weeks, were bloody, but only slightly worse than the worst menstrual period I’d had prior to that point. I don’t say this to say that someone who had a painful miscarriage didn’t have a painful miscarriage: I’ll take her word for it and assume that my lack of relative pain was lucky. But I would be hesitant to say “I’ve heard that miscarriage is quite painful–much more so than a surgical abortion” because obviously, individual experiences of surgical abortion and spontaneous abortion (commonly called miscarriage) are as individual as each event. A blanket statement about any experience like that would be wildly inaccurate no matter what the statement was.

  78. kate

    As someone who has had an early miscarriage (didn’t even realize I was pregnant – just felt something pass through and went to the company john to find a nut-sized thing in my pants with a lot of blood) and had two abortions, I can say the generalization does not fit.

    I had an early abortion and a later one (up to the legal limit in the states). Neither were painful, they were a huge relief and the pain relieving drugs proscribed during the procedure caused me to not feel a thing. In fact, the last abortion, the late term, I was so high on valium that I asked, “Well, when are we going to start this thing?” to which the nurse replied, “We’re just about done honey.”

  79. xochitl

    What I mean is that women I have spoken to seem to think that a surgical abortion– as opposed to taking a pill that induces abortion–is the way to go for first trimester pregnancies. I had always thought that an early miscarriage was no different from a regular period, but I’ve just recently learned, from talking to women have had early miscarriages, that this is not the case for many women.

  80. Angela

    On the question of realness or fakeness, does it matter, if it gets the point across?

    Would Nikki Craft’s action destroying the Stack O’Wheats murders prints been more real had she not replaced the prints at her own expense after?

    Was it less real because she spent her own limited funds to replace the pornography in the library to show her political good will?

  81. Cassie

    xochitl: “I’ve heard that miscarriage is quite painful–much more so than a surgical abortion.”

    I had a pretty painful miscarriage. If anything more painful is in store for me, I seriously don’t want to hear about it. But that miscarriage was still, in the end, a liberation from a horrible situation. It allowed me to not have an abortion (which I couldn’t and could still not do on personal grounds), stay in school, leave the boyfriend – all good things.

  82. the baboon

    I also ultimately liked this piece on the grounds that it moves us forward in the “ontology” of pregnancy debate. A lot of the pro-Shvartz chat concerns how little she did and yet look at how she’s been castigated. I think what really opens you up to the full potential of this piece is accepting the idea that she impregnated herself, and began a person’s life, and then stopped it. I’m fully fully pro-choice but also a mother. When you let the pregnancy go, and your body doesn’t terminate it and you don’t consciously terminate it, you end up with a person. Agreed that abortion laws are entirely about controlling women, and agreed that there is no logic in the way that the patriarchy treats embryos and fetuses relative to living female and young people, but pregnancy is not just the holding and expulsion of blood, although it begins and partly ends that way.

    Really, how much more powerful is this piece if we think of it as the intentional beginning and ending of life? Very Kali-esque!

  83. socraticsilence

    On the art aspect I think the projects better with the not knowing, I mean it illunimates the ambiguity and fluidity of perception much more clearly, and frankly (and admittedly I’m a guy so it is indeed possible that I’m missing the perspective here) I can understand (though I disagree, what with the it being the artist bodily autonomy and all) how women who have had spontaneous abortions, nee’ miscarriages could be offended by the project (and on a much deeper level than the rather indefisnible “offense” they might feel about a woman going in for an abortion).

    Now, on the menstrual blood squeamishness I have to admit I understand that, I mean not in a “more freaky than normal blood” sense but in a blood during intimate relations would freak me out a bit sense (I’m not particularily fastidious but I believe Blood is like way off the scales in terms of STI vectors– like factor 10 over semen and vaginal secretions–, I could be wrong though). I mean I’m all good if there is prep beforehand, but I and I would think others of both orientation have run into suprises so to speak that were a bit off-putting.

  84. Fiona

    Warning: This comment is somewhat off topic and probably TMI but worth noting, I think.

    xochitl said: “I’ve heard that miscarriage is quite painful–much more so than a surgical abortion.”

    Both are painful. I attempted an RU-486 abortion at five weeks–we’re talking a bundle of cells invisible to the naked eye here. Two days after taking the pills, I lost several units of blood with clots the size of baseballs coming out of me and cramps like nothing I’ve ever experienced. As I was one of the “rare individuals” for whom RU-486 was ineffective, I then had to go through the D&C which was much, much worse than the blood loss. It is a matter of scraping the uterus with a blade sans anesthesia, after all.

    I wouldn’t dare suppose what people’s experiences are in this realm, especially when it comes to physical pain. Still, neither was worse than the extraction of four impacted wisdom teeth from my skull!

  85. kate

    “…but pregnancy is not just the holding and expulsion of blood, although it begins and partly ends that way.

    Really, how much more powerful is this piece if we think of it as the intentional beginning and ending of life? Very Kali-esque!”

    But isn’t that her point? That they are all merely bodily functions that unless we knowexactly what caused the function (bleeding), they are to our naked eye nearly the same and most definitely are so in our cognitions.

    Thus, women’s bodies and the functions thereof have for centuries been defined in patriarchal culture by their function within that culture. In other words, we sanctify the uterus and what comes out of it, as long as it falls within serving the needs of the patriarchy (producing heirs). When the function ceases to be of use to the patriarchy, then the definition becomes one reflecting no value (disgust, defilement, shame).

  86. kate

    As an added point, so therein lies the rub. Women’s bodies have become merely symbolic of patriarchal power, no? The uterus, the birthing of life. Since this holds the most value to the patriarchy, protecting the “sanctity” of life means guarding, controlling and protecting the uterus.

    So she says, why allow social convention to define us? Can we not control and determine what are bodies and ourselves exist for?

  87. chingona

    socraticsilence, I hesitate to even address this, so off-topic it is, but if you are taking whatever precautions are necessary in your particular intimate relations (condoms, monogamy, etc.), there is no need to be extra-worried about menstrual blood. Now, I understand that squeamishness about certain things can be very deeply ingrained culturally and not easily overcome with just the intellectual awareness of the ridiculousness of said squeamishness. But to try to justify said squeamishness as concern about STIs is pathetic.

  88. Cassie

    Re: Chingona and Socraticsilence

    I am so glad this thread is finally addressing important issues of squeamishness menstrual blood. Personally, I blame the patriarchy BOTH for the squeamishness and the blood :-) (olympic-level blaming right there).

    I’ve always found it funny how little males are in fact squicked out by menstrual blood: in my long life and not-so-small number statistics, exactly one bf ever made an issue of it. I know, I know, they just wanted sex no matter the cost in ruined sheets. But they have always been super sweet about buying tampons, co-habiting with stained underwear in the bathroom sink, doing laundry, making tea, whatever. Normal. And some of them were in other ways grade A misogynists (I was young and not yet wise in the ways of blaming, although I fought them tooth nail and finally dumped their asses).

    Sorry for the anecdote, but it’s something I’ve been consistently surprised about: with all the woman-hating going on, you’d think they’d have internalized the blood=icky-female=gross message, but it just seemed to be something they don’t even have to struggle with.

    And now that I’ve fulfilled my 3 comment quota, I’ll go shut the pie-hole.

  89. saltyC


    But that miscarriage was still, in the end, a liberation from a horrible situation. It allowed me to not have an abortion (which I couldn’t and could still not do on personal grounds), stay in school, leave the boyfriend – all good things.

    How strange an unexamined… that you would be happy that a miscarriage allowed you to not have an abortion which you would “never” do consciously.

    Seems cognitavely dissonant to me. sem like the only difference btw a spontanious abortion and a planned abortion is the idea of guilt. How oppressive that guilt is. Perhaps you need to examine that.

  90. saltyC

    In other words, shame and guilt is what keeps us frim taking action. Better to hope and pray that providence takes care of us than to risk authorship of our lives.

  91. Cassie

    Must answer SaltyC, quota be damned.

    1. It’s Cassie, not Cass.

    2. Don’t fucking patronize me. I’m adult, I try to behave responsibly to myself and to others. “unexamined”? Something I was thinking about day and night for months? “risk authorship”? Are you shitting me?

    I can’t have an abortion. It’s not the guilt, it’s not god-man – I’m an atheist and pragmatic at that. It’s something between my grandmother and my grandkids if I ever have any. It’s consciously getting rid of what might be a pretty cool family member. I can’t do that, even if I can recognize that the pregnancy deal was an overall shitty situation. I can feel relieved that there was no family member to worry about after all. I follow my conscience as much as I can. I don’t try to pretend I have feelings I don’t have, and I sure as hell don’t try to pretend I don’t have feelings that I do. Even if some self-sufficient fool then feels fit to attack my rational thought cred. Guess what? I’m a scientist. I’m a person. I’m complicated and I do my thing and I don’t apologize.

    “cognitively dissonant”? not so much. Also don’t use words of more than 2 syllables if you can’t even listen to people and give them a modicum of respect on a fucking FEMINIST blog.

  92. Lieutenant Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    Interesting. In today’s NYT Arts section (“Arts, Briefly: Yale Demands End to Student’s ‘Performance’ “), Yale says it won’t allow her to participate in a campus exhibition unless she makes a written statement that her performance was a fiction. Yale maintains that her repeated insistance that she did what she says she did–is still part of the performance! (“Waaaaah!!! She’s still performing! Waaaah!”).

    Interesting gaslighting technique they’ve each got going on. In private Shvarts supposedly acquiesces, in public she reaffirms her story.

    Dean Henchman: Young lady, do you persist in your absurd claims that the uterus is the still center point of the solar system, and that the turkey-baster-phallus revolves around it? Consider your answer carefully, for we shall make your graduation exceedingly difficult if you persist in this heresy!

    Shvarts: Dudes, I give up. The baster-phallus is the center of the planetary system, and all celestial bodies, including the uterus, revolve around the baster-phallus. The turkey-baster-phallus does not move.

    Dean Henchman: The court decrees that you are absolved of heresy and may go to the ceremony of graduation and all attendant events thereof.

    Shvarts: (outside the chamber of inquisition) And yet it moves! I impregnated-aborted-my-uterus-myself!

    Dean Henchman: Gaaah! She’s still performing! I say, she’s still performing! Grab her!

  93. Lara

    Reverend you should make a satire out of this whole mess, I was cracking up, that was the best sum up of Yale’s patriarchy-loving doodliness I’ve ever read ;)

  94. saltyC

    You’re still happy something happened that you didn’t want to be responsible for. It’s cowardly. Me, I’m glad I could be responsible for my abortion. Yes I wear it like a badge.

    I was relieved that my cat died at home and I didn’t have to put her to sleep. but I won’t pretend I would *never* do it if the situation called for it.

  95. saltyC

    Can I retract my last post?

  96. magriff

    Maybe this is so difficult because there’s still some “getting square” with abortion and all that jazz that we (feminists) still have to do- lots of people have lots of different ways of viewing and getting skippy with abortion, which the artist may have set out to prove, and which has definitely evidenced itself in this comment thread. And hey, by the way, this is just a damned art project. (And a really successful one at that.) Gosh who doesn’t remember the nineties and all the rape simulation art projects that happened at Evergreen and such? I call shennanigens on anyone laying the heavy on this young arist.

  97. Cassie

    Hey SaltyC,

    sorry I got so huffy. Shouldn’t let these discussions get people on the same side fighting with each other.

    I guess my main point is that pro-choice is exactly that: one should try respect the choices adult women make for themselves in their lives. I chose not to get an abortion and I don’t think I was being a bad person or irresponsible, I was going to try my damned best to make things work out. You chose to have an abortion, I don’t think (and I don’t think anybody should think) that you are a bad person or irresponsible. You were making your own right choices as you saw best.

    I would and will fight for your right to make your own choices in the best conditions (free, on demand, no harassment), just as I hope you would fight for my right to make my choices in the best conditions (good cheap health care, parental leave, child care, maternal allowances for finishing PhDs, what have you).

  98. kate

    In Cassie’s defense, my 22 year old daughter elected to take a pregnancy to term. She had already had an abortion on her own a while ago at fifteen, she made the decision on her own, made the arrangements and would have carried the whole thing out on her own if not for the state’s insistence that her parent get involved. Guess she’s lucky had me and not someone like my dad.

    Anyway, she elected to have the child. I had to accept it. It wasn’t a good choice in my mind and she is really struggling, but as a pro-choice mother, I must respect her opinion.

    As a feminist as well, I must give her support in her efforts to be a good mother to her child, teach her how to survive as best I can and also be there when hopefully she leaves the piece of shit who contributed his DNA to the baby project.

  99. kate

    opinion — I meant decision.

  100. Cassie

    kate – oi. I hear your pain on the DNA contributor. Here’s to hoping your daughter will see the light. I started going back out with the DNA contributor to my pregnancy after I figured out I was pregnant – being sane, I had broken up with him prior. What a mistake that ever was. I of course blame the patriarchy and its damn brainwashing. Being a father should not entitle anyone to being part of the daily life of the mother, if she’s better off without. Part of the child’s life, fine, if he’s a decent father, just not the mother’s.

  101. kate

    Yes Cassie, she’s perfect example of how all the feminist teaching at home cannot always win out over the mind numbing swamp of patriarchal culture everywhere else.

    I’m just hoping that once the baby is walking and she’s more independent (she’s nursing and pushing to work at home for the baby’s best interests) soon and will cut loose.

    She’s already learned that the “Family Values” crowd really have no values when she learned how practically useless her WIC voucher is now thanks to Rethuglican cuts over the years.

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