Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The F Word


Hah. Is that the F word you were expecting out of me? Bwah ha ha ha ha.

This is a multi-part discussion that will happen over the next months, I'm sure.

Today, part 1: feminism and the sexual revolution
Other planned parts:
What happened to feminism anyway, and where on Earth are we going?
Who stole feminism?
Where's the line between empowering women and tromping on men?
How do we create a new world with equality?
It starts with an article: Republicans, "Girls," and Sexual Freedom in The New Yorker

In short, the article talks about why republicans are so darn interested in controlling women's sexuality with all this "how dare birth control be required to be covered by all insurance?" and "all abortions ever are evil and should be illegal" stuff that's been so prominent lately.

If we consider all the things that have happened since the start of feminism in earnest in the mid-19th century, first it was the end of the world if women got to vote, then the end of the world if they worked outside the home (and for equal pay, which women still don't get for a whole host of reasons), and then the end of the world if contraception and then abortion became legal.

Society as a whole (in the U.S) is now completely unfazed that women vote.  We are big fans of women worldwide voting.  Very few people really bat an eye at women working outside the home (yes, still some object, but generally this is a minority that gets scoffed at by most people). 

Working outside the home is still a hotly contested issue among women themselves (see: mommy wars over every darn parenting choice that exists) but it isn't something women feel the need to fight to do at all anymore.  The fight is now about the moral high ground of working exclusively at home versus working outside the home.

But sex. Sex is where it gets sticky... (did I just write that? oh my filthy mind)  It intrigues me that the things that were a part of the package (voting, family planning rights, autonomy to have a job of one's own) of early women's liberation have been split out so that sex is somehow its own issue.  While men no longer ought to have any say over whether a woman has a job or if she can vote, men still get to control women's sex lives? Isn't that strange to have such a double standard?  Men are more masculine if they have many sex partners (serially, not necessarily several women at a time) while women are defiled and depreciated if they have many sex partners.  So weird.  I suppose it's because men are somehow less responsible if a baby turns up as a result of sex, since they can't immediately be identified as the father and therefore can skulk off and pretend they have no idea how she got pregnant!

Since I like to fix things, I fully support requiring paternity testing before a baby leaves the hospital for all babies unless you jump through some big hoops.  If men were as tied to their babies as women, there would be much less fuss about women getting to limit their fertility (in my view, at least) because the commitment would be increased legally. 

It just baffles me that women are capable of deciding what job to pursue and what person to marry, but women are not capable of deciding when and if to have babies.  Really now.  If women are people, and people are as a rule autonomous and capable of making decisions about their bodies, WHY ON EARTH  shouldn't women get to make these choices for themselves?

When I was young and still in on politics, I was door-knocking for a pro-choice (woman) congressional candidate.  I wound up talking to this guy, maybe early 40s but with small children, about how frustrating the abortion=legal debate is.  He argued that children are a gift from G-d and we need to embrace them when they get here because we may only have a few precious chances to be parents, and when I was older and if I experienced infertility, I would totally change my mind.  I've thought of that guy often since then, and I am now totally convinced that argument is bogus. 

There was a pregnancy in my life that I considered terminating. I actually made the appointment.  I changed my mind, but my body didn't get the pro-baby memo, and that was that, decision made for me.  Yes, it was selfish to consider. So is deciding to bring any child into this overpopulated world.  After struggling to get pregnant again, and then failing to stay pregnant AGAIN I considered that choice again, and I wouldn't change a thing because I'm now pretty sure that I could never have an abortion.  But I also had the heart-wrenching "what do we do now?" talk with my OB after the last miscarriage, the one where we decided whether to wait and see what my body did, or do surgery, or try some drugs to speed things along.  My proto-baby was dead already at this point, but I can very easily the extra anguish and heart break to know the baby you are carrying is going to die no matter what, and to consider terminating the pregnancy rather than waiting and letting the baby suffer for a few brief moments after delivery.  That heartache of choosing to end a pregnancy so the mother can live.  Nobody but that woman and her higher power can decide what's right or moral in her situation (and hopefully her partner, but in a supporting role, because it's her body and she lives or dies in it) and nobody ought to try.  Although I think there are a great many immoral abortions that happen, it isn't my job to enforce my morality on anyone.  You make your own moral choices, I'll make mine.  I think lots of things are immoral that other people seem to find no fault with, so good for them.  Infertility hasn't convinced me that my younger self should have tried to carry that pregnancy that failed to term and figure out what would happen to that baby with no dad in the picture.  It was my personal sense of when life begins and what my higher power is up to in my life that convinced me not to go for the termination. I chose for myself because I'm a fully human person, capable of deciding something like that.

It will probably always baffle me that women shouldn't have sex but men should have lots.  Does that mean men should be having more sex with each other? or...?

So if thinking that women ought to get to decide what is moral for themselves makes me a feminist, then there I am.

1 comment:

  1. "Although I think there are a great many immoral abortions that happen, it isn't my job to enforce my morality on anyone. I think lots of things are immoral that other people seem to find no fault with, so good for them." -- YES. This. Exactly.

    I find myself really drawn to so many snippets in your post. You have a gift for boiling it down to the heart of the matter.