Archive for the 'Abortion' Category

Toward a Woman-Friendly Feminism, II

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

On one feminist blog I visit regularly,  a discussion of the inauguration has devolved into a criticism of Michelle Obama’s self-designation as “Mom-in-Chief” and has further disintegrated into an attack on stay-at-home moms – as if they are lazy do nothings.  I am soooooo tired of feminists who are so hostile to everything women are and everything women have traditionally done. Having had the great good fortune of mothering two little boys many years ago, and having done both men’s work and women’s work, I can truthfully say that the job of looking after infant humans is probably the most exhausting and demanding work I have ever done;  I can also say it was the most pleasurable and the most rewarding.

Providing  tender loving caring to children is probably the most important work any person will ever do. It is critical to the continuation of the species. It is critical to the development of socially responsible human beings. And, in most cases, it is better for both the mother and the child if the child’s mother  is available to look after her child. But she doesn’t have to do it in a traditional marriage; she doesn’t have to do it at home; and she doesn’t have to do it all the time.

If we had paid maternity leave of up to two years,  mother-friendly work places, and more flex time, we could create a world where  women would truly be free to choose to have — as well as not to have — children.  I am for a feminism which recognizes the problems facing the majority of women and which is devoted to helping us all. I am tired  of a feminism made up of and focused primarily on women who aspire to enter professions traditionally associated with men.

The feminist concept of choice should not be limited to the choice not to have children (although, admittedly, the ability to avoid unwanted pregnancies is a fundamental freedom for women), but should be expanded to improve and enrich the lives of all women, all the time,  even mothers .


Are Women Human? Do We Want To Be?

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

This essay is written from the radical or ecofeminist point of view.

As has been pointed out since feminism stepped forth onto the cultural stage, Western civilization is fundamentally patriarchal. A patriarchal society is founded on the idea that the male of the species represents the standard –the ideal–for what it means to be human. Women, being by definition different from men, have been considered to be substandard, as any difference from the standard implies inferiority. Women have therefore been constructed — both physically and mentally– as inferior to male humans, their brains and their bodies, like the brains and bodies of other female mammals, understood as serving one purpose only – reproduction. Women have been viewed as less well developed, less evolved, than men, with the logical consequence that to be a woman in Western civilization has been to be something less than fully human.

This outdated cultural assumption has been lodged so deeply in the collective unconscious of western civilization, that most of us don’t even know that it is still there until a political campaign like the one we are currently experiencing comes along, where both parties have put forth candidates for high office who are not male – unleashing a shocking level of sexism in a society which thought it had said “goodbye to all that.” It is to be hoped that the psychological meltdown exhibited specifically in the liberal visceral rage which has met the candidacies of both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin will bring to consciousness the original sin of misogyny on which our culture is based. We really need to move on.

The “Western” definition of what it means to be human originated approximately 2500-3000 years ago. It arose from a weaving together of ideas from Greek philosophy and Hebrew religion. According to the Hebraic/Hellenic narrative, Man is possessed of free will and the reason to exercise it. Man’s transcendent reason frees him from the biological constraints of lesser creatures. Man identifies with mind – rather than the lowly physical body. Where non-human animals depend on “instinct” for survival and are ruled by these instincts, Man’s key to survival is his reason, which lifts him out of nature’s prison and puts him in control of himself and his environment. For Man, alone, biology is not destiny. Nobly exercising his free will, Man can chart his own course, determine his own fate. As Shakespeare put it (with some irony) –

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how
infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals…

Admittedly, this is an attractive and seductive cultural construct – even godlike (In fact, one might say that the JudeoChristian idea of God is a symbolic projection of this ideal). It has served Western humanity (especially the white male part of it) well, providing us with the collective self-esteem to go forth and conquer the world – and the earth — militarily, economically, culturally, and technologically. But, today, the world and the earth are fighting back. This cultural construct is “out of joint,” causing a world of pain and demonstrating that it has outlived its usefulness. And, it is precisely this overrated, inaccurate, and inflated definition of male humanity which has made life in patriarchy so difficult for women – especially women in their reproductive capacity. And this is why –

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The Abortion Debate

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

When I had my first child one week before turning 35, it was the happiest day of my life. Only to be matched by the birth of my second child two and one-half years later. I was supremely lucky in my experience of motherhood; I was physically, psychologically, emotionally, and financially ready and able to care for my children and I got two of the greatest kids anyone could ever want. I was relaxed and happy and in a marriage which was relatively stable at the time. Which meant that I had the time and energy to enjoy my children. And enjoy them I did.

But I don’t want to think about — much less to go into — what I went through to avoid pregnancy all those years leading up to those happy days. I came of age pre-pill and pre-Roe, and for a middle class girl of my generation to get pregnant was the shame and tragedy of a lifetime – and provided the plot for many potboilers. Of course, the tragedy both fictional and real usually revolved around the damage done to the career prospects of the accidental young father; the girl –“damaged goods”– was usually tossed aside on the trash heap of life. In fiction , it seemed a fitting fate that the fallen woman conveniently die in childbirth — or as a result of a “back alley, coat-hanger abortion.” In real life, it was off to the Florence Crittenden Home with the hopes that friends and family would buy the “six-month visit to Aunt Kate’s” story.

Let’s just say it’s a miracle that I wasn’t permanently psychologically scarred by the fear and loathing my family instilled in me at the very prospect of an out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Or permanently scarred physically by my contraception of choice. For, like hundreds of thousands of clueless women, I risked permanent sterility when I opted for the Dalkon Shield to delay pregnancy. Of course, who knew back then what damage those little plastic thingies with the sharp points were doing inside a woman’s uterus? And, who really cared? All I knew was that I bled like a stuck pig every month – so much so that I couldn’t leave the house — and when it came time to think about getting pregnant, well, the Dalkon shield had done its damnedest to make me sterile. But finally the babies came – and how I have loved being a mother.

This is the experience of motherhood I would wish for all women who want to have children. But it is increasingly rare. For a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, we live in the only mammalian society I know anything about which deliberately sabotages the whole process of motherhood. (more…)