(obviously not all people, but many MANY people will never have to make the conscious decision to keep or abort a baby). It\’s really easy to say, \”YOU should / shouldn\’t have abortions\” when you know you will never be in that situation yourself. You don\’t nearly have the moral argument and debate (and publicity and protests) regarding global warming or obesity issues which are way more rampant and pressing to the general population. I\’ve never seen a protest at the capital where one side said \”Soda shouldn\’t be allowed! It\’s destroying the sanctity of the body!\” and the other retaliates with \”We should be able to have all the soda we want because we have the right to fatten it up and slowly die from obesity related diseases.\” Where is our boycotting of companies that deny global warming or outsource manufacturing overseas and pay workers practically nothing? We claim to care so much about human rights and the sanctity of life, but we turn a blind eye to genocide, the death penalty, atrocious exploitation of minorities, denying people basic healthcare, etc. Why do people vote straight-ticket on the abortion issue alone when there are a ton of other (probably more impactful / worthwhile) issues that need our consideration.
I think I went off on a tangent. The point is, I tend to think the media/church/society hypes up the abortion this issue to pit women against other women. Divide and conquer. If women spend their time and energy arguing with each other about these \”hot-button issues\”, then they won\’t have the time / resources / allied community to address other, and in my opinion, more pressing issues plaguing women today. I wonder who benefits from this intense debate? Is it the women who actaully may have a stake in it — probably the unmarried, young, minority, urban dwelling, poor women who are statistically more likely to get abortions? How represented are they in the protests, I wonder?
I would just like to note here that I tend to believe most people don\’t actively like abortion itself and that if I talked to anyone (pro-choice or pro-life) that I would get a similar response of compassion for the women placed in this situation. I think both sides truly believe that their stance is for the absolute betterment of society and will help women overall. There are merits to both sides. I can see both sides. I understand that both sides are really trying to make the world a better place.
This is why I have a hard time getting really worked up on an absolute solution. I\’m not sure I know what the solution is in this case. I don\’t exactly have expertise / experience in this issue, which is why I am way less eager to want to debate it. I have experienced rampant and pervasive societal misogyny in other forms.
The reason I firmly believe that being a feminist is important is the blatant, rampant, everyday sexism and sexual violence that women are constantly subjected to. This ranges from \”Why is no one listening to me\” sexism to \”being groped at a club is totally normalized\” sexism. Let me give you some real life examples I have, from my own life that may illustrate what I mean.
I like to play cooperative board games with my friends, and oftentimes this happens in mixed company. *Note: These men include my husband and my dear friends. Yet, even among, who I would call \”good, well-intentioned, morally upstanding guys\”, I still find myself having a variety of this conversation over and over again that go a little something like this:
Me (talking to Guy A): I think you should probably play your Cleansing Downpour card so that we can heal up before the next round of attacks.
Guy A: *silence*…I\’m not sure what is best to play, should I do the Chain Ball Lightening?
Guy B: How about you play Cleansing Downpour, so we can heal up?
Guy A: That\’s a great Idea! Thanks Guy B, you are so good at this game!
Me: I literally just said that. Why does no one listen to me?
Guy A & B: We\’re not sexist! [Enter some \”reason\” why my statement didn\’t get the same response].
Now I understand that this is a seemingly silly example, but it illustrates a pattern that I see over and over again. The issue here is not being ignored on a case-by-case basis, but the problem lies in the pervasiveness of the general \”being ignored / dismissed / excluded\” attitude. The bottom line seems to be that women are just not important given our societal practices.
But Karen, you may retort, maybe it\’s just you, maybe it\’s a personal quality that you yourself are not worth listening to in this particular instant. Believe me, I\’ve thought about this a lot, especially whenever the issue of sexism comes up. However, I don\’t just see it with me, I also see it happen over and over with my female friends. I see it with my mom while she talks to my dad. I see this happen in so many different contexts, situations, and about different issues that I cannot not see the pattern. There has to be some underlying misogyny that propels this stuff forward.
No one ever says the reason everything I say inevitably has to be repeated by a man in order for another man to listen is because of sexism. \”It\’s because I [insert your favorite excuse here] (i.e. \”wasn\’t listening\” or \”didn\’t hear\” or \”don\’t think you\’re great at this game\” or \”think he\’s got more authority\”, etc.). In almost every situation where men (even some of the best, most progressive men I know) are confronted about how a behavior is sexist, the defense goes up and the brain thinks of another logical explanation that can explain the underlying, preexisting bias that society has drilled in the brains of all of us since before we were even born. Our brains have a wonderful (and slightly terrifying) ability to make up stories that validate and rationalize our already existing prejudices which can be created to justify all sorts of decisions like why I have to play Monopoly with the terrier dog every time (I cannot possibly remember I was the thimble, or was I the shoe…) or why white cops routinely kill unarmed black teenagers.
And I understand that it makes them upset, because almost no one wants to consciously be a dick. The point I want to really stress here though is Misogyny is a socially constructed, institutional form of prejudice that impacts all realms of life and that almost everyone (women included) reinforces this cultural norm unconsciously through interactions in our everyday lives. This is a way bigger issue than just individual men being personally sexist. Most people I know don\’t want to actively be sexist, but they are truly not cognizant of their own biases. It\’s the unconsciousness we need to fight against, not men.
The real reason I get so passionate about this issue is not because of these unconsciousness minor offenses, but what this unconciousness inevitably leads to.
Raise your Hand If You\’ve Been Sexually Assaulted
There is a prevailing statistic that 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, but that number was calculated using past abortion rates to project out, which is misleading because abortion rates have actually dropped significantly in recent times, so it is very doubtful that that statistic still holds true.
However, there is ALSO a statistic that says 1 in 3 women will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused. So let\’s just say that both of these issues affect roughly the same amount of women. Now we can pretty much ALL agree that rape is bad, right? No one should be forced into having sex. It\’s pretty much just wrong. It doesn\’t have the moral ambiguity that runs rampant in the abortion debate (is it really a baby? Is it really unethical?). Rape is pretty much always a bad thing.
But what I really want to talk about is sexual assault: the precursor, gateway, little brother of rape. In a lot of ways, I believe that our normalization of sexual assault / harassment creates an environment in which rape is the sad, but inevitable conclusion. The issue I struggle with is that most people don\’t seem to even know what sexual assault, much less fight against it. So let me paint you a scenario:
I, a woman, decide to go out to a club. Let\’s say I want to go dancing with my friends. First, I have to pick something cute enough to fit in with the downtown scene and fun and flirtatious, but not too revealing in case someone uses that as an excuse to rape me later on in the evening. It\’s like when you try and adjust the temperature in the shower, it\’s either freezing cold or molten lava. Lose lose. Anyways, let\’s say I finally pick something out and get together with my friends and we go downtown. We soon start dancing in a circle, facing towards each other so we can have fun, but primarily be safe. Then, all of a sudden I feel something, someone against my butt / back / hips. I turn around a bit taken aback, who is this person who thinks its their right to grab me by the hips and start humping my ass like I\’m his personal sex toy? And since when is this considered dancing? But he continues to grind me, pushing up against, his hands on my hips and his hard-on up against my butt. I give my friends a clearly uncomfortable look that I pray they recognize so they can save me from this completely unasked for invasion of personal space. Mind you, this entire time he hasn\’t spoken one word to me, not a \”would you like to dance?\” not a \”hi, what\’s your name?\” not even a freaking headnod. I am literally his masterbatory piece of flesh at that moment. It\’s disgusting.