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Jun. 15 2010 - 12:09 pm | 1,267 views | 1 recommendation | 3 comments

Feminism in the Wake of ‘Ladies’ Night’ is…Complicated

Albert Wynn and Gloria Feldt at the U.S. Supre...

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While perusing the Internet, I came across an article about how to be a more attractive woman. First on the list was to learn how to tell a funny story. “Wit is the key. Be interesting.” When have you ever heard anyone advise a woman to learn to tell a decent anecdote? Never. Encourage women to be interesting as opposed to hot? It was radical! Totally progressive and forward-thinking. Then I realized I misread the premise: it was how to be more attractive to women. The suggestion is well-worn and typical – for dudes.

Here’s the thing: if we still have a need for the word “feminist” then the goal of gender equality has not been reached. No one has to say they’re an abolitionist. It’s just assumed you’re against slavery unless otherwise indicated.

We clearly still need the word – and the concept of – feminism.

The 2010 primary season has marked an unprecedented number of female candidates for national and state offices…according to the hype. Republicans winning Republican primaries across the country is a victory for Republicans everywhere! There are more female GOP candidates this season than ever before. Well, there are four: former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, South Carolina State Representative Nikki Haley and former Nevada Assemblywoman Sharron Angle.

To some this could seem like a feminist victory. It’s a female Republican victory, sure. But being a feminist and being against reproductive freedoms means you are not a feminist. You can say you’re a Mets fan, but if you only want the Yankees to win – you’re not a Mets fan.

The irony is this swarm of candidates, almost all entirely anti-abortion rights (save Whitman) has the feminism movement to thank for their ability to be candidates. Which is like using Twitter to get your message out about the evils of micro-blogging.

This new trend in the Republican Party – putting up women who want to turn the clock back to criminalize abortion – is complicated for feminists. And feminism in its third wave (or so) is already complicated. Yes, it’s great to think of women in power, but not when they’re against women’s rights as their platform.

The anti-choice movement tells women they deserve better than abortion, that they are the ones who have the best interests of women in mind. But treating women like children who need to be told what’s best for them is hardly equality. It’s a step back. And saying not having an abortion is the right choice – is a choice.

A stealthy anti-abortion movement has been chipping away at access to information and services since before Roe v. Wade. Crisis Pregnancy Centers, the first opening in Hawaii in 1967, are fake women’s clinics offering no medical services, only religious-based misinformation and scare tactics to discourage abortion and in many cases premarital sex. They outnumber abortion providers 2-1 in this country.

The Dutch organization Women on Waves provides health services in countries where abortion is a crime. A doctor with the group told me an alarming amount of their calls are from women in the U.S. in desperate situations. Some are from U.S. soldiers who don’t have access to abortion while serving their country, even if they’re raped. This should be embarrassing to us. This should be a concern to thoughtful female candidates and patriots alike.

Currently, an amendment added to the 852-page Pentagon policy bill repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” calls for soldiers to get the same basic health care access as civilians. Civilians with money, at least. This has been called “government funding of abortions” by opponents and “supporting the troops” by everyone else.

Because nothing says “sanctity of life” like serving in a war zone.

The Republican rhetoric about freedom, the sacredness of the Constitution and government not encroaching on your rights all come to a screeching halt at reproductive issues. Republicans are for those platitudes…but with asterisks. To glaze over this contradiction, female anti-abortion GOP candidates have flippantly called themselves feminists. Which is like proclaiming yourself vegetarian while eating a ham sandwich. They’re not feminists. They’re just female. “Being a feminist isn’t a question of plumbing,” author Gloria Feldt said to me.

Yes, this third wave is complicated. But at least it’s interesting.


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  1. collapse expand

    I think it’s really sad (yet somehow funny) that the benchmark for women’s rights is how someone views the “right” to have unprotected sex, become impregnated, and then undergo an invasive and dangerous medical procedure to rid one’s self of the inevitable aftermath as though it had never happened, presumably so that one can continue to have unprotected sex without being interrupted by having to feed a kid or change a diaper.

    I’m not at all against abortion, mind you. As a free-market libertarian with leftist leanings, I think that there should be a drive-thru at the damn clinic.

    The funny part is how feminism has been co-opted and, based on the focus of the current feminist discourse, how far the so-called third wave has fallen from the ideals of the first and second waves.

    “Empowerment” is the new mantra, but look at what passes for “empowerment” these days: Get a stripper pole in your basement; wear revealing clothes; take pride in having anonymous sex (a.k.a. one night stands); get abortions; don’t let men objectify you, preempt them by being an object and forcing them to objectify themselves in order to get in your pants.. It’s inside-out reverse-psychology, don’tcha know?

    I just don’t understand how women can think that voluntary self-degradation equals “empowerment”. How can women not see that they are the victims of manipulation and psychological warfare?

  2. collapse expand

    Tina,
    As a guy, I probably have no business commenting on feminism. I find it curious that with 836 views, there is only one comment. Now there are two. The other 834 views were probably men as well! I remember some of the original feminists from the seventies, and honestly, they scared me a little. Early feminists were indeed trailblazers,but some came across (to me) as man haters. You have done a fine job of getting the point across without being shrill.

  3. collapse expand

    You Rock Tina!

    This non-feminist-feminism is nuttier than squirrel poo!

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