Who's allowed to lose it? Who can grant it?
When the news came through that people who can get pregnant no longer have autonomy over our bodies, I thought first of gin. They called it “Mother’s Ruin” because of, Kate Lebo writes in The Book of Difficult Fruit, “its inebriating effects, its addictive properties, and its reputation as a woman’s drink.” Its main botanical—at least in my preferred London Dry style—juniper “contains terpene-roch essential oils that thin blood, regulate menses, and in higher quantities cause miscarriage.” Such disdain in this phrase, yet so punk: Mother’s Ruin. Look at this baby falling away from a woman in a 1751 drawing, because she’s drunk. The worst thing a woman can be, someone who forgets her role. Someone who loses control by her own volition.
Lebo’s chapter on juniper berry chronicles a search for herbal abortion remedies in historical texts and anarchist zines. I think about Saint Hildegard von Bingen, a medieval Catholic nun who wrote down methods for “bringing on menses” in various cases. Women have written and passed on knowledge like this through the centuries, and the earth—a mother—has provided them. That is some consolation, but it doesn’t do anything to wrest back official control, an official control that will leave people dead and that we are subject to regardless of our knowledge, our communities, our ability to care.
Now there are companies claiming progressive bona fides by saying they’ll pay for workers’ travel to states where abortion continues to be legal, a consolidation of control by private ownership over our abilities to live a full life. Does your boss say you’re allowed to have a choice? Reporters at major newspapers are kept from sharing their views because bodily autonomy is up for supposedly civilized debate. Does your boss say you’re allowed to speak?
Maya Cade, the creator and curator of Black Film Archive, posted a short 1995 Toni Morrison talk called “Racism and Fascism,” where Morrison writes, “Fascism talks ideology, but it is really just marketing—marketing for power.” She goes on:
It is recognizable by its need to purge, by the strategies it uses to purge and by its terror of truly democratic agendas. It is recognizable by its determination to convert all public services to private entrepreneurship; all nonprofit organizations to profit-making ones-so that the narrow but protective chasm between governance and business disappears. It changes citizens into taxpayers—so individuals become angry at even the notion of the public good. It changes neighbors into consumers-so the measure of our value as humans is not our humanity or our compassion or our generosity but what we own. It changes parenting into panicking—so that we vote against the interests of our own children; against their health care, their education, their safety from weapons. And in effecting these changes it produces the perfect capitalist, one who is willing to kill a human being for a product—a pair of sneakers, a jacket, a car—or kill generations for control of products—oil, drugs, fruit, gold.
All of us reduced to consumers, a need to produce more consumers, every need and desire further privatized as privacy erodes. I needed this insight last week when I wrote about “good” food, because it’s part of the same dystopian vision of the world that desires a pacified working class fed on corporate food because it maintains the status quo, power structures, a mode of living built on extraction. Who needs information and rigorous critical thought when all the magazines and papers we read are busy doing marketing for power? Individualizing down to the atom. That’s what we can’t continue; we won’t survive.
There are more connections, too, of course. What are we doing about hunger, and childhood hunger? What are we doing about housing? What are we doing about climate change? How are we making this a world that anyone wants to live in, much less one that can support thriving? These are such basic, banal questions. We’re not allowed to wrestle with them on the large scale we need, because we’re not allowed to stop fighting for what we already thought we had. This is the game.
I had a different piece, a more fun piece, scheduled for today, but it will come out next Monday instead. Today I suggest going back to my conversation with Angela Garbes, author of Like a Mother and Essential Labor, where we discuss the centrality of care work to our lives and what policy is needed to really support mothers—not just force their existence. I also recommend Kate Schapira’s newsletter on how to find a calm, productive way forward from this moment: “To respond to a great change, we almost always need to let go of both ideas and things.” Read Millicent Souris at her new newsletter Attitude Adjustment Facility, “They Overturned Roe”:
This Friday’s From the Kitchen paid subscriber recipe is, frankly, A DOOZY: Neapolitan panna cotta, with a couple of exciting twists. (No, I won’t rest until I turn everything into vegan panna cotta.) See the recipe index for all past recipes available to paid subscribers.
For MOLD, I wrote a piece titled, “Restriction as Possibility; Lifestyle as Politics”:
In the United Nations’ IPCC most recent climate change mitigation report, the word “lifestyle” appears 193 times.
I’m revisiting The Book of Difficult Fruit by Kate Lebo, which was timely, and digging into the gorgeous The Last Bite: A Whole New Approach to Making Desserts Through the Year by Anna Higham, whose publisher sent over a copy. I am thinking about fruit! And I will also be doing a lot of mushroom reading, too. Tell me your favorite work on these topics! Preparing some essays.
More mushroom shawarma! Pasta alla norma with this fabulous Sicilian spaghetti that Wellspent Market sent my way! Obsessed with this spaghetti.
Thank-you for the fabulous, extraordinary, and necessary quote from Tony Morrison.
This was brilliant, as usual. And thanks for the book recommendations - just ordered the Book of Difficult Fruit from the library!