Xiu Xiu’s “I Luv Abortion” vs. My “I Love Abortion”

As my friend and I tottered through a snowstorm this weekend en route to a Planned Parenthood rally, the large “WOMEN DO NOT LIVE TO BREED” sign I carried easily seen from passing cars and by passersby marking us clear proponents of women’s authority to purge their//our bodies of undesired fetus-type parasites, I complained to him about many things (I am a woman lavish w/ complaint), including 1) the way that Nice Good Pro-Choice Liberals tiptoe around the issue of abortion even whilst defending it, as if the idea of a woman not wanting a baby and taking the necessary actions to preclude her having said baby left an unpleasant aftertaste in their Nice Good Pro-Choice Liberal mouths, and 2) the song “I Luv Abortion” by Xiu Xiu.

Regarding the former, there is a tendency in pro-choice rhetoric and narrative-shaping to focus on the services that Planned Parenthood provides besides abortions, i.e. pap smears, contraceptives, STD testing, and, when broaching abortion directly, to cushion the reference in the warm-n-fuzzy context of “My abortion made it possible for me to have lovely babies later, when I was ready to be a mum.” I recognize that there are many women for whom this is true; they had abortions when they weren’t ready to have babies and then later at some point they determined that they were ready, had their babies, and lived happily ever after, married to so-and-so, feeding babies apple pie and smiling more or less constantly. How nice for them. The problem is that this narrative of abortion-having-woman-later-becomes-a-loving-mother aims to counter the idea that women who have abortions are bad women because they don’t want babies by reassuring everyone that, no, no, they aren’t bad women, they do want babies, just not right this minute. Hold your horses, boys, and soon enough we’ll have some babies, we swear! Only some of us won’t. Some of us don’t want babies ever; some of us do not even like babies. Let’s say I dislike babies. Does that make me a bad and unnatural woman? Do I not get to have my abortion now because I am too mean and therefore must be set on the path to niceness by a life sentence of compulsory motherhood? If so, that baby is in trouble. I will swaddle it in my “PRO-ABORTION NON-BREEDER” shirt; it will have to live under my desk. I’ll forget to feed it.

Unless they’re actually trying to reinforce the male supremacist conceit that women’s purpose is to get fucked and eject men’s heirs, reproductive freedom campaigners ought reconsider defending abortion with an implicit promise of prospective love-and-daisies maternity. Instead, we could yell “I LOVE ABORTION” and refuse to be ashamed for desiring to be more than vessels//caretakers for squirmy interlopers.

I love abortion. It saves the lives of women and girls everywhere in the world. I love abortion. Securing bodily sovereignty is a prerequisite for women’s revolt against patriarchy. I love abortion. Never for any reason do I want to have a baby. Abortion?? Yes!! Love it. 

There are numerous compelling reasons to love abortion, none of which are mentioned in Xiu Xiu’s song “I Luv Abortion” (Always, 2012). Singer-songwriter Jamie Stewart has said that he wrote the song as a tribute to his friend who got pregnant and chose to abort as a teenager, and that he meant for it to be a pro-choice response to the “U.S. right wing.” Yet its believability as pro-abortion anthem is undermined by the ghastly gross-out sorrow-gore sensationalism of Stewart’s lyrics, as in the yelped chorus:

When I look at my thighs, I see death // It is great // I love abortion // When I look at my thighs, I see death // It is rad // I love abortion // You are too good for this life! 

Going by the above, it would seem that the girl Stewart proposes to channel senses her abortion as something grotesque, is flippant about that grotesqueness, and yet, flippancy aside, loves her aborted child. In further misguided lockstep with the mainstream pro-choice party line Stewart sings, “When the time is right, I will love you like I should,” implying that the abortion-having girl will, sometime down the road, convert to a state-sanctioned Doting Mum. Somehow with all this Stewart manages to cast abortion as both morbid and disgusting — “the rose elf is stabbed, the rose goblin is vacuumed o.u.t. out!” — and as politically de-fanged, since the song anticipates the girl’s redemption by eventual childbirth (“when the time is right, come back come back!”).

Stewart does not love abortion; he cannot write convincingly about loving it because he wouldn’t know how to love it—he is not a woman, he has never lived through a pregnancy scare; he does not know what it’s like to sense your life warping and fading out of your control due to the possibility of another human being growing inside of your body. He has never had to think about getting an abortion; he has never had to have an abortion. He cannot love abortion because it is not real to him and so the song he writes about “luv-ing it” defaults to being not so much about loving abortion as about loving the symbolism of it, as a hot red-dark juiciest form of female suffering. Xiu Xiu’s signature gimmick — which I am sometimes a sucker for; the reason I had the song in mind to begin with is that I’ve relapsed into Xiu Xiu bingeing lately — is affective dress-up in women’s pain and “I Luv Abortion” is a choice example of why this roleplaying is an exploitation, not an expression of solidarity. In hammy agony the man says, “Look at me, I’m a girl, I hurt,” or he hurts himself and claims he is getting in touch with his “feminine side”; in so doing the man affirms that it is women’s destiny to suffer, that masochism is in our nature. He identifies with us, because we are the suffering class, and sometimes he too is in pain. Paint his mouth pink, the boy aches!

Or: he felt pretty bad one time and he imagines it might have been sort of what it might possibly be like kind of to get an abortion, maybe?

But maybe abortion needn’t feel bad at all, and maybe that’s what is most important to say, in its defense: abortion is a positive possibility and should be a positive experience. It is only painful in a woman-hating society that insists women who won’t sacrifice our lives to others – children, men – are villains and shames us for electing instead to live as we please, as if our bodies were our own.

As we walked through the snow to the Planned Parenthood rally, both of us freezing, my backpack plaqued with ice, I complained to my friend that Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart was not qualified to sing about a woman’s experience of having an abortion, that it was his confidence in his fitness to articulate such a patently female experience that doomed “I Luv Abortion” to its fate as miscarriage, tasteless and counterproductive. Screeching about the grimness of abortion and how it makes of the female body a House of Death may satisfy your lust for abjection, but don’t insult us pretending it’s advocacy for women’s reproductive freedom, Xiu Xiu. I love abortion more than you ever could.