I’m setting aside the wall of papers I have on my desk tomorrow to go down to the Unite Against the War on Women Rally at the Indiana Statehouse here in beautiful downtown Indianapolis, IN. I teach right down the street in the morning and wouldn’t you know it, class lets out at 9:50, just in time for the 10:00 event.
I’m just going to drop some rhetorical verbiage on some folks. I’ve written a one-page appeal to the participants making the case for why we have a branded feminism and why it has to go. I’m planning to make about 100 copies and hand them out. Thought I’d share it here. Tell me what you think in comments.
Women have fought for a lot of their own rights. Few men were willing to give us the right to vote, for example, until we made ourselves a nuisance on the pavement in front of the White House and marched in large groups, often wearing white. You’ve seen the pictures: suffragists in white dresses, pushing primitive strollers through the streets, holding up handmade signs stitched of cloth, not the throwaways we like to use today.
Women’s rights have come a long way since those days. Since then we’ve had a second wave of feminism. This time women fought for the right to work and to control their ability to get pregnant and bear children, a major barrier to professional success at the time. They even fought for fair pay, and won legislation that was supposed to deliver that promise: The 1963 Fair Pay Act and the 1970 Fair Pay Act. Look them up. They’re real, and they didn’t help.
This is part and parcel of a major problem with feminism today. It’s been branded. It got branded in the ugly fight that centered around Roe V. Wade, the controversial Supreme Court Ruling that delivered legal abortion rights to American women. Since that ruling, the predominant activity of feminists and the rhetoric they produce has been centered around expanding or protecting those rights, and that mindset has been adopted by one party: Democrats. Not all Democrats are pro-choice, but they are the party of choice and they are gathered here today to voice that support again. And that’s great.
But you have to know that this is no way to pursue progress for women. Look up and notice what has happened in the last 40 years. Abortion is more accessible than ever, and pregnancy is more easily preventable than ever. It is possible to prevent pregnancy now before an egg is even implanted. Birth control is no longer limited to the very strong pills prescribed to women in the 1960s. There are a host of chemical and non-chemical options available and more women than ever are controlling their ability to get pregnant, choosing when and how to have their babies, if they chose to even have them at all.
We need a more diverse feminism and it starts with debranding feminism and abortion. Feminism needs to be branded with the problems we face today and solutions that women need now. We don’t need more abortion or contraception. We need real delivery on the promise of fair pay. We need more economic opportunity and more professional development. We need to dismantle the pink ghettos we’ve built and maintained, where women still get shuffled into careers based on gender. We need to acquire wealth (right now we only hold 10% of global wealth). Above all, we need parity in representation. Nothing less than 50% in office across the land.
We can’t do that when feminists today reject diversifying the field with conservative women and their solutions. We can’t do it when they don’t care that the vast majority of poor women choose to keep their babies. We can’t do that with a branded concept that alienates the significant portion of this country, including almost half of women, who would like to find another way for women to control their biological destiny with methods besides abortion, but who also support progress of women.
We can only do this by building consensus and proposing new solutions, and being open to them. Like our foremothers, who showed us the way, we must fight for our own rights instead of fighting each other. A true feminism reflects the diverse needs of all women, not those with the correct ideology. Party shouldn’t matter. Parity & unity should.