“Don’t let them tell you you’re nothing.”


I’m a little late to this, but did you catch the Timesprofile of amazing artist/singer/songwriter Neko Case? In it, she gets political:

IN HER RATTLY BROWN CHEVY VAN, Case returned to the issue of abortion. She deplored some recent movies that raise the matter as one of its crucial plot points — “Knocked Up” and “Juno,” for example — and then “solve” it with a sweetly positive ending or a miscarriage or some other sidestep. “Just have the abortion,” she said of “Juno.” “Just have it and get on with your life.” She continued: “Years ago, I went to Planned Parenthood in New York — for another reason — and I saw these girls waiting there, and it was just awful. It was cold, they were in gowns that didn’t really close, and their boyfriends and parents weren’t with them, and they were sitting under these bright lights, and the people were mean.”
Surely this experience lies behind one of her most readable songs, “Pretty Girls,” on “Blacklisted”:

The TV is blaring and angry,
as if you don’t know why you’re here.
Those who walk without sin are so hungry –
Don’t let the wolves in, pretty girls. . . . .
Don’t let them tell you you’re nothing.

Love her.

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73 Comments

  1. nicole
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    I didn’t read all comments here, so sorry if this has been mentioned before, but if you read the rest of the article, Neko says that she should have been an abortion. She knows what it’s like to live the life of an unwanted child, so that’s why she’s so adamantly pro-choice.
    I do see how her comments are getting taken out of context. What I think she meant with the movies, though, is that everything turns out happy in the end (usually). Real life isn’t like that. I hate it when people call Juno a pro-life movie just because she had the baby. The important thing was that Juno HAD a choice.

  2. RevolutionarilySpeaking
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Alixana, I was in NO WAY attacking any individual commenters, so please don’t feel that I blame you for the way the previous threads went. I was simply expressing relief at the fact that I wasn’t the only person who felt that way – that a movie can be about whatever the writers want it to be about, and we can analyze it, but there’s no reason to say “She chose to keep the baby/give it up for adoption, so clearly the movie sucked.”
    I think I came off a wee bit dramatic, and I apologize for it.
    Jamie

  3. katie80andstuff
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Y’all need to think bigger– yes, movies may not be “realistic”, but they are part of our culture and inform our consciousness. Juno reaffirms the idea that a woman– even a smart, silver-tongued teenager– would be unable to go through with an abortion upon realizing that their “baby” has fingernails.
    And part of feminism IS demanding change– if screenwriters are unable to come up with a compelling story that contains or features abortion, perhaps they aren’t very good writers.

  4. Ars Moriendi
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    i disagree. there ARE movies about abortion, they just aren’t very popular in the USA or they’re old.
    4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
    Citizen Ruth
    are two examples, i’m sure there are more. i think we need more movies touching on the issue of abortion, even if it’s not as dramatic as 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days or as exaggerated as Citizen Ruth. even if it’s not the main plot of the movie.

  5. alixana
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I didn’t think you were dramatic at all! No worries. I responded mainly because you shed light on what I had wondered about Feministing’s past coverage of Juno.

  6. sangetencre
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Choice is tricky because even when it’s legally free, it’s not mentally free.
    I like that.
    That needs to be a tag line somewhere.

  7. Brandi
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen Juno, so I’m just replying to your comment about smart women and fingernails. Having actually been pregnant twice, it is a bit unnerving to know your fetus’ developmental stage.
    I remember thinking with my first child that I could feel him kicking and still was in the time frame that I could have an abortion without any hassle. And I can’t say that it didn’t jar me a bit to realize that – and that it didn’t make me re-evaluate how I feel about abortion.
    I’m firmly pro-choice, but I definitely can understand how women could see on an ultrasound where the fetus is in development and change their minds about abortion.

  8. RevolutionarilySpeaking
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Katie, I completely see from where you are coming. I understand that the feminist community wishes to see abortion shown in a positive light, true cultural and social analysis in movies, and strong female characters (Btw, for that one I suggest Untraceable). Anyways, the point that I’m trying to make is, we can’t get frustrated with a movie about adoption and say “It should have been about abortion!” because it WAS about abortion; Juno went there and experienced what many women do – a protester. Granted, I’ve never been to an abortion clinic so I don’t know what the protester groups look like, but how might you react if you went to have an abortion, and a girl with whom you went to school was there, and you felt that she was going to harass you for the rest of your life because of it?

  9. alixana
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    One of the things I thought was funny about that scene was that both Juno and the protestor were equally uncomfortable – the classmate can’t really seem to bring herself to shame Juno. It made me wonder how many anti-choice people went through life not personally knowing someone who had an abortion, and how they reacted when suddenly faced with a friend or family member who did.
    And katie80andstuff, I didn’t see the fingernails being the turning point so much as it was finally being in that moment where she was going to go through with it. Sort of like being in line for a roller coaster and being pumped up or brave enough to get on it until you finally get to the front of the queue and realize, “Hm, maybe this isn’t what I want to do.” (disclaimer for any lurking anti-choice readers, I’m sure you’ll enjoy my equating having an abortion with riding on a roller coaster. Because I totally meant that abortins are a fun ride, really.).

  10. Jen R
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Do you think that women who believe abortion is wrong for them should be persuaded to think otherwise?

  11. Jen R
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    To clarify: I don’t mean wrong in a particular situation, but wrong as in, they’d never have one.

  12. baddesignhurts
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    see, this is one of those places where i think we feminists might want to back off a bit. before my abortion, i swore i’d never have one. not because of superiority, but because, and maybe this is because of my religious upbringing, it felt like turning down an incredible gift, one that, though i might not have thought so at the time, would enhance the meaning of my life in countless ways i could never even expect. and honestly, that *IS* how i feel about my daughter. she was unplanned, and yet has been the greatest thing ever. (not that i’m a proud mama or anything. ;) then i got pregnant again shortly after her birth, and, well, i couldn’t mentally, physically, financially handle any more blessings at that time, and i decided to have the abortion. i’ve always been part of that “God works in mysterious ways” camp, and i tend to not want to interfere when, well, God works. (and no, i don’t think God hates me for having an abortion. not in the slightest.)
    i absolutely, 100% believe abortion needs to be legal, safe and readily available, and i get REALLY angry when the religious pro-lifers come in here with their judgmental hellfire-and-damnnation crap. but i’m not comfortable with spreading the idea en masse that abortion has zero moral aspects to it, that it’s simply the same as getting your tonsils taken out. for those that feel no moral repercussions about it, that’s fine, and i’m not going to try to convince someone differently if they’re comfortable with their choice and don’t ask for my advice. but for some people, the choice has more moral and ethical import than for others, and i don’t think that’s the same as brainwashing or mental enslavement.

  13. saintcatherine
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this comment. I was a little taken aback by the idea that someone who says they “would never have an abortion” is only thinking that out of guilt or shame (assuming that feeling guilty or shameful is always a bad thing, of course, which you can argue it is not But it would be appropriate after an immoral act, not in this example.)
    Anyway, it is valid to say that people never know for sure what they will do until they are in that situation. I do not think that it is ok for Kurumi& Cheese or anyone else to assume that other people’s beliefs about right and wrong and their relationship to fate/chance/the divine/free will are shame-ridden if they do not include abortion as a personal option.
    To say this shows a great inability to see others’ perspectives, particulary on what are for some very deeply-held.
    Also worth noting: some people get abortions even when they believe it is wrong to do so.

  14. Roni
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure where you’re disagreeing. I didn’t say there aren’t any, nor did I say there shouldn’t be any.
    I don’t deny there are movies about abortion, though generally they’re not mainstream theatrical releases. As I said in my first sentence, you don’t see abortion in many movies, where it’s not the main plot. After Dirty Dancing, I’m tapped.

  15. Ars Moriendi
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    i was disagreeing that it’s a “whole lot of controversy for relatively little dramatic payoff, considering the end result is a lack of change.”
    and part of your post referred to no matter what pissing off one side of the controversy. you can’t make everyone happy. but if you’re starting a mainstream dialogue about it, getting people talking, i think it’s a start. and for the record, i think there probably is a way to hit middle ground. make it a significant issue without over dramatizing it.
    i just wish there were more mainstream movies touching on the issue. i did like juno and was happy that the movie at least showed abortion as a valid option.

  16. maja_dren
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Yes, she went there for another reason. Is it so terrible that the woman went there for condoms or a possibly to get tested? I don’t understand why this is a big deal.
    If I was someone in the public eye, I would have said something like this too, because you know the reporter’s next question would have been about whether or not she had had an abortion.

  17. digitalkath
    Posted February 19, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

    Disagreed about the Juno thing.
    She wanted to get an abortion then changed her mind…it was her choice, it was available to her…I don’t see anything wrong with a woman chooosing to have a baby, even if it’s not under the best circumstance.
    that being said, there are some movies that bother me…like The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants #2…the condom breaks and she mopes around waiting to see if she is going to be pregnant….no talk of Emergency Contraception, and shes in NYC!
    frustrating!

  18. persimmon
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Mm, Ms. Snarkypants, good point. I should have said that the problem I have isn’t so much that the movies don’t depict realistic circumstances, but that they’re often applauded as doing so nonetheless. To further clarify, a movie in and of itself may not necessarily be problematic. But when one does exceptionally good box office, it’s indicative of having struck a chord culturally. That these 2 movies, which gloss over abortion despite having protagonists who in real life would probably very seriously consider it, have done so damn well — that’s indicative of a very frustrating cultural trend toward glorification of pregnancy and the role of a woman as an organic incubator.

  19. MomTFH
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    From what I understand, she decided not to have an abortion because the person who worked there was a punky freak with dyed hair who talked about how much she liked giving her boyfriend head with flavored condoms because of how great it made his junk taste, and misinformation about how the embryo had fingernails, which is wouldn’t have yet.
    And that doesn’t even touch on its glorification of closed adoption.
    I understand the movie had a story to tell, but its perspective on reproductive rights was troubling to me.

  20. Nothing Sacred
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. I saw “Sisterhood” with younger female relatives and was very annoyed with how they handled the pregnancy scare.
    My reasons:
    1. The character supposedly goes to NYU. NYU is my alma mater, and a very sex-positive school it is (in spite of its other faults.) R.A.s on every floor have a large selection of condoms ready in case their residents happen to need one, safe sex information sessions are frequent events, and diaphragms and the Nuvaring are free at the women’s health center. In fact, our women’s health center is probably the smoothest running office in a school known for its absurd bureaucracy.
    2. She asks her friend to bring her a pregnancy test. There are drugstores everywhere in New York, and NO ONE CARES if you buy one! Yes, I will admit that I was a bit embarrassed to buy condoms, lube, etc. when I first came here, but NO ONE IS GOING TO JUDGE YOU. Even if your cashier is wearing a huge gold cross or a hijab (or something else that shows she’s religious), she’s not going to say anything. This is New York. NO ONE CARES.
    3. When her friend does bring her a pregnancy test, it’s in a prescription bag. Since when do you need a prescription for a pregnancy test? (Hint: you don’t.)
    4. To top it all off, Plan B is available over the counter in New York! Yet no mention of it at all.

  21. digitalkath
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    so true.
    and the fact that The Sisterhod its targetted at young girls who may face situations this really makes me sick.
    i guess Disney, or whoever…doesn’t want to inform girls about their options…maybe it would be too controversial…and that’s kind of depressing.

  22. digitalkath
    Posted February 21, 2009 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    so true.
    and the fact that The Sisterhod its targetted at young girls who may face situations this really makes me sick.
    i guess Disney, or whoever…doesn’t want to inform girls about their options…maybe it would be too controversial…and that’s kind of depressing.

  23. Ali
    Posted March 16, 2009 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    It bothers me that movies like “juno” and “knocked up” are so ridiculously casual about teenage pregnancy and just treat it like it’s so common and acceptable.
    our society doesn’t even question these things anymore. its like the whole mindset of “everything goes.” when will our culture learn some self restraint and self respect?

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