Woo complexity! Planned Parenthood moves away from "Pro-choice" label

The Guardian reports that Planned Parenthood, in an effort to draw attention to the fact that the issue of abortion is more complicated than in-favor or opposed, has "announced that it has reoriented its branding from being a 'pro-choice' group to not labeling itself[.]"

"The labels can mask people's support for access to safe and legal abortion, and they can politicize a conversation that is deeply personal and often complex," Planned Parenthood executive vice-president and chief experience officer Dawn Laguens said in a statement. "We're eager to help people have an authentic conversation – while we continue working to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal."

I'm pretty comfortable identifying myself as pro-choice, but that said I'm thrilled whenever I see an important organization resisting the polarization of public dialogue.

Planned Parenthood coalition partner National Women's Law Center is using [research suggesting that most people don't identify either as pro-life or pro-choice] for its forthcoming "It's Personal Campaign," that emphasizes that reproductive health decisions are personal and complex. "Only you know what it's like to walk in your shoes," reads one ad. "The decision whether to have an abortion belongs to you," says another.


"A majority of Americans still believe abortion should remain a safe and legal medical procedure for a woman to consider if and when she needs it, and these fundamental views have held steady for more than a decade. Instead of putting people in one category or another, we should respect the real-life decisions women and their families face every day."

Woo complexity!

Surfing the Blagosphere

I was talking to a friend of mine today, about one of my favorite things about the internet -- how completely silly it has made language.  Describing your experience on the internet with even the slightest bit of detachment makes it sound like you live in a cartoon.  There are bloggers and pirates everywhere, arguably the most important website is called Google, one of the best news sources is called Boing Boing.  Another one's called Reddit. Sites like TVTropes make literary analysis sound like rambling nonsense from a children's cartoon: "Yeah, it's a Hollywood science follow the leader, but at least they hang a lampshade on the unobtanium, and I think the whole thing might have just been stealth parody."

My friend suggested that eventually all conversation is going to sound like that.  Maybe he's right -- maybe one day, legal contracts will be written like Doctor Seuss books.  But a certain amount of language isn't just fluidly reflective of the language around it -- it's buried in the way we hear it.  Some sound forms just sound more serious, and I don't think we'll ever run out of uses for them.

The change I've got my fingers crossed for is a massive increase in the amount of, acceptability of, and reference to bathos.  I want to hear bathetic style shifts in newscasts and presidential speeches.  And, especially, I want the word bathos to show up more in public conversation.  Right now, people just mostly think you hit B when you meant to hit P.

Review: Embassytown by China Miéville

I've had more than one argument, mostly with people at school, about whether there's something inherently wrong with lying.  My argument is, essentially, that there's no way to have a conversation without lying.  That language is lying. China Miéville's Embassytown makes this case brilliantly, by way of comparison.  It takes place, in the near-unfathomably distant future, on a fringe planet at the edge of charted space.  There, humanity manages through rigid formality to coexist with the sentient species native to the planet, the Hosts, who speak Language (note the capitalization) -- which requires two voices to speak.  The Hosts aren't able to lie.  For them, thought and speech are indistinguishable.  Language contains only truth.

The viewpoint character of the book is Avice Benner Cho, a native to Embassytown (the human city on the planet) who is a simile in Language.  That means that she was chosen as a child to perform a series of actions, while Hosts watched, so that they could speak her -- use the fact of her existence, and the fact of her past actions, as a simile to convey other thoughts.

Embassytown is the easiest Miéville book I've read so far -- it's far less thick and twisting than Perdido Street Station, or at least more focused and less fantastic, so it's easier to keep track of things.  And the alien-ness of the book is, while perhaps more alien, at least more straightforward than in The City and The City.  Or maybe I'm just getting more used to reading Miéville's work.