If Glamour readers are glad to be alive and shod by Gucci and made fragrant by Ginvenchy, they should all be pro-life, not only for themselves, but for everyone else
By Donald DeMarco
Having daughters around the house can occasion some decidedly unconventional reading for a professional philosopher. A few mornings ago, between the corn flakes and the coffee, sat, of all things, the May 2000 issue of Glamour magazine, beckoning me to make it part of my breakfast consumption. I turned to page 186 of this voluminous tome and proceeded to read an editorial entitled, “The Abortion Election.” “Glamour has certainly made no secret of its pro-choice stand,” states the editor. Not much surprise here. Glamour is not a social justice tract, but an identity manual for people who want to succeed in the secular world. Sex, marriage, divorce, make-up, abortion, are merely “choices.” It is choice, presumably, that allows people to get control of their lives.
Buttressing the editorial is its one carefully selected quotation, from Faye Wattleton, former president of Planned Parenthood: “The right to abortion … shouldn’t be a political football that candidates can kick around at will.” The concluding two words struck me – “at will.” But isn’t “choice” an act of the will? If women can choose abortion, why can’t politicians (as well as the populace) choose to make it an election issue? Neither the editor nor Miss Wattleton is pro-choice on this issue!
Voting, of course, is the expression of a choice. Democracy welcomes choice; nay, thrives on it. Bush and Gore are actively campaigning to win the voter’s choice. Glamour wants to de-politicize the whole issue of choosing for or against abortion. In this regard, Glamour, despite itself, is not really “pro-choice,” but pro-abortion. Choosing life does not appear to be a legitimate choice. The truth of the matter is that the notion of “choice” has already been politicized and Glamour does not really want it to be de-politicized.
“Only about 1.2 million women will have an abortion this year,” the editor tells us. Another way of saying the same thing is that “only about 1.2 million unborn babies will be killed through abortion this year.” The use of the word “only” is curious. Abortion affects the baby, the mother, and the father. Already, the number swells to about 3.6 million people. Add relatives, medical personnel, friends, associates, and propagandists, and the number begins to approach America’s entire population. On the other hand, writes the editor, “an awful lot more will worry about paying their bills, breathing clean air, educating their kids and walking safe streets.” Would it be impertinent to ask how many Americans will be killed by unclean air this year? If it is fewer than 1.2 million, should it not be demoted to a political non-issue?
Glamour wants the election to focus on issues that are presumed to be more important than abortion, such as “education,” “crime,” and “health care.” But these issues are inseparable from abortion. Should education systematically indoctrinate students to the view that abortion is not a wrong but a “right,” not a killing but a “choice”? Is abortion not a crime against the unborn? Is abortion unrelated to health care issues? Because Glamour fears that Governor Bush might be an “anti-choice” president, it opposes abortion as a voter issue, and therefore as a choice issue.
Glamour makes the all too common mistake of assuming that “choice” is so weak a human expression, that it cannot ally itself with reason, discussion, and information. But “choice” cannot exist apart from such allies. Without enlightenment, “choice” decays into “guess.” Glamour does not comprehend what a moral choice truly entails, what prevents it from being merely a stab in the dark, or the unthinking consequences of cultural indoctrination.
How “pro-choice” is Glamour, even within the confines of its own pages? A resolutely authoritative voice, beginning on page 226 and continuing to page 326, decrees a number of things its readers should do and not do: “Do sport shrunken surf trunks”; “Don’t hang on to too-fringed jean shorts”; “Do step into slim board shorts”; “Don’t bid for overly baggy sport shorts”; and on and on. Not much room for choice or discussion here. In fact, the entire issue is a sustained attempt to dictate people’s lifestyles in the interest of selling its advertisers’ products. There is precious little room for freedom of choice, if a reader wants to be a certifiably “glamourous” individual.
Psychologists have criticized mass circulation magazines for young women precisely because they do not foster independent thinking and a discovery of authentic personality. These magazines unremittingly and authoritatively direct their readers concerns to how they can fabricate a fashionable appearance. Trends change, of course, and this is why such magazines have an eternal place in the fashion market. The very last thing they are concerned about is choice. Each advertiser bids the reader to buy its product and no one else’s. The ideal, at least for the moment, is fixed and formulated by fashion. Authentic personality is not a marketable commodity. Choice is an illusion. Fashion is an imperative.
One ray of light! Page 68 records the responses of a number of men to the question: “If you got your partner pregnant and she had an abortion without telling you, how would you react?” A 25-year-old, named Chris, states that he would probably break up with her. He points out that he was adopted and is grateful that his birth mother gave him a chance at life. “I’m pro-choice for everyone else,” he says, “but when it comes to me, I am pro-life.”
Now if Chris could only leaven his philosophy with the Golden Rule, he would be pro-life for everyone. This would be the only consistent tribute he could pay to his birth mother. If Glamour readers are glad to be alive and shod by Gucci and made fragrant by Ginvenchy, they should all be pro-life, not only for themselves, but for everyone else.