What We Talk About When We Talk About Elizabeth Bruenig
The once-beloved “leftist” is facing backlash for her anti-abortion views. Why did it take this long?
The first time I realized something was off about Elizabeth Bruenig, I was looking at her uterus. She had followed me on Twitter after I’d criticized someone named Matt Bruenig for harassing female journalists; she didn’t tell me they were married, and she was so friendly that I didn’t suspect. Her friendliness had a disconcerting edge to it. Every time I got too loud about gender (which was often) she’d pop in with one or two tiny questions, just a teensy correction, just a leeeeeeeetle suggestion that maybe I was taking this whole sexism thing a little bit too seriously and possibly I should just relax? Maybe? A bit???
I told her I thought everyone had a responsibility to fight sexism. She told me she was “just a kid” who never even wrote about gender (this will be important later) and anyway, what did I expect her to do?
Things came to a head when Newsweek published a cover story about “America’s abortion wars.” The cover showed an image of a fetus in the second or third trimester; like most such imagery, it displaced any image of the pregnant person (whose right to an abortion was, presumably, the cause of the “war”) and was also bigger and older than 90% of aborted fetuses. When I said this, Elizabeth Bruenig tweeted back that she found the image realistic, actually! To this, she attached a picture of her own ultrasound. I had not previously known she was pregnant.
Dropping fetal images to derail a conversation about abortion rights was a tactic I recognized. It went all the way back to the billboard truck that used to circle through my hometown with gooey “abortion” pictures printed under the word “CHOICE.” Even if the resemblance was somehow accidental, to find myself unexpectedly looking at the inside of her body (was I supposed to tell her the fetus was… cute? Large? Obviously more important than the right of full-grown adults to make their own medical decisions?) felt way creepier and more inappropriate than our previous interactions.
Soon afterward, someone emailed me the link: “Why I am a Pro-Life Liberal,” by Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig. As it turned…