Is It Worth It?

04Feb10

I often get frustrated when it comes to promoting my feminist ideals publicly.  Blogging about them is easy, but when faced with explaining them to my family, friends, and acquaintances, it becomes more difficult.  This isn’t because I am ashamed of them, or because I don’t think they’re worth promoting (quite the opposite, in fact).  The trouble comes because of all the ridicule and outright hostility I endure when I dare to share my opinions (after all, women are not supposed to be offended by anything, it’s so unattractive, we should just lighten up).  People will look at me with disdain and say, “You’re becoming one of those people.”  (If by that they mean one of those people who does not think her own comfort and relative privilege is worth preserving at all costs, yes, I am.)  It’s disheartening, and it would be so much easier to just keep my mouth shut and go with it.  So why don’t I?

It isn’t because I particularly enjoy the harassment.  I’m really not a lover of conflict (this is part of the reason I don’t talk politics with my father – it ends up being a huge, endless, pointless argument, and I really hate engaging in those).  It’s just that I know that some things are more important than avoiding conflict.

In Bangladesh, a rape victim received 101 lashes for becoming pregnant. Her father was also fined, and warned that his family would be branded outcasts from their village if he did not pay.  Her husband, when he found out that she had conceived during her assault, divorced her.  Her rapist was pardoned.

Underage girls are often faced with insurmountable challenges when seeking an abortion.

Many states have enacted, or are considering, laws that restrict teenagers’ access to abortion by requiring parental involvement in the abortion decision. Such laws include:

  • Parental notification laws that require medical personnel to notify a minor’s parent(s) of her intention to obtain an abortion;
  • Parental consent laws that require medical personnel to obtain written permission from the parent(s) before providing an abortion;
  • Almost all of the parental notification and consent laws have judicial bypass options that allow a teen who feels she cannot involve her parent(s) to get a judge’s permission to proceed with her abortion. Some states allow a physician to waive parental involvement, and some allow professional counseling instead of parental involvement.

Fact: Judicial bypass presents a formidable obstacle to those who need it most.

Going to court is usually intimidating to even the most sophisticated adults, who generally have an attorney to represent them. For a pregnant teen to use judicial bypass, she must not only find a judge, she must work her way through a confusing legal system and face intense, sometimes judgmental, and often traumatic questioning by strangers.

Indeed, the poorest, youngest, least experienced teenagers are least able to use judicial bypass, and thereby become the most likely to end up becoming teen parents or victims of black-market abortion.

The law is not actually set up to help these girls.  It is set up in a way that makes the process of obtaining an abortion so daunting that many girls will not have the resources to get what they need.  From a woman who works with these girls to try to get them judicial bypasses:

I’m not saying that there aren’t some stone cold stupid obnoxious young boys out there who are getting their counterparts pregnant. I know there are. When girls who were knocked up by age-appropriate boyfriends come in, the boyfriends come with them (and make out in court). Girls who come in alone, I assume, didn’t have a boyfriend; they had an abuser. Now, technically, there’s a rape exception in the notification law. If you have been raped, you do not have to go through the judicial bypass — you get a bonus abortion, no paternalism attached! But because, lord knows, women are big fat liars about rape, and because women will resort to desperate measures to acquire medical care that we all know they don’t really need (what they need is a baby), a girl can’t just say she was raped and get a free bypass. She has to report her rape to the police. And since the police are going to tell your parents anyway, well, in for a penny, in for a pound.

I can’t conceive of any possible scenario where a girl reports her rape to the police, but hides her pregnancy and subsequent abortion from her parents, the police, the investigators, the judge, the jury, and the attorneys. I suppose it is possible, but is it probable? Is it reasonable? We don’t trust these girls with the decision to have or not have children, but we think they should be capable of maintaining an intense secret after a horrific trauma and during police and attorney interrogation?

So the exception for the bypass law is, in this case, completely self-defeating. For a girl to meet the criteria for the exception, she will no longer need the bypass. Which again shows you the intent of the law, and the exception: neither were ever instituted with the intention that they be used. Additionally, knowing that the rape exception was only added after intense public pressure illustrates its function quite clearly: the rape exception is to make politicians look like something less than paternalistic monsters, while preserving the paternalistically monstrous power to deny all young women (including rape victims) the right to access desperately needed medical care.

A church set up a martial arts league in order to recruit more young men.

The outreach is part of a larger and more longstanding effort on the part of some ministers who fear that their churches have become too feminized, promoting kindness and compassion at the expense of strength and responsibility.

“The man should be the overall leader of the household,” said Ryan Dobson, 39, a pastor and fan of mixed martial arts who is the son of James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a prominent evangelical group. “We’ve raised a generation of little boys.”

From the huge issues to the comparatively small, women every day are living with the fact that they have been conditioned to self-deprecate and underestimate their own abilities.  They are being taught that they are stupid, overemotional, and evil.  They are being taught that all “feminine” qualities are despicable and undesirable (this is why calling someone a “bitch” or a “pussy” is the accepted way to question a person’s strength).  They are being taught that their lives and choices are not important.  They are being taught that they should be submissive, never put themselves before anyone else in their lives, and that their main two functions are sex-tool and baby-maker.  They are being taught that they are insane and inconvenient if they choose to reject any of these things.  They are being blamed for the wrongdoing of men (which is not to say that all men are wrongdoers, just that women are held accountable for the actions of the ones who are).  They are being taught that they should take steps to stop those men (who are helpless victims when it comes to their sex drives) from raping them.  They are taught that they did something wrong if they fail at that.  God forbid they fail at both stopping their rapist from raping them and stopping his semen from creating a child in their bodies.

I’ve been lucky, as far as the consequences of living in a patriarchal society go.  The sexual harassment I’ve faced as been comparatively tame.  I’ve faced a great deal of social conditioning, but I was also lucky enough to eventually recognize it for what it was and work toward breaking free from it.  I’ve experienced people turning on me for my opinions (or, not so much my opinions as the fact that I dared to express them), but nothing harsh enough to be scarring.  I’ve never needed an abortion.  I’ve never faced violent physical abuse.  I escaped fairly quickly and painlessly from the one abusive relationship I did not recognize immediately and leave.  I have a father who, while he hasn’t exactly been the embodiment of male/female equality (or equality in general), was way ahead of the curve when it came to his relationship with my mother (especially considering his familial background).  My body, while not stick thin, is not of the type which seems to make people think they can taunt and belittle me about my appearance.  I have been so, so lucky (so privileged), and I know this.

This is no excuse to shut down and skate by, leave the problems for other people to solve.  So many women need people who are willing and able to speak up.  Sexism did not end when women were given the right to vote, or when they pushed their way into jobs traditionally reserved for men, or when the Roe v. Wade ruling gave them the right to have an abortion for any reason (up until the fetus becomes viable).  It didn’t end in America, and it sure as hell didn’t end in the rest of the world, and we cannot be so wrapped up in our own privilege that we think that it doesn’t matter.

So, yes, it sucks to have to be the lone person who says, “I think that was pretty damn sexist, and I don’t appreciate it” (or variants thereof, based on the situation).  It isn’t fun to be the “inconvenient” one, who just “can’t take a joke.”  But it is necessary for someone to do it, and it turns out I am that person when it comes to the majority of my acquaintances.  So I have to endure a bit of criticism, mocking, and malice.  It is far better than what other women have endured, and have to endure every day.  I’m one of the lucky ones.

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3 Responses to “Is It Worth It?”

  1. 1 Edman

    Speaking as one of the privileged ones, I think it’s great that you don’t “lighten up” – these things need to be addressed, even (or, especially) at the expense of making people like myself uncomfortable.

    Bravo, and you have my full support.

  2. Hi. I wished to let you know that some parts of your website are tricky to comprehend for me, as I’m color blind. I have problems with deuteranopia, but there are other varieties of color blindness that will also experience issues. I will read the largest part of the website Okay, and those areas I have difficulties with I am able to read by using a custom browser. Neverthless, it would be cool if you can keep in mind us color-blind people while undertaking the next web site design. Thank you.

    • You know, sometimes my own privilege still surprises me, even when I’m making efforts to be aware of it. Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I can’t guarantee that I will change it immediately (at the moment I don’t have the time to create a design myself, and the options given by WordPress are limited), but when I do I will be more aware. Again, thank you. I need reminders like that, and they are always appreciated.


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