Anyone who tries to deny that women’s role in this presidential election is non-consequential has not been paying attention. However, that unfortunately doesn’t mean that there aren’t thousands of women not paying attention to incredibly consequential discussions about their very existence as free humans in this country. What REALLY bothers me most, however, is the level of that discussion — and the responsibility for that, in my opinion, lies ultimately with women themselves.
First some background:
It is 2012! TWO THOUSAND TWELVE. The 21st Century. The time has passed when contraception – the provision of, the access to, the affordability of, the coverage of under insurance, or even the fact that it should be free and available to all – SHOULD NOT BE SOMETHING WE’RE ARGUING ABOUT. That conversation was for the 1960’s and 1970’s. And, sadly, most women assumed that it ended there. So the fact that since the conservative wave of politicians ascended into local, state and national offices in 2010, there have been hundreds of proposed and passed laws that remove access to contraception, lawsuits that challenge the Affordable Care Act’s coverage of contraception, and ridiculous red herring arguments that pit First Amendment religious freedom against women’s Fifth Amendment right to privacy.
But wait, there’s more! We’re also still debating whether women should be legislatively protected by an Equal Pay Act. Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney can’t even commit to whether he supports the Lily Ledbetter Act:
By Thursday, however, that position too seemed to have been reversed, with an anonymous Romney aide telling CBS News that he did, indeed, oppose the Lilly Ledbetter Act in 2009.
“Gov. Romney fully supports equal pay for equal work for women and for everyone and he would in no way want to repeal or change the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” the adviser told CBSNews.com. When asked why Romney had opposed it in 2009, the adviser said that “every bill has certain aspects to it that people might find concerning but the equal pay for equal work part was of no concern.”
Then there are the myriad of proposed, attempted, and passed laws in various states that severely restrict a woman’s ability to receive a safe and legal abortion, which is her constitutional right. Whether one agrees with the idea of an abortion or not, it is a CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT for a woman to make her own reproductive health choices. Some of the more heinous ones include government imposed violations of a woman’s body with transvaginal ultrasounds, not to mention the legislated methods of shaming a woman who has every right to make whatever choice she wants to make about HER OWN BODY.
Mitt Romney has also promised to close Planned Parenthood – or at least end all government grants or funding for it. It is the one public health entity that has saved millions of women’s lives and provides daily for basic health care, including annual appointments, cancer screenings and contraception. How is this still even a discussion?
Here is where I might veer from the general accusations against those in power on these issues — I think a lot of the problem is with women. Not just all women: specifically, young women – us GenXers and the Millennials that follow us. What is truly telling is this new report out of the UK that claims that only one in seven women would call themselves a “feminist.”
The survey also revealed that 28 per cent feel radical feminism is ‘aggressive’ towards men, and a quarter feel ‘feminist’ is not a good label for women.
and, it concludes:
The study starkly shows modern women feel traditional Feminism is no longer working for them, as it’s aggressive, divisive and doesn’t take into account their personal circumstances.
Evidence of a patriarchy-authored media is the decades long campaign that seems to have convinced young women that those very icons like Germaine Greer, who fought for the freedoms you now take advantage of, were just men-hating aggressors. That so many modern women between the ages of 20 and 45 are willing to accept that version of Feminism is disturbing to me.
The traditional definition of Feminism is the belief that biology should not determine where societal advantage or power lies. Yet young women today seem to believe that somehow their ability to choose and be free to determine their own destiny, compete at the same level as men, and even rise to positions of authority in society is no longer hampered by a patriarchy. This directly contradicts the clear and consistent research that shows women still make less than men for equal positions and education, that there are fewer women in all levels of authority. It also discounts the incredible series of backwards legislation that I just ran through above.
How young women can be so blind to the tenuous nature of their status in a still incredibly static patriarchy doesn’t make sense to me. Except in the context of the overall shift in modern western society to never before seen levels of self-involvement and self-importance. As the Marie Claire article notes:
The study shows most young women want to be free to make decisions to suit their personal beliefs. Social commentators have called this ‘feMEnisim’.
But that’s not what Feminism is. It’s a collective idea and belief that revolves around us all acknowledging we have still a distance to go until there is true equality among the genders. That’s why Feminism is supposed to be for women AND men – it’s the idea that patriarchy is NOT the best model for a functioning society looking for equity.
Feminism should be alive and well — and not mired in some false argument over whether if you are a feminist you hate men. That is such a primitive way to look at it. Feminism also shouldn’t be having to stand up for contraception, reproductive rights or equal pay in the 21st Century.
Feminism should already be moving on to defense of all-gender acceptance, of changing its history with regard to acceptance of women in the Queer community, women of color, women who weren’t born with female reproductive organs, and all those in between. Feminism is about leveling the playing field when it comes to gender equality, and the modern day arguments that Feminism is currently mired in are throwbacks to an era that should have passed into history. We cant successfully move on into a world that rejects patriarchy as the model of society until we are willing to engage with all manner of women and men, gender and sexual preference, and any other human condition.
Essentially, a post patriarchal society requires generosity of spirit, understanding and acceptance of each other. And it requires getting outside ourselves to care about others. But we can’t get there if modern day women feel their right to be glamorous is of more importance than their right to vote or choose their own healthcare.