Feminist Deal Breakers

I live my life online, and I spend too much of it fighting with people who don’t agree with me politically.  They’re not going to change their ways, so why bother, right?  I can’t help it, though.  Thursday was one such day, and after we beat that horse to death over at BCP and buried it, I got to thinking about why women’s support of right-wing politicians makes me so much angrier than any Dick Cheneyism ever could.  I think it’s because I expect any thinking woman to be a feminist, and the feminist deal breaker at the top of my list is voting for an anti-choice politician, even if the voter isn’t a “single-issue voter.”

I know feminism isn’t popular, especially round these parts.  I dare say I could knock on every door in my neighborhood and fail to find more than a handful of people willing to identify as feminists.  This baffles me.  Not everyone subscribes to the same definition of feminism, but the explanation Steinem gave in a 1995 interview works for me:

“I would still go along with the dictionary definition of someone, which can be a woman or a man, who believes in the full social, economic, political equality of women and men.”

Who can argue with that?  Well, a lot of people, apparently.  Only 29 perecent of American women consider themselves feminists.  That’s ridiculous and beyond depressing.  It’s not depressing enough, however, for this feminist to be willing to allow just anyone into the club.  First on the list of People I Don’t Want in My Clubhouse are anti-choice voters.

My problem with anti-choice “feminists” is that I just don’t think they meet the definition.  To believe in the full social and economic equality of men and women, one has to be willing to put women on equal footing with men whenever possible.  Along with the 19th Amendment and the influx of women into the workplace, reproductive rights did more than just about anything to afford women the same opportunities as men.  My mom received a plaque for her Planned Parenthood volunteer work when I was a little girl, and it hung in our basement throughout my childhood.  It included this gem from Margaret Sanger:

No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.”

There are few things I believe more than this.  I have chosen to be a mother three times over, and I freely made that decision without interference from anyone else, the government included.  That is exactly as it should be.  The physical, economic, social, and emotional burdens of parenthood fall primarily on the mother, especially in a country so unwilling to support mothers.  Anyone who believes he or she has the right to impose those burdens on a woman regardless of whether she is willing and able to bear them does not believe that woman is entitled to the same freedom as men: namely, the freedom to be free of those burdens.  Anyone who would impose those burdens on women does not believe in the full social and economic equality of men and women.  And anyone who casts a vote for a politician who has vowed to take away a woman’s choice whether or not to become a mother, regardless of whether that vote is based primarily, in part, or not at all on that politician’s stance on reproductive rights, does not value me as much as she does a man or an unborn child.  I wish that she did, but she doesn’t, and saying she does doesn’t make it true.  She’ll just have to sit this one out, and that’s her loss, not mine.

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6 Responses to “Feminist Deal Breakers”

  1. AGreenEyeDevil Says:

    Preserving the right to choose is fundamental to my personal philosophy of feminism. The course of a female life is forever changed by a pregnancy and NO ONE has the right to dictate a pursuit of said path except the person in sole possession of said uterus!

    Feminism does entail many interelated issues. However the vast majority of these issues relate directly back to the expectations, obligations, requirements of child bearing. As a feminist how can I step off into the abyss of trying to address this cascade effect if I don’t first defend the most basic right of choice!!

    For me “choice” is the tipping point of truly defining and defending feminism.

  2. myrtlebeachbum Says:

    Devil, Thank you for saying it much better than I could. I’ve been trying for a few days to put my finger on why, exactly, I feel that being pro-choice is a prerequisite for admission to the sisterhood, and you said it much better than I ever could have.

    Why don’t you have a blog again? I would stalk that bitch to restraining orderdom.

  3. AGreenEyeDevil Says:

    I really appreciated how you articulated choice in this way, “the freedom to be free of those burdens.” That’s the nuiance that seems to escape folks. Damn fine job!!

  4. katastic Says:

    WHO ARE THESE 71% WOMEN AND HOW HARD MUST I SLAP THEM?

  5. myrtlebeachbum Says:

    Kat: I believe they must enjoy being slapped or something. I would try cattle-prodding them into a classroom or the workplace or a voting booth or an integrated church. You know, someplace that would blow their minds. Show no mercy.

  6. Skinny Bone Jones Says:

    No mercy indeed.

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