Welfare & Subsidiarity
February Mon 18, 2013
This past fall, I couldn’t turn on the television, open my web browser, or walk down the streets of Washington, DC, without hearing, reading, or seeing abortion-rights advocates campaigning against the War on Women. Many of my American sisters solicited me to join them through online ads, door-to-door campaigns, and political commercials. Their rhetoric pitched this as a necessity: We needed to fight the offensive, strategic maneuver of some politicians to repeal a hard-earned feminist victory—namely freedom from any restriction on our reproductive liberties. I was invited to stand with women who loudly and unabashedly denounced any such “restrictions” in a battle where the weapons were words, and the strategy was to couch the cause in the language of basic civil and human rights. Though portrayed as defensive, I found it to be an offensive campaign, not merely seeking to hold a line, but to move it forward. This campaign was filled with graphic slogans about the female body, candid confessions of personal sexual experiences to the public, and even ads in which voting was compared to casually losing one’s virginity. It was also a campaign filled with language about the self: my rights, my freedom, my liberties. This campaign struck me as particularly antithetical to femininity, in everything from its crude content to its aggressive delivery. These women feared to lose not only things around which they have built their lives—access to birth control and abortion on demand—but also an ideology that disassociates sex from love, responsibility, and, of course, children. While birth control and abortion still would have been readily available to them if they lost their campaign, their ideology’s strength certainly would suffer: The door would be wide open to voices that promote a feminism rooted in utterly different grounds. Perhaps more importantly, these women persuaded the media that all women who call themselves feminists agree with them about what women need to be happy, healthy, and free. They even had the support of Congress and the White House, despite the legislative and executive branches’ rejection of a ban on abortions that target baby girls in the womb.
It was clear to me that this brand of feminism lacked consistency, clarity, and real solutions to women’s issues. Whether the media acknowledge them or not, there are feminist voices mobilizing today who do not hold these presuppositions. They might not get the celebrity that Lena Dunham is enjoying or receive federal funding for their case, but they are quietly and steadily speaking up in an effort to protect and defend women’s rights, dignity, and equality—precisely because abortion cannot give women what they need to flourish. In fact, Time magazine just featured a piece highlighting the fact that forty years after Roe v. Wade, abortion-rights activists find themselves having to vigorously and repeatedly defend abortion. They are discovering that younger women no longer necessarily see abortion as one of their fundamental rights. I’m not alone in challenging the old feminism, in which women’s equality comes at the cost of their femininity. By continuing to promote abortion, lawmakers, politicians, social workers, lawyers, educators, and all parties with a vested interest in women’s health and wellbeing distract themselves from providing women the resources and tools they really need to be happy and healthy.
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