Sunday, December 12, 2004

Right To Life

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Photograph by Nicole DeVito
Copyright © 1999 The Register-Guard


56 percent of those contracting AIDS in Africa are women, according to reports publicized on World AIDS Day (December 1). It's no accident that women are the majority: while we mouth bullshit affirmations such as "Just Say No," women who are powerless to say no to their husbands are infected with AIDS. Statistics show that it's single women in Africa who are less likely to contract the virus; the rate among married women is climbing.
Whenever one of my female students tells me that she's not a feminist, I've come up with a pat response: "So, what exactly is it about the idea that you're not entitled to the same rights as men that you object to?" The conversations are mind-numbing. "Oh, I don't have a problem with equal rights. I just don't identify with feminism--I mean, I shave my legs and I like boys."
Christ on a Crutch. At this point in the conversation, I usually point out that this person has allowed herself to buy into the Right's interpretation of feminism. She's allowed the enemies of women to tell my student, who usually considers herself a free-thinker (after all, she has tattoos and multiple piercings), that she isn't a feminist because she shaves her legs. And, since many of my closest friends are lesbians, I'm deeply offended by the idea that being considered a lesbian is an insult. If I didn't like boys so much, I'd be a lesbian in a heartbeat.
It's this sort of hijacking of the terms of human rights that continues to contribute to the AIDS epidemic around the world. Without the power to control one's own body, one cannot protect oneself. If you have no legal rights to stand up to your husband, you cannot prevent him from fucking you without a condom even though he's HIV positive.
If you cannot control your own body, you cannot make decisions about whether to bring a child into the world. Right-to-lifers who claim that they are doing this out of love for the fetus, but then turn around and refuse to care for the children brought unwillingly into this world, will sit in the inner circle of hell. Right-to-lifers who teach women that they are nothing more than vessels for bringing children into the world do not love women. They hate women, and many of their number are self-haters.
In Africa, orphans roam the streets. Deprived of their parents by AIDS, war, and famine, forgotten children have nowhere to go. The situation is overwhelming, and there are days when I feel helpless. But, there is a tiny thing you can do. There is a small AIDS orphanage called Makindu , where children have a refuge from the brutality of the streets. A donation would go a long way.
The Children Left Behind
For a Child's Smile

4 comments:

Sheryl said...

Hi Lorraine,

I heard a worse report from Africa a couple years ago. And that was that parents were having to escort their daughters to school because a rumor had gotten around that if you wanted to have sex without getting AIDS, then the best way was to have sex with a young, virgin girl. So young girls were getting raped at and on their way to school by creepoids who already had the AIDS virus to start with.

In terms of the word "feminism" --I hope this won't offend you . I prefer the word "egalitarian." I don't mind the word "feminism," like I did in college. But at the same time, I would feel uncomfortable if guys were promoting "masculinism." And I think when you choose words that imply less inclusiveness , then you generally promote a counterreaction of less inclusion towards yourself. I realize that men can be feminists too, but I think you can get more men on board using words like equality.

I also think the word feminism gets people into thinking strong vs weak. The reality is that most women are strong about some things and weak about other things. So then you are supposed to live up to some person's model of strength or weakness. My brother specifically told me that he liked "strong women" and would never marry someone like my mom because she let my dad push her around.

It's true that my mom puts up with a lot of crap from my dad that she should not, but she is far from a "weak woman." She's published a novel and many articles and short stories, and despite multiple sclerosis she has raised hell along with me on a number of political issues. When she disagrees with people, she is not afraid to be outspoken about her beliefs. She has told me that in college she used to have social problems because she was the straight A student who unintentionally intimidated some people for being too smart. So I think there is a problem of looking at things in terms of strength and weakness.

I'm very powerful in some ways and extremely weak in others. I would feel a lot more comfortable in the world if it was ok to be both. Instead, it's ok to be completely strong with some people, and it's ok to be completely subservient with some people. And you will be judged as inferior by either group if you aren't strong enough or weak enough to fit their ideals for females. (It's kind of like my pet peeve that people should either followers or leaders.)

I think real strength comes from individuality. The female who can go ahead and be herself despite the pressure to conform. We can't all be Gloria Steinem, and I feel stronger just being who I am (if you see my meaning.)

Just today I was acknowledging that I can be too weak in some ways, and that that is not healthy. And one should probably put some effort in overcoming weakness when it gets in the way of things, but I kind of get tired of the dualism of it.

And I get tired of it in a male-female ways too. That maybe a guy who likes "strong women" thinks I am ideal until he gets to know me better and sees that I am also a weak woman too versus the guy who thinks he likes more gentle women and sees that I am outspoken and blows me off before acknowledging my gentle, agreeable side. So basically you can't win because it's all or nothing with so many people.

Anyway....off on another pet peeve. :( Have a great day!

lorraine said...

Sheryl,
Yes. Because there is so much misinformation about AIDS, all sorts of rumours have floated around about how to rid oneself of it. Of course, the US contributes to misinformation, because we withhold funds from any family plannning agency that offers abortion as an option. You can't run humanitarian aid from a basis of "no sex until you're married."

As to the word feminism. I agree that in a perfect world, egalitarianism would be the right word. But, it seems to me, we continue to live in a world in which women don't even have the most basic of rights in many countries, and in order to challenge that, one has to start from the premise that women are in need of equal rights. Sort of how like the civil rights movement had to advocate for the rights of African Americans. Yes, they were asking for equal rights, but in order to point out that an entire race of people didn't have those rights to start with, there has to be a calling attention to the deficiency.
I think feminism has been turned into a dirty word by those who don't really care about semantics--they don't want women to have equal rights in the first place.
And yes. I agree that all humans as individuals should be free to express their full personhood. We all comprise hundreds of facets; it's nice to interact with people who are able to love all of those facets.

Sheryl said...

You are right that the word egalitarian would be a good word in an ideal word, but then I think people also choose their words to express the direction they want to head. And the ideal I want to head towards is not a female controlled world, but a world of equality of opportunity for everyone. Anyway.....

But it's ok. You can be a feminist, and I'll still like you. Besides, you're tastes in things have been so similar that it is nice to have a slightly different opinion on something for once. :)

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