Saturday, March 26, 2022

Odds & ends for the weekend

  • I haven't posted since Monday -- but let's just say I was rather preoccupied this week. I had a colonoscopy (!) on Thursday afternoon -- my second. (I had my first one 10+ years ago, at age 50, and wrote about it, here and here.)  I had to watch my diet on Monday & Tuesday (low fibre, no seeds, etc.), and spent most of the day Wednesday following a diet of clear liquids only (including a lovely (NOT!) cocktail of laxative pills and specialty drinks designed to clean out my colon) -- and then dealing with the results...!  
    • Everyone will tell you the prep is the worst part about having a colonscopy, and that was and is certainly true for me. I had hoped the absence of Aunt Flo this time around would make things easier than they were 10 years ago. I did NOT miss having her around! -- but the prep was (still) gawdawful. Last time (at a different clinic), I had to drink just two glasses of citrus-flavoured prep stuff to clean out my colon (this kind);  this time around it was a different regime that tasted nauseatingly fruity. I had to mix up and then try to down FOUR (4) LITRES ( = more than one full U.S. gallon) -- 2L (about 8 glasses) in two hours on Wednesday night, and another 2L in two hours on Thursday morning -- all on an empty stomach, of course. 
      • I managed to choke down all 8 glasses on Wednesday night, but only six glasses in the morning before I had to stop drinking liquids altogether, a few hours before my appointment. It made me literally sick to my stomach, several times, and I spent some time in the early hours of Thursday morning laying on the freezing cold ceramic tile of the bathroom floor, enveloped in a cold sweat and unable to move (while dh slept on, blissfully unaware -- and hugely remorseful later, lol). (It seemed like a long time, but it actually wasn't.) 
      • Tip for anyone else using the same prep regime (which I got from the pharmacist I bought it from): it goes down slightly easier if you chill it in the refrigerator first. I also added ice cubes to each glass I downed to make and keep it even colder. 
    • The last time I had a colonoscopy, I was completely out. I remember nothing between the anesthetist starting the flow of sedatives into my system and the weird sensation and sound of the tube being removed from my nether regions when it was all over. 
      • This time around, I remember hearing snippets of conversation among the staff, and feeling a couple of twinges and nudging sensations inside my abdomen. I also remember opening my eyes at one point and staring at the screen beside me and thinking, "Hmmm, I guess that's the inside of my colon."  (I got pictures later! -- along with a written report outlining what they'd found.)  
    • The doctor found and removed three small polyps, and sent them for biopsy -- standard procedure -- but he assured me everything looked fine. I will hold onto that thought. Results should come in two to three weeks. 
    • The clinic is practically next door to my condo building -- a three-minute walk, tops -- but since I was feeling pretty rough, dh drove me over and picked me up again afterwards in the car. (Covid protocols meant he was not allowed to wait inside for me. He returned home after dropping me off and I texted him to come pick me up later when I was cleared to leave.)
    • I was very tired for the rest of Thursday, but mostly back to normal on Friday. :) 
    • I am not clear on whether I will have to return in 5 or 10 years? (My family doctor will let me know.) Obviously, it's not my favourite way to spend a few days -- but I'll do it in 5 years if I have to, because it's the smart thing to do. (But I think next time, I'll ask if I can do a different prep regime...!  I still got sick with the stuff I had the first time around -- but it was just two glasses to drink versus 16...!!)  
  • Please spare a thought for our bereaved and childless sisters in the U.K. & Ireland this weekend:  it's Mothering Sunday/Mother's Day there. (Plus, they get to suffer all over again in May, along with the rest of us. Even though they won't be celebrating then, the hoopla is overwhelming & pervasive enough to span continents, especially these days with social media, etc.)
  • (Not especially ALI-related, but worth noting:)  Margaret Atwood was a guest on Ezra Klein's New York Times podcast recently. I haven't actually listened to the podcast yet, but I read the transcript. They talk about the power of stories, The Handmaid's Tale (of course), the differences between the U.S. and Canada and much, much more. :)  
*** *** *** 

A couple of my favourite Substack writers had some interesting comments about the U.S. Senate's hearings to confirm Judge Ketani Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, zeroing in specifically on the issue of motherhood -- in particular, the very different treatment afforded previous nominee Amy Coney Barrett,  a white mother of 7 (!), versus Brown, a Black mother of two. 

Jill Filipovic (who is childfree by choice) weighed in with "Isn't She a Mother? Ketanji Brown Jackson, Amy Coney Barrett, and the protection of the white mother." It's worth reading the whole thing, but here are a few excerpts: 
Judge Barrett’s status as a mother was used to justify her confirmation and shield her from criticism. Judge Jackson, by contrast, wasn’t afforded that presumption of maternal virtue and feminine vulnerability; her children afforded her no status at all as she was made to answer for other peoples’ actions and ideas, simply because they share the same skin tone...

...Judge Jackson’s maternity was used as neither an argument for her moral character nor as a defense against criticisms of her record. [Note from me: And isn't that the way it *should* be?] While legitimate questions about how Judge Barrett might rule on the Affordable Care Act were swatted down with an indignant how dare you, she’s a mother!, Judge Jackson was afforded no such defense when she was essentially accused of being soft of pedophiles. While Judge Barrett’s reproductive choices were broadly lauded, Judge Jackson’s were largely ignored.

Judge Barrett was broadly portrayed as an icon of modern Christian womanhood: the matriarch of a large family, including international adoptees rescued from poverty and brought to a life in Christ, who would use her seat on the nation’s highest court to ensure that other women would have fewer reproductive choices and be forced into the childbearing that she chose for herself. Her family life was an implied rejoinder to feminists concerned about her clear intention to end the era of safe, legal abortion in the United States — if Amy Coney Barrett could have seven children and a successful career, why would any woman need abortion or contraception?

Counterfactuals aren’t always particularly useful, but I think this one is: What would conservatives on Fox News be saying about Judge Jackson if she was a mother of seven? Are Black women with large families typically lauded by conservatives as symbols of feminine virtue? Or are they more likely to be portrayed as welfare queens and irresponsible breeders?

Filipovic does make a specific nod to the inherent pronatalism on display:  

For the record, I think it’s a good thing that we focus on women’s professional accomplishments over their family decisions, and I found the obsession with Judge Barrett’s family to be regressive and anti-feminist. Mothers, after all, are people who are no more or less moral or decent than anyone else. Some are wonderful; some abuse or even kill their children. Begetting a child does not beget goodness. [emphasis mine] 

But socially, we do continue to treat certain kinds of mothers as paragons of virtue, while denying that presumption of virtue from others. Motherhood afforded Amy Coney Barrett significant status and respect, so much so that her status as a mother was put on near-equal footing as her professional credentials when she was being interviewed for one of the most important jobs in the nation. And her status as a white mother also implied vulnerability — as a virtuous woman, she was also one worthy of protection. That’s one reason why you saw Republicans so angrily defending legitimate criticisms of her judicial record and philosophy with references to her children.

By contrast, Judge Jackson was made to answer for a universe of ideologies and works she has never endorsed and didn’t create, from the book Anti-Racist Baby to Critical Race Theory to contested definitions of the term “woman.” While Judge Barrett’s personal family choices were leveraged in her defense against questions about things she has actually said or done, Judge Jackson was held responsible for works and ideas she had nothing to do with, simply because she shares a skin color with their creators. Judge Barrett was allowed to speak in response to questions, and was afforded significant deference and protection against taking responsibility for her own statements and decisions. Judge Jackson was constantly interrupted, and made to shoulder a kind of collective responsibility for whatever racial bugaboo Republicans think will enrage their racist base.

Judge Jackson will take her seat on the Supreme Court. But we shouldn’t forget what an appalling spectacle her confirmation hearings were, and how they revealed exactly what kind of woman Republicans — and too many Democrats — believe is worthy of power and respect.

Lyz Lenz also commented:  
The hearings were also a reminder of who in America is allowed to hide behind the mantle of motherhood and who isn’t. When journalists and pundits criticized and questioned the now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett, they were attacked as anti-mother. I should know, I (a mother) was one of them. I criticized Barrett’s use of motherhood as a cloaking mechanism and was attacked by the Catholic League as anti-mother. 

This time, it was those same defenders of Coney Barrett now attacking Brown Jackson’s (also a mother) record on sentencing for child porn offenders. The implication being that Brown Jackson did not get the same protective mantle of white motherhood because she is a Black mother...

I personally think motherhood is not a protective mantle of any sort. Many mothers actively make the world a terrible place for their children and others. And becoming a mother is not an indicator of virtue of any kind. The only thing it indicates is that a child or two is in your care. [emphasis mine] Also, vehemently crying “I am a mother!” is usually a smokescreen. To be clear, Brown Jackson did not do this. But the side-by-side comparisons of her attackers using QAnon dog whistles about her versus their impassioned defense of Barrett solely because she is a mother is worth pointing out...
(Lenz has previously written about white women and motherhood, including re: Barrett, which I've noted and linked to in my blog, here and here.) 

Both pieces beg the question: what would the conservative on Fox News be saying if a female nominee was childless or childfree?  How would she be portrayed? What happens when you don't have "the protective mantle of motherhood" to shield you, to hide behind, at all? 

I don't recall Supreme Court justices Elena Kagan and/or Sonia Sotomayor being grilled about their lack of children during their confirmation hearings (and thank goodness for that...!) -- but, at least in Kagan's case, it was definitely noted in the press at the time -- and not always in a complimentary/supportive way. (See my blog post from 2010.) 

While I recognize both Filipovic & Lenz were focused primarily on the racism being displayed -- and the points they make are valid -- I appreciate that they also recognized the pronatalism at work too (even if they didn't use that exact term). I just wish they had delved into that angle a little more deeply.  Why does motherhood need to be mentioned at all at what essentially is a job interview? What does a judge's parental status have to do with their ability to do the job, i.e., to interpret and apply the law? (Asking questions about a candidate's parental status is illegal in many jurisdictions;  simply mentioning it probably isn't, but nevertheless, it might be considered treading on thin ice.)  


  1. Great piece on the confirmation hearings, Loribeth! It reminds me once again how culturally different NZ is to the US. I have no clue about whether our Supreme Court judges have kids or not. I barely know who they are, as our judicial system is largely apolitical.

    Now I'm off to read some of your links.

    1. Well, I certainly could not name all the members of our Supreme Court, but I've been aware of several of our female Supreme Court justices over the years, because they were women, and there were so few of them at first: Bertha Wilson, first female SC justice in 1982; Beverly McLachlin, first chief justice in 2000, Rosalie Abella, recently retired, whose parents were Holocaust survivors and who was born in a displaced persons/refugee camp just after the war ended. I first became aware of her back in the 1980s, when she headed the Royal Commission on Equality in Employment, which had a huge impact, in Canada & elsewhere.

      Our court is much less apolitical than the U.S. as well -- and our justices retire at age 75.

  2. Interesting write-up on the SC confirmation hearings, Loribeth. As a US citizen, I always appreciate getting an international perspective on our political processes. Hopefully Judge Jackson will get confirmed, she's extremely well-qualified.
    I had no idea Canadian justices retire at 75. I wish we had that rule!