Darmok and Jilad at Tanagra
(with late-night caffeinated apologies to the fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

By Lara
Featured Rightgrrl November 1998

November 09, 1998

I just watched a Star Trek episode in which a race of people spoke only through metaphors. They used analogies from books and stories from their culture to express concepts.

One phrase commonly used was "Darmok and Jilad at Tanagra". The story behind the phrase is something like what follows: Darmok arrived on an island alone. Jilad also arrived on the island alone. together, they had to fight a beast. They won their battle against the beast and left the island together. The concept expressed was one of strangers, or possibly enemies, confronting a common cause and becoming allies or friends as a result.

The crew of the Enterprise could not understand the analogies because they did not know the meanings behind them; and to make things worse, the captain of the other ship beamed Captain Picard to the surface of a nearby planet. The two ships started to go to battle until Picard was returned to the ship and was able to communicate with the people through the metaphors he had learned from the other ship's captain.

I'm starting to believe we desperately need a Darmok and Jilad story if women will ever make real progress toward equality and protection of all of our human rights. I also fear that we can never have one because there is no communication between abortion supporters and the right-to-life feminists.

Right-to-life feminists have a rich history, and we are proud to claim the foremothers of the modern feminist movement as our own. We rejoice in knowing that women like Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull supported life for children and their mothers, and saw supporting life as part of their feminist goals. We also have a wealth of political opinions and religious traditions represented within our ranks, adding more to our history.

When we try to communicate our hopes for women's rights, the abortion-supporting feminists do not understand our point of view. They see us only as hostile. Unfortunately, they are more likely to walk away or even attack instead of find a way to communicate with us. They have no Picard struggling to comprehend an alien point of view. Right-to-life feminists, however, do know the pro-abortion story well. We have grown up hearing it in classrooms and news media, almost to the point of not knowing our own history.

What will it take for us to find our Tanagra and our beast, and what will it take for us to work together to defeat that common foe? Right-to-life feminists see our Tanagra as our status in society, and our beast as attitudes that take away our choices and our rights, and so force us to pit ourselves against our own unborn children. Many of us have heard the cries of equality and choice from those who support abortion, but we cannot get them to understand that we want to work toward those exact goals.

Just because we cannot support abortion does not mean we cannot support other women's issues, nor does it mean we do not respect the concepts of equality and choice. Far from it... we want choices that benefit both mother and child. We want to end pregnancy discrimination. We want to reform the adoption process. We want proper medical care for women and children. We want to stand in society as equals with men, guaranteed the same rights, responsibilities, and privileges.

Where is the abortion support movement's Picard? We want a peaceful meeting. We want to tell you what we want to do to work toward women's equality. We want you to know we are not the enemy. Where is your Picard, willing to listen and learn our side of the story? Why must you turn and walk away, building more walls between women when we need bridges instead? Neither of us want failure. I would not want to say to my daughters "Chaka, when the walls came down" because abortion supporters did not meet us on common ground. When will we both finally say "Darmok and Jilad at Tanagra... we came together to fight a common enemy and became allies"?

This article copyright © 1998 by Lara Ray, and may not be reproduced in any form without the express written consent of its author. All rights reserved.