Gretchen L. Kelly, Author

No Country for Old Men. A Call For a Moratorium on Appealing to Them.

Share this post:

Black and white portrait of Supreme Court justices
Image of Supreme Court justices. Most of whom are old white men.

This week a draft opinion was leaked that shattered any notion of reason on reproductive rights. The draft exposed not only the Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe V Wade, but the true desires of the old white men appointed by other old white men to the seat of power. The truth laid bare: it was never about the unborn or some manufactured religious duty. It was about power. Pure, unmitigated power. People who aren’t under the thumb of old white men are dangerous, you see. People with reproductive rights have options. And that is very dangerous to old white men in power. Old white men have regretted those options since 1973.
[Brief pause to head off the “not all men” brigade: stop. literally no one is talking about all old white men. old white men in the context of an article about abuse of power is referring to those who uphold white male supremacy]

The mask is off. It was never a good mask, really. The “concern for the unborn” was a thin, cheap, plastic mask. The kind your mom picked up at the drugstore on the way home from work on Halloween. It’s hard to breath behind the stiff plastic, hot putrid breath blowing back in the blowhard’s face. The truth suffocating them as they play-acted propriety and good old fashioned authority. But the truth, the cowardly revolting truth, is they have a lust for power that makes them do unseemly things. Appalling things. It was never about “families” or “babies” or “life.” It was about fear and greed. The need to control and retain power.

I would feel second-hand embarrassment for them if I thought they deserved an ounce of empathy.

Behind it all is a deep-down knowing. In the pits of their rancid bellies, they know they are inadequate. They know, way down in their limp appendages, that the only reason they have power is because other old white men raped and killed and enslaved and colonized and infected and genocided their way to it. They are terrified of their own inadequacy. The boot-straps-contingent is afraid of a level playing field. Afraid they won’t measure up in a head to head competition of who will guide society. So instead of allowing progress or fair play, they have to resort to tricks and abuse. They are the sneaky bastards who tie their opponent’s shoelaces together. They’re the thugs that beat their competitor’s legs with a baseball bat. They’re the con-men who lie and cheat and steal because they only care about their own power. We knew this. Deep down, we knew this was the truth. But some of us were comfortable with being adjacent to the power of old white men, so we played along. And some of us pushed back. But in the most polite and calm and palatable ways. We tempered our words with “I would never have an abortion, but I support the right to have one.” We demurred when asked if we were Pro Choice and said things like “I don’t like abortion, but…”

Black women, disabled people, Indigenous people have warned us for over 200 years that our quiet and polite ways weren’t going to cut it. But as those adjacent to power tend to do, we bristled at the suggestion. We pivoted to sharing our stories. We tearfully told the world and our Facebook feeds our deepest wounds, we trotted out our traumas, displayed our grief. We thought if we could appeal to old white male empathy they would see that we cut. We bleed. We feel. We are good. We didn’t have abortions because we wanted to. We had to, you see. We’re staying within the parameters that you, old white men, set. We’re not off having pleasure abortions after lunch for giggles. We don’t like them either. So here are a list of acceptable reasons that we have had them and please, Sir, have mercy. I bet they felt pity for us. Heh. Pity never really means concern or empathy. It is judgement. It is patronizing. Pity is an abuser’s tool. All of those stories shared, stirring up old traumas? That got us here. To an old white man writing a draft opinion, fulfilling the decades long wet dream of other old white men, by citing other old white men as a reason to strip away our human rights. The circle jerk out in the open, no longer behind closed doors. They’re going to make us watch as they copulate into the nearby plant. They’re going to block the exit until they finish themselves off. The cheap mask lying on the floor, along with their old white man underwear and any pretense of caring about the unborn. I bet he scowled, Alito. Pen in hand, fist clenched, head shaking in frustration. I’ll show them, I bet he thought. I’m going to threaten every civil right you hold dear. I’m going to let this threat loom over you to show you who’s boss. You thought this was about a religious belief? Hahahaha you silly silly people. I’m taking us back to when white men were the only ones with rights. This is the response to all those appeals for understanding and empathy. Begging old white men to see us as fully human.

That stops now.

No more begging for humanity. No more appealing for empathy. No more accepting pity as a consolation prize.

No more accepting the false premise old white men have declared. No more playing their game. They have tied your laces together and have you thinking you are running a fair race. Abortion is healthcare. Healthcare is a human right. That is the premise from which we are working from now on.

Understand that to share your story in an effort for understanding and empathy is to place yourself above people who are erased and ignored in this conversation. White women are listened to more, empathized with more, get the bylines and the headlines more than Black people, more than Indigenous people. And more than disabled people, who are among the most marginalized and abused in this arena. Incidentally, the people most ignored in this conversation are the people who have the tools and knowledge for this fight. Ever wonder why they are left out of the stories and get fewer bylines and headlines? Yeah. Old white men are terrified of the intrinsic, authentic power of Black, disabled, and Indigenous activists. Power born of righteous anger, power accumulated over a lifetime of surviving the abusive systems old white men built, power fueled by the need to protect others from the same abuse, this shakes old white men to their core. Who better to topple the systems than those who intimately know the abuse of the systems? Survivors know their abusers more than the abusers know themselves, as a matter of survival.

So here we are. Facing a lot of old white men clutching power with their sweaty hands. Snarling in frustration. We will no longer bleed for them. We will no longer satiate their power by appealing to them. No more qualifying our right to bodily autonomy with things we think old white men will find acceptable. No more making ourselves vulnerable to abusers. From here on out, we only share when we feel safe, with those who are worthy of our raw emotion. We only share these things when we are looking to heal, to connect, to relate, for solidarity. It is your choice when and who you share your stories with. But I am begging you, me, all of us, to be smart about it. Strategic. To recognize that we have been playing their game and it hasn’t worked. To be willing to see power adjacent as submissive. To see power adjacent as acquiescing our power. To realize it is siding with old white man supremacy. To finally, with humility, start listening to the people we’ve been ignoring for far too long.

Learn, listen and follow: