Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feminism is not a dirty word

The victories of the women's movement have caused many to question whether it is still needed. So great is the skepticism for its continued role that "feminism" has become a dirty word. Feminist are generally portrayed and ridiculed as "man haters," "feminazis," and "ideologues." This is an unfortunate and inaccurate caricature.

A feminist is committed to the following three claims: 1) women and men ought to be moral, political, social, and economic equals, 2) societal perspectives, institutions, and power structures have and continue to prevent full equality of men and women, at the expense of women (patriarchy), and, 3) justice requires that we work to change the patriarchal systems that place women in a position below men. Other than a broad commitment to justice for all people and activism to ensure it, one need believe nothing in addition to these three claims to be a feminist. When that is understood, can anyone not say that feminism is correct? Bell Hooks is right "feminism is for everybody."

Recent events make it all the more necessary for those of us who truly believe in working for a world in which men and women are really equal. The time has come to proudly reclaim the feminist label.

Some extremists on the right wing of the political divide are waging a kind of war on the rights and dignity of women. Angry Catholic Bishops shout out that they will not pay for birth control. All male panels testify to congress about their "religious freedom" - the freedom to refuse to cover women's family planning!. Republicans in a number of states attempt to force pregnant women to undergo a transvaginal ultra-sound if they want an abortion; even if the woman was raped!

If all this were not bad enough, when women and those of us who love them protest these draconian measures as disregarding women's rights, we have people respond that women should just put aspirin between their knees like the good old days! Meaning, sadly, that if women don't want to get pregnant they should just never have sex. Even worse, some clueless pundits, with more contempt for women than brains, claim that transvaginal ultra-sounds cannot be invasive since "they had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy."

This is all familiar right wing moral fanaticism. It's nothing more than a way of attempting to control women by implying that they are "sluts" and "deserve it" if they have an unwanted pregnancy. It's nonsense. But the fact that so many still think and speak this way is proof that feminism is very much still needed.

But what of those who reject the puritanical moralism of the right? What of those who fancy themselves free, open, and non-censorious about sexual mores? Unfortunately many of these types are no better. Not only is there a massive market for Internet porn that overwhelming portrays women as violently dominated by men but "shock jocks" like Howard Stern, whose entire career is almost nothing but demeaning and insulting women, are more popular than ever.

To take a very recent example, Stern spent a large segment of an interview with Adam Levine, trying to figure out why Christina Aguilera has gained weight. He lamented the fact that she was no longer "hot" and called her "plus sized," clearly repulsed by the Cuvier-than-before pop star. Aguilera is a beautiful and talented woman, and it serves Stern's misogynistic purposes to try and put her down so crudely ... not to mention the ongoing image problems and eating disorders among women that he and his brood revel in.

The moral of the story is simple. We do not live in a world where women are fully equal with men. We should, but we don't. Patriarchy is working, much more overtly recently, not only to keep women down, but to push them back.

The women's movement must fight on!

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  1. It is mind boggling. One woman said since i have not had children I basically don't have a say in whether a trans vaginal ultra-sound is invasive. I was also told that rape victims is a "card" the "leftist" throw out to justify "killing babies". This aspect according to my conservative friends is insignificant since rape victims count for ONLY one percent of abortions performed each year. I find it hard to accept in my heart that women really believe this. My heart is heavy for the women who carry the submissive banner. Feminism is NOT a dirty word! It is a liberating word!

  2. I absolutely agree! I was talking to a woman the other day - someone I consider intelligent and enlightened - and she mentioned feminism as "that whole, 'burn the bra' thing." I couldn't believe it. I told her it's about equality and if you pay attention to the facts, you'll see we still don't have it. And if the GOP has their way, we'll be even more setback.


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