Part 1: Is There a Feminist in the House?

by on September 24, 2010 · 10 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Life Events, San Diego, Women's Rights

feminism marchfem·i·nism ( Merriam Webster Dictionary)

1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes

2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Pat Robertson

Many of you have responded to the question “…how do you feel about the term ‘feminism’ these days?” The OB Rag raised this issue in the weekly poll because some women leaders in the Tea Party have described themselves as feminists or have been portrayed as such in the mainstream media. This did not pass the sniff test for the majority of you who have responded that “The Tea Party women are misleading everyone when they call themselves “feminists” for they are not at all.”

feminism logoHannah Rosin in the online Slate provides a sobering analysis of recent changes within the feminist movement.

“The new crew of female politicians, taking Sarah Palin’s cue, define themselves as feminists while skipping over the progressive agenda that movement holds dear—as well as its history. They can do this because that agenda—reproductive rights, economic justice, combating violence against women—are not the only defining parts of the movement anymore and have not been for some time.”

I believe that we can add all kinds of things to the feminist agenda, but it is clear that we have been kicked wicked hard in the castanets by rolling over and allowing “reproductive rights, economic justice and combating violence against women” to be anything less than the bedrock of the movement for women’s equality.

Feminists are losing serious ground when young respondents to the OB Rag poll say that the “term ‘feminism’ seems antiquated and out of date.” Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and Christine O’Donnell, the “feminist” faces of conservative politics, join their brethren in supporting a federal government ban on abortion—for any reason, including rape and incest. There is some hypocrisy here when the parties of small government have no problem placing that same government’s hand in a woman’s most private place. And there is a severe disconnect when we don’t even want to acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla in the room—that 1 out of 3 women get abortions.

feminism ashley juddNow we all know that there have to be some Republican women and women who vote independently and women who “don’t give a crap because I’m pregnant” out there getting abortions, besides a bunch of sexually depraved liberals, but the whole conversation has been pushed so far to the right that damn few of those women feel safe enough to come forward and speak and we on the left are not giving them a forum to do so. Please note that the majority of the women I have interviewed who have had an abortion did so because their contraception did not work. Surprise!

So you would think all of these pro-family feminists and their brethren would support the birthin’ babies part, but au contraire!

Sharron Angle, in weighing in against the federal health care legislation, opined that because she is past her child bearing years, it is just not right that she would be paying for someone else’s maternity care in her mandated insurance policy. She of course joins the conservative men, uterine challenged, also shouting unfair. I suspect the same sentiment would hold true for coverage of birth control, but I haven’t heard a word about unfair when it comes to Viagra coverage.

Beyond a woman’s right to chose, beyond babies, birth control and boners, enter Christine O’Donnell, who is simply beyond belief. O’Donnell believes that condoms do not reduce the spread of AIDS. She believes that homosexuality is a personality disorder. She believes that masturbation is bad because it is lustful and if a guy masturbates, why would he want to have a relationship with a woman? That’s what Christine O’Donnell, candidate for senate in the state of Delaware, believes. I believe I will have another drink, send Ms. O’Donnell a copy of How to Talk Dirty and Influence People by Lenny Bruce and a package of condoms in the hope that she not only practices safe sex, but that they will provide contraception.

We have elections coming up in which we are told ad nauseum that the progressive base, the Democratic base, is simply not energized. I don’t believe that is true. I’m positively energized! When we talk just about women’s issues, we are talking about 51% of the population. There is a great deal at stake in the upcoming national elections for women. Both the Republicans and Tea Partiers are champing at the bit to undo Roe v Wade, and too many Democrats are ready to renounce their own party’s principles and do the same.

In her book Big Girls Don’t Cry, Rebecca Traister writes:

“The trouble was that the goal of outlawing abortion (as well as desires to limit access to birth control and education)—not as a matter of personal belief, but as a legislative goal—was not compatible with feminism if feminism in fact meant supporting women’s rights to pursue their life, liberty and happiness on equal footing with men. Not believing in abortion personally was one thing. But preventing other women from exerting full control over their bodies and health, assessing their value as lesser than the value of the fetuses they carried, was it seemed to me and many others, fundamentally anti-feminist and anti-female.”

I come back again to the young poll respondents who think feminism is an antiquated term, to those respondents who think it has become watered down or who say it is no longer relevant. I’ve been asking many friends, men and women aged 30- 84, to weigh in on the issue of feminism. Last night I spoke to a 65 year old friend. I’ve known her for a long time, but only last night did she tell me that she had an abortion before Roe v. Wade.

feminism fistShe was very young and the doctor who performed the abortion was “legitimate.” She was lucky. Her abortion however was performed without an anesthetic. Her legitimate doctor also made sure to make her feel the shame, as well as the pain. I am unwilling to believe that my friend is “badly dated” or “stricken with piety” because she is a feminist. Those terms are often lobbed at first wave feminists by younger women who are able to be something quite different than their mothers and grandmothers because of what those same women and the men who supported them were willing to talk about and fight for. The irony I suppose is that I look at the smooth 40 year old face of Christine O’Donnell, Sarah Palin’s mini-me and 20 years my junior to boot! and think—how can this young woman be “so dated” by wanting to turn back the clock?—and how “stricken with piety” her screeds against sexuality sound.

Last night I turned to My Beloved and asked him for his thoughts on feminism. He smiled and said “Time to pass the ERA.” So stay tuned for part two of Is There a Feminist in the House: The ERA.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Patty Jones September 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thanks Anna, for the great read. These Tea Party women are riding the coattails of the real feminists before them, the ones who fought to make it possible for them to even be in the positions they are in now. In my opinion they are just good ole boys in drag.

Looking forward to your next installment.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 25, 2010 at 8:51 am

LMFAO! Gives new meaning to the ol’ sexist phrase “look up their skirts.”

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avatar Sarah September 24, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Anna –

What a great article!

I have never labeled myself a feminist, though going by the definitions provided, I would have to be considered one. I was simply raised knowing that there were no limits and that I could do anything I dreamed.

It wasn’t until I was fully grown up that I realized what an amazing cadre of women have been standing behind me all these years while I went happily about the business of exploring those “limitless” options.

Sarah

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Really enjoyed this. Putting context into our daily lives – thanx Anna.

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avatar Molly September 25, 2010 at 1:11 pm

You go girl! I saw the poll that the Rag ran. Verrry interesting…. There’s actually more readers that said they were male feminists than female feminists. To be fair probably more women downplayed the so-called ‘feminists’ – the Palins, etc. , than who chose one of the other choices.

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avatar Ernie McCray September 26, 2010 at 10:10 am

I loved this piece, Anna. I was raised by a feminist, lived with a feminist for close to 35 years, fathered four daughters and I couldn’t muster the words to renounce feminism if I tried. The word simply means to me: the belief that women should be treated equally at all costs. I will defend such a definition until the day I die.

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avatar Diane5150 September 27, 2010 at 3:38 am

“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” Pat Robertson

From Pat Robertsons mouth to Gods ear. Didn’t Angle, O’Donnel, and Palin get the memo?

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avatar Barb Gormlie September 27, 2010 at 9:57 am

Anna,
I love your piece on Feminism. So very timely and well written. It is easy to become complacent when things in our microcosm seem O.K; but the macrocosm really needs our vigilance and you did that! I spoke to my almost 22 yr old daughter this morning and your article ignited her fire, too. Thank you!

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avatar annagrace September 27, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Thanks Barb! & I would love to get a 22 year old’s perspective…

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avatar annagrace September 27, 2010 at 8:45 pm

dc0de- thank you for your response. I think there are a significant number of men out there who would describe themselves as people of good will who got stuck in the eye with a sharp stick while they participated in the quest for gender equality. When the women’s liberation movement rolled around neither you nor I were provided a blueprint to make gender equality happen. Men and women often ended up bumping up against each other in incomprehensible ways that caused hurt feelings and ugly divorces.

In the 1970’s I was politicized and I was a feminist who didn’t want any guy to open a door or offer a seat to me because in my mind that constituted over thirty cents to the dollar in wage inequity between the sexes. Give me the thirty cents dude, and screw the door opening etc- I could handle that. In retrospect, that is an attitude that left many men who were raised to respect women through certain time worn behaviors to mutter WTF?

The flip side of this is that my feminist husband assumed that his wife would be able to handle a 3/4 inch reversible drill and a circular saw as well as schlepp 50 pound sacks of sand and hot mop the roof. Which I did.

What I am trying to say dcode, is that the path to equality hasn’t been easy for women or for men. I am encouraged that even though you came through the ’80’s with a less than positive view of feminism, here we both are in 2010 and you and I both consider the term “equality” meaningful.

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