Saturday, March 2, 2013

Can I be a feminist too?

I consider myself a feminist. I’m a big proponent of women going to college and building their own careers (and I’d like to see more female scientists). I’m very big on a balance between our relationships and the rest of our lives; you should not be made or broken by whether you're single or dating or married. I think society concentrates far too much on our looks, too little on our minds. I’m a huge advocate of expecting and demanding respect from others, particularly from romantic interests. I believe empowered women include women who value themselves, and expect their partners to value them as well. Cruelty, indifference, derision, dishonesty—I hate seeing people tolerate poor treatment, especially due to a fear of being single. I also hate victim-blaming. I’m grateful my boyfriend, brothers, and guy friends understand that the standard is not "it's okay as long as she doesn't say 'no'" but rather "it's not okay unless she says 'yes.'" I’d love for a lot more people to understand this.

I consider myself a feminist. I’m humbled by the women who’ve gone before me, who helped create the opportunities I enjoy today. I’m proud of and inspired by the women who fought for my ability to vote, get an education, own property, access birth control, serve in the military, hold political office, stand up to sexual harassment, graduate from college, and on and on. I feel grateful to modern role models who speak out against ridiculous body expectations, or sexual expectations, or what have you.

Oh, Jennifer Lawrence :-)

I consider myself a feminist and my heart and mind go out to fellow feminists in many respects. I'm glad to be a part of our movement toward equality, making the world better for my daughters. I feel a kinship with the men and women who also work toward that goal.

But then we turn to the topic of abortion, and suddenly I’m shoved right out of the feminist movement and into an ill-fitting stereotype. Apparently pro-life women hate sex and (simultaneously, somehow) think women have a duty to procreate. Apparently, because I'm pro-life I don’t believe our gender can or should make our own decisions. Supposedly I don’t think women should have their own educations, careers, or lives outside of the kitchen (or the bedroom). I'm told I don’t even care if women die. I'm told, in fact, that I hate women, including myself. All of the gender issues I care about so deeply are a farce, smoke and mirrors to hide my backward, misogynistic, sinister agenda of reducing my gender to a bunch of baby incubators.

In reality, I'm pro-life because I believe the non-defensive killing of other human beings is wrong. How sad that this perspective is enough to destroy my credibility as a feminist. 

The truth is I think women should have control over their bodies, and that their sexual decisions should be their own. I think consenting adults should be free to have sex with whomever. I'm glad we live in a society in which birth control is legal and common, and I'd like to see better sex education so more people will use birth control effectively. I really dislike the double standards society has regarding men and women's sex lives. (For example, the phrase "man-whore" irritates me because it seems to imply that normally women are "whores," so in this case we have to clarify.) I can't stand the "slut vs. prude" dichotomy, as if women can only be one or the other, and we sure can't win either way. 

Choose your stereotype.
I also don't believe anyone has a duty to procreate, and I would love it if no one got pregnant who didn't want to be pregnant.

I do believe, though, that once a woman is pregnant, things have changed. I see a huge moral difference between preventing a pregnancy and terminating one, because I recognize the human fetus as part of our species, warranting protection. 

I don't take this position lightly. I understand how dramatically pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing alter women's lives. Indeed I think part of feminism is transforming society so that procreation doesn't affect women so disproportionately. We need better maternity leave and childcare options. We need to break down stigmas surrounding single, student, and working mothers. I'd love to live in a society where employers understand that supporting their pregnant and parenting employees means supporting productive citizens and healthy families. If our society had better support for pregnancy and child-rearing, I believe less women would feel compelled to choose abortion in the first place. 

But in any case, I flatly reject the idea that only when women are able to have their offspring killed can we have the same opportunities as men. If that's equality, it's an abysmal form.

I consider myself a feminist, and I'm pro-life. I know I'm not the only one.

[Re-posted at Secular Pro-Life]

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