Why Draw Pictures?
Only two people have ever gotten angry when I drew their pictures: a Moroccan religious fundamentalist and a New York City cop.
I was 19 when I sat sketching in Fez’s Old City. I came to Morocco with a hallucinogen-chomping writer and an orientalist streak as deep as Fez’s open sewers. I abandoned both by the end of the trip. Besides motorbikes and street harassment, Fez’s main sounds were those of tour groups clomping toward their guide’s carpet shop. I didn’t want to be like them.
Tour groups took photos. They’d jam cameras into someone’s face. Before their subject could respond, they’d run off, happy to have proof that they’d stood somewhere quaint.
I’d curl up on filthy steps with my sketch pad. Street kids watched. Drawing was a monkey dance to prove that despite my dopey American face, there was still a skill I could rock. I’d draw the street kids. They’d scamper away with my sketches.
The man who didn’t like my drawings had the long gray beard of the religiously devout. One morning he ripped my drawing from my hands and shredded it with a satisfied grunt. Dopey-American-style, I burst into tears.
A decade later, I sat next to journalist Matt Taibbi in a New York misdemeanor court, watching a judge pressure brown men into plea bargains for walking their bikes on the sidewalk. I drew the cop who was guarding the courtroom. He looked as pink and shiny as a boil. The cop stormed over. “What are you doing?” he hissed.
“Drawing. It’s allowed.”
About My Abortion
Manifesto of the 343 was published in France in 1971, when abortion was still illegal. It was a confession of having had an abortion, something that made you liable for arrest, signed by 343 famous women. Among them were Catherine Deneuve and Marguerite Duras, Francoise Sagan, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jeanne Moreau. Nearly every cigarette-sucking French sex symbol admitted she had had the procedure. The newspapers called them “the 343 Sluts.” Leave it to the French to make abortion glamorous.
In 1974, abortion was legalized in France. The 343 sluts changed everything.
In America today, abortion is legal. But few famous women would add themselves to a similar list.
When some defenders of choice talk about abortion, they often focus on edge cases: rape victims, life-threatening pregnancies, or teens who don’t know how babies are made. That kind of dialogue sometimes makes it seem like abortion is reserved for “other” women. Women who aren’t like them. Which, despite all delusions of enlightenment, is exactly what I thought when at 20, I realized I had an embryo growing inside of me.
Then, just like that, the other was me.
There are so many reasons why women need abortions. Those reasons are often wedded intractably to money. Some women have to abort longed-for pregnancies because of illness. Abortion is sometimes a trauma, sometimes an anticlimax, sometimes a relief. There are a million abortion stories just like there are a million stories of fucking and giving birth and going to war. None are representative. This is mine.
For me, whether or not I would have an abortion was never a question. It was just a question of how soon I could get one. I have never had maternal instincts. I was also broke. I was proud to have clawed my way to that elite station in life represented by having a room that no one walks through to on the way to the bathroom. I slept on a mattress on the floor, and worked as a naked model for amateur photographers—a job that, at the best of times, I often suspected would get me murdered. I was in school training to be an artist.
A baby meant the destruction of everything I might become. Being pregnant made me understand how and why women, pre-Roe v. Wade, stabbed knitting needles into their cervixes. Abstract debate meant nothing while I was throwing up every hour, just wanting to be how I had been before.
Let’s say you are a sex worker. You’re carrying condoms to protect your health and that of your clients. You may have gotten the condoms from the city itself. New York distributes 40 million condoms a year. The city has its own condom brand, it’s logo spelled out in the bright letters they use to mark subway lines. So you’re arrested. The proof needed to lock you up is that you’re carrying one of these city-branded, city-distributed devices. If the cops don’t arrest you, they have a habit of confiscating your condoms.
— Molly Crabapple (via ericmortensen)
Molly Crabapple, who you may remember from her previous posts, The World of a Professional Naked Girl, and Rubber Bullets in the Streets of Madrid is now officially doing a monthly column for us that will feature original writing and illustrations on a variety of subjects. Here’s her first one. Hopefully it will help ease the pain of your first day back to work (or whatever it is you’re doing).
“You never think this will happen to you. But life changes fast.”
Anna, 36, is a cleaner who has been unemployed since Spain followed Greece into the vortex of the Eurozone crisis. Once homeless, she now lives at Corrala Utopia, one of Seville’s many squatted buildings. When we spoke, she was keeping watch over half a dozen children who also live at the squat, whilst their parents were out protesting in front of a local bank, IbjerCaja, which owns the building. The squatters wanted to pay for utilities, but the bank wouldn’t let them.
Corrala itself is an ugly, boxy apartment block, in the architectural style of all building booms, humanized by a blanket of graffiti. “Stop Evictions. No Light, No Water, No Fear.” Thirty families live there. When we walked up their pitch dark stairways, It felt like climbing seven flights of unlit stairs to my own New York apartment, which a week before had had its power knocked out by Hurricane Sandy. Anna’s apartment was filled with toys, a flat-screen TV, sofas. The relics of a middle class life.
The squatters I’d known in the US had been stoned crustpunks or dedicated activists, but most of them squatted by choice. In crisis-crushed Seville, squatting was necessity. Blue collar moms in neat lace collars acted like the most hardcore radicals. Because they have no money, they could do nothing else.
The city of Seville is so broke that it hasn’t paid its civil servants for six months. Nonetheless, it spent ten thousand euros digging up the sidewalk and cutting Corrala’s water main to try and force the squatters out. Now, Anna’s kids have to make five trips a day to haul water jugs up those dark stairwells.
“Life is hard here.” said Anna. “You see 10-year old kids gathering water from the fountain, like it was the 19th century. I’m ashamed for my country.”
For every free coffee beauty privilege gets you, it also gets you a guy following you down the steps on the subway, saying he wants to work his tongue into your ass.