Feminism Branded

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.

Feminism Branded

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.


12 comments on “Feminism Branded

  1. well put AnnaBelle——you should make 1000 copies and hand them out, not 100.

  2. elliesmom says:

    Hear! Hear! I wish I lived close enough to join you.

  3. I went down with my little flyers and it was so cold and rainy that only about 25 people showed up. I already had a cold, so I decided not to risk it for such a paltry audience. BUT. It got me thinking, so I came home and turned it into a brochure. I’m going to pay to have about 1,000 printed so I can leave them all over Indianapolis, and share with anybody who wants to pass them out in their city or town. I’ll keep you posted on the progress, as it’ll be a few weeks before I can afford the printing. But here’s the draft: vote for women

  4. I agree with much of what you’re saying, but I take exception to this: “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.” It’s not that I think we need more abortion! But the anti-choice zealots are chipping AWAY at abortion rights. We can’t afford to ease up on keeping abortion rights in the forefront, else we risk losing safe, legal abortions. If you’re keeping up with recent anti-abortion developments, you’ll know that it’s becoming more and more difficult for women in some parts of the United States to obtain abortions.

    Just for the record, I’m pro-CHOICE to the fullest extent of the term. I would never encourage anyone to have an abortion, nor did I have one when I faced an unwanted pregnancy, nor do I believe abortion should be used as birth control. And I’m highly offended by women who wait until late in pregnancy to have abortions. That makes no sense to me! Why wait until a fetus is viable and THEN have an abortion?

    But, for me, the bottom line is that while there are many other areas of feminism and women’s rights that need to be worked on, easing up on keeping abortion safe and legal is not an option. When you consider the extreme measures the anti-choicers will go to in order to make abortion illegal, we can’t let them go unchecked.

    • elliesmom says:

      When you put abortion ahead of all of the other issues that are important to women, you leave half of the women in this country out of your group. That diminishes your ability to get any of those other things done. By all means work to keep abortion readily available if it’s the most important issue to you, but don’t expect to make much progress on anything else if you don’t make room for the reality that you’re not representing the majority of women.

      • Sorry if I gave the impression that abortion rights are THE most important female-oriented issue to me, as they’re not. I’m simply saying that ALONG with working on all the other issues, abortion rights can’t be thrown aside, or else we’ll be returning to the days of illegal, unsafe ‘back alley’ abortions. To me, as a woman and a human being, that’s not acceptable. As I said in my OP, the anti-choice folks ARE succeeding in turning back the clock and taking away abortion rights, and if this trend isn’t stopped we will see abortion rights disappear. So I disagree with the original blog post that ‘we don’t need more abortion,’ therefore move on to other issues. If we move on to other issues, and the extreme right-wing, anti-choice side gets their way and abortion becomes illegal…we’re back to the barefoot and pregnant days. And then what have we accomplished as far as other women’s issues are concerned?

        Also, your assertion that “When you put abortion ahead of all of the other issues that are important to women, you leave half of the women in this country out of your group,” doesn’t ring true with me. I’m assuming that you’re saying half the women in this country are not pro-choice, right? But how do you substantiate that? There are definitely pro-choice Republican women. And pro-choice Catholic women. And pro-choice Christian women. And…well, you get the idea. I have no clue what percentage–and I mean true, accurate percentage–of women in the US are pro-choice because many who actually are would never admit it. Just like many anti-choice women who’ve, covertly, had abortions or arranged abortions for their daughters, never own up to what they did. For them it’s ‘do as I say, not as I do.’

        • elliesmom says:

          I can only rely on data from polls from companies like Gallup which over the years indicate that women are pretty evenly divided on the abortion issue. You may have abilities that allow you to know what is actually going on in women’s heads other than your own, but I don’t. I take women at their word. I do understand why you might want to think that more women agree with you than actually do, though. And you do know that it’s not just Catholic women or other Christian women who don’t support abortion, don’t you? There are self-proclaimed atheists who believe that abortion is the taking of a human life. Your attitude toward women who don’t agree with you on abortion comes through loud and clear. It isn’t helpful. It isn’t even helpful in keeping abortion accessible.

        • I’m also not saying abortion rights should be thrown aside. I’m saying they need to be decentered. We’ve made tons of progress; it’s time for something else to take center stage, and that thing is the reason why we worked on reproductive rights: careers & wealth accumulation. Having a meaningful purpose in life beyond motherhood and being rewarded for it.

          Forget $0.77 an hour. That’s thinking small. Think about the fact that all the women in the world banded together only hold 10% of the global wealth. Put this in perspective: until we achieve professional and wealth equality we will never be in full control of our biological destinies. The focus on abortion and contraception rights long after it was due has had the effect of setting back women’s progress in these other areas, or stalling it completely. Women are being mislead by these arguments and their energies wasted in pursuing them. Abortion isn’t going anywhere, legal regulations notwithstanding. We need to re-think feminism and it starts with decentering abortion.

  5. I actually have a number of ways of knowing there are closeted pro-choice women, and none of them involves prescience.

    For example, a friend of mine, who is a therapist, used to volunteer at Planned Parenthood, counseling women both before and after abortions. Guess what? Many of the women she counseled were in the closet as far as their stance on abortion! She heard many times, “if my [fill in the blank–husband, parents, employer, church, sister, whatever] knew I [fill in the blank–am pro-choice, had an abortion, whatever] they’d never speak to me again.”

    Then there’s my best friend, who is a female, Republican, Catholic–and pro-choice. She knows of many women through her church and her political acquaintances who are pro-choice and/or who’ve had abortions. Including her daughter! She took her daughter to have an abortion–which is something I can’t imagine being able to do if my daughter had wanted an abortion. My friend is a retired Marine, and her daughter is a Marine. The unexpected pregnancy would’ve prevented her from completing boot camp, so she chose an abortion. She and her husband now have one beautiful child and another on the way.

    Then there’s my experience with a pro-life group that the company I worked for, a data processing company, took on as a client. I had the authority to refuse any potential client, but I elected to take on this group’s project. I never told the woman in charge that I was pro-choice, as it would’ve been unprofessional. But I learned a lot about her, her beliefs, where they came from, and the women she had dealt with over the years. Guess what? MANY of them, all claiming to be “pro-life” had had abortions!

    There have also been many polls over the years revealing that women who publicly identify as pro-life are actually pro-choice. No, I can’t quote any of them because I didn’t save them, as abortion is not my primary concern so I didn’t think I’d need to fall back on them some day…

    • While I do appreciate your comments here, that’s really not an argument. That’s dishonestly trying to increase pro-choice numbers using anecdotal evidence, for the purpose of bulking up your argument. This kind of rhetorical dishonestly is also a reason people are driven away from feminism. Hyperbole wears on the conscious after a while.

  6. votermom says:

    I know you mean “branded” in the modern sense, but visually it made me think of being branded like steers/cows are branded on ranches.
    Basically that’s what Dems have done to women – branded them with the Circle D.
    Time to stampede and break loose.

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