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On Harm Reduction June 29, 2011

Posted by FCM in books!, health, PIV, pop culture, thats random.
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anyone of age in the 1980s probably remembers carole jacksons “color me beautiful” franchise that went viral before there was such a thing (and its still going!) where women were enlightened through personal color analysis how to best choose clothing, accessories and makeup color based on their own hair, skin and eye color.

arguably most useful for white women, the CMB color analysis reveals whether a woman is spring, summer, autumn or winter, and indeed once a woman figures out her proper colors she can actually “save money” by only buying things that will look good on her, and that she will want to wear until they fall apart (or until she changes size, or the item goes out of fashion, or whatever).  yes,  i did say saving-money-by-spending-it.  its consumerist okay?  and i say its “arguably” most useful for white women because apparently women of color can save-money-by-spending-it this way too, but are afforded somewhat more limited advice, frequently being the most flattered by a “winter” palette.  dont shoot the messenger ok?  we are talking harm reduction only.  this isnt rocket science, and its not radical.  its also not feminist, but thats obvious isnt it?  okay good.

now.  i am talking about “color me beautiful” because this shit actually works, to reduce harm.  it does.  (BTW i am a spring!)  when i go out into the patriarchal pornified rapefest i mean into the world, where i maintain a job and have to deal with pornsickened, objectifying assholes, rapists and handmaidens of the patriarchy all day, every day…i find that i can manipulate their perceptions of me, steer their emotional response to benefit myself, and make certain things (but not others) easier for myself, if i perform grooming and dressing rituals that are basically par for my sex.  (is it just me?  HA!  didnt think so).  but i refuse to pornify myself, and i have decided in the last year or so that i also dont want to spend either time or money doing this.  at least, i dont want to spend any more than a man would have to spend, to fulfill the requisite boo-hoo poor me i have to groom myself and wear work-clothes to work sex-appropriate rituals for men.  not because i think anything men do or dont do is the gold standard or anything…this is me, reducing the harm i incur daily, under the P, based on my sex.  saving money (or not spending it, and DEFINITELY not spending it on patriarchal beauty mandates) is harm reduction only.  and i want to reduce my harm, to whatever extent its within my own control to do so.

so, among other things, i cut my hair short…and i recently stopped wearing makeup.  yes, i said recently.  dont hate!  i have uneven skin tone mkay?  and i wasnt able to give it up until recently, with the help of “color me beautiful”.  YES!  if you wear the right colors, you dont need makeup!  especially if you phase out the face-paint over time, and didnt cake it on like a “femme transwoman” in the first place.  you see, a salmon, turquoise or teal shirt (“spring” good-colors) costs as much as an orange, a pale yellow or a white one (spring bad-colors!) and wearing good colors evens out your skin tone.  it does!  in my case, i usually wear neutrals, so i have realized that a cream, navy or dark-heather-gray (whatever-item) costs the same as a white, black, or brown of the same item…and its going to look better.  so good that i “look like” im wearing makeup, but im not!111!!!1 

yes thats right: im spending the same amount on clothing as i did previously (i personally enjoy thrift-stores and a good tailor if needed) and i am NOT spending ANYTHING on makeup.  (and i gave up accessories completely a year ago).  i hope to NOT-SPEND money on as many things as possible for as long as possible, and then stave-off rape and the sexual entitlement of men for as long as possible, in my old age.  and failing that, when the money and the security it buys runs out, i will probably kill myself.  (isnt that everyones retirement plan?)  but i digress.

so, back to harm reduction.  harm reduction isnt radical.  its just something we do, or dont do, to get ahead (or at least not to fall behind, or further behind) and to mitigate the damages we incur as female-bodied persons under patriarchy.  thats all.  generally, specific harm-reduction strategies work for some women, some of the time, and might be more or less available, more or less appealing, or more or less effective for different women, based on individual womens circumstances.  generally harm-reduction strategies also support the patriarchy in some way (rather than subverting it) which is why they arent radical.  kind of like…saving money.  this entails actually making some, and participating in capitalist (and abusive) hierarchies for example.

and also like…abortion.  okay?  abortion is not a radical solution to the harms women incur daily, as female-bodied persons under the P.  abortion is harm-reduction only, meaning that it can be less harmful than bringing a pregnancy to term for some women, some of the time.  and like all harm-reduction strategies, abortion will be more or less available, more or less appealing, and more or less effective for different women based on their unique situation.  what abortion will never do, because it cant, is save us from men, or from mens sexual entitlement, or from mens abuse (including rape) or from poverty or from anything, really.  only a radical solution could save us from any of that.  all abortion does is terminate an existing pregnancy.  thats all.

and thats important!  make no mistake.  it absolutely and significantly reduces harm, where women are subjected to PIV-centric sex when they do not wish to become pregnant; where they are raped and prostituted, and where men intentionally impregnate us to cause female-specific harm.  and where men have designed their legal, medical and religious machines to magnify the harms to women once they impregnate us, and once we have children too.  in this context, abortion is necessary, and there is no doubt about that.  we must have access to safe and legal abortion.  this will continue to be the case even after the revolution, because even wanted pregnancies are dangerous.  even wanted pregnancies can kill you.  and women will always need the option to say NO to a medical event that is specific only to us.

but, that said, abortion is not a radical solution to womens oppression, or an antidote to mens power over us.  and its not going to liberate us any more or any differently, really, than a flattering thriftstore wardrobe is going to liberate us from mens tyranny and oppression.  anyone can see that adhering to beauty mandates (even on the cheap) is just supporting the patriarchy and reifying male power in demonstrable ways; well, abortion is too.  thats what separates harm-reduction strategies from radical solutions.  in the case of abortion, it de-legitimizes womens legitimate complaints about unwanted and PIV-centric sexuality (because the only real harms of PIV are the ones men experience, aka. unwanted parenthood, and definitely NOT unwanted pregnancy, who cares about that?); and men and male institutions make TONS of money off of all medical procedures, including abortion.

harm-reduction strategies and radical solutions are not the same, and we need to keep them separate when thinking and writing about them, because there are meaningful differences there, and we cannot afford to forget what its going to take to get women liberated from men: the end of female-specific harms perpetrated on us, by men, and an antidote to male power.