Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Why Feminism is NOT just a woman’s issue

One of the most disheartening things for those of us who consider ourselves feminists is the sense that it has become a ghetto term; the Right was successful in labeling us as man-hating FemiNazis (or, as one recent Dkos poster referred to us: “menstruating she-devils”), when the irony is that feminism is the bedrock of progressive politics. Feminism links the private with the political, interrogates how restrictions on personal behaviour echoes out to national policy, and understands gender not as “sex,” but as power—who has it, who wants it, and how those in power get to portray those who do not.

The discussions of the personal, which could be categorized constitutionally as those things covered under the "right to privacy," principally things such as abortion and gay civil rights, have come up repeatedly as the things that people are willing to throw overboard in order to save the Democratic party. But I would urge no surrender on any of this.

Maybe you think that abortion and gay marriage don't matter. Maybe you think they're things we're distracting ourselves with. But my argument, nay, my plea, would be for us as progressives to consider the personal issues as political issues and realize that if we take away anyone's right to privacy, eventually, we will lose our own.

We need to reclaim the body. If we claim the body, then we are able to say categorically that torture, capital punishment, sexual repression, gender inequality, are not part of the progressive agenda. If we claim the right to privacy, we are able to say that illegal search and seizure, religious indoctrination in schools, public prayer, refusal to sell Plan B, abstinence-only education—all of these things—are not acceptable. If we claim gender as power differential, we are able to see how the sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners is tied into notions of dominance—the same notions of dominance that will be used against all of us.

And it’s gender studies that have allowed us to see these things. Gender as defined by Joan Scott:
Scott’s definition of gender has two parts and several subsets; they are interrelated but analytically distinct. Her definition rests on two propositions:
1. gender is a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes;
2. gender is a primary way of signifying relationships of power.


Riane Eisler had this to say about the personal as political and our reluctance as progressives to discuss it:

Today, it's regressive fundamentalists, not progressives, who are more comfortable talking about the personal as political. They, not progressives, dominate the debate over "private" life and "family values."

Yet family relations directly influence what people consider normal and moral in all relations -- public as well as private. We must challenge the reactionary, increasingly fundamentalist "traditional family values" agenda. We cannot build a healthy democracy on a foundation of authoritarianism and intolerance -- in the home and outside it."

Family relations affect how people think and act. They affect how people vote and govern, and whether the policies they support are just and genuinely democratic or violent and oppressive.

Slogans like "traditional values" often mask a family "morality" suited to undemocratic, rigidly male-dominated, chronically violent cultures. They market a "traditional family" where women are subordinate and economically dependent, where fathers make the rules and severely punish disobedience -- the kind of family that prepares people to defer to "strong" leaders who brook no dissent and use force to impose their will.

How can we expect people raised in authoritarian families -- where men are ranked over women and children learn that any questioning of belief and authority will be punished -- to vote for leaders whose policies promote justice, equality, democracy, mutual respect and nonviolence?

It's not coincidental that for regressive fundamentalists -- whether Christian, Hindu, Jewish or Muslim -- the only moral family is one that models top-down rankings of domination ultimately backed up by fear and force. It's not coincidental that the 9/11 terrorists came from families where women and children are terrorized into submission.


You do not have to be a woman to recognize that gender and feminism are inextricably tied to the progressive agenda. You do not have to be a woman to recognize that when progressive males start shitting on so-called women’s issues, they are missing the point. If you do not understand how power works, how it is rooted in the binary oppositions that we ascribe to the sexes, then you will continue to focus on saving one tree while the entire forest is being razed.

17 comments:

Steve said...

Hey, Lorraine.
According to your meme tag answers, I am supposed to be one of your worst fears, an Evangelical Christian. I listen to Rush Limbaugh regularly and generally vote Republican. However, I have not always been so. There was a long era of my life that I would have been considered your great ally.

I have many questions about your post and would request of you many definitions of terms. However, at this point, I would only make one or two observations on the thrust of your writing. It appears that your whole concern is the accumulation and wielding of power in the stead of those perceived to now have it. In the exercise of that muscle, Ms. Eisler wishes to abrogate 'the personal' and force her 'religious politics' upon personal issues such as individual family structure. Did I read this wrongly or misunderstand in some way?
I would hope to be welcome to visit you here and wrestle with you about some of these things on occasion. You write very well.

alley rat said...

Well said. thank you for making it so clear.

Steve, you seem to have missed the point, but in the nicest way possible.

Noumena said...

Excellent post.

Steve, I can't speak for the host of this blog, but one of the fundamental intellectual fruits of feminist theory is that 'the personal' and 'the political' are inextricably intertwined: those sorts of 'personal issues' like having a patriarchal family structure serve to support un-democratic power structures throughout the culture as a whole. Egalitarianism at home and egalitarianism (democracy) outside the home rise, and fall, together.

ogre said...

Steve, the personal is political... because there's no strict separation possible between one compartment of life and another.

It's why it's absurd to ask, or suggest, that people don't bring their personal religious views with them into the political. Which, incidentally, is fine with progressives. The issue is not with individuals bringing what informs and forms their views to the discussion. The problem is with the intrusion of religion as institution into the political--at which point it's not personal at all.

But I've digressed (hopefully in a useful manner). Part of what you're suggesting is that feminists want to take power from... well, I guess from men. My experience is that that is inaccurate. What they seek is to be treated as co-equals, to not have men abrogate their equal rights and privileges--and not to speak for them. Women are quite able to do that. Abigail Adams could, so can lorraine....

I suspect that while people may be uncomfortable with the choices other people make about their lives, family structures, etc (my being the at-home parent, for example--and being male--while my wife works...), the point is that it's their choice... so long as it is their choice.

When it starts to be projected out of individual choice as a norm to be adhered to by others, it becomes oppressive; it's intruding into the rights and privileges of others to make their own private choices.

This isn't to suggest that there's not been any development of understanding of these issues since feminism (in its modern incarnation) dusted itself off in the 1960s. I go to church with women of various ages who represent points of perspective rooted in their experience... and the state of feminism at the time their minds set in their current form. For some, the fact that some women have CHOSEN to stay home with kids feels like an abrogation, a violation of what was being fought for a couple decades ago. They miss the point--those women, in many cases, have had (and likely will have) careers doing other things. They've got the choice to do what they feel called to do, when they feel it. It's not a role that is projected onto them, insisted upon and applied in Procrustean fashion. It's about choice and freedom to make the choice. It's easy for them to applaud my wife, for example--she's gone out, been pretty successful in her career and is about to launch her own business. It's easy for them to smile delightedly at my taking on much of the traditionally female role of homemaker, child-raiser, child educator (we're homeschooling). Not that our choices are so neatly a mirror of the traditional 1950s family model... but enough so that a superficial take looks that way. It's just harder for them to see that the right to choose, the freedom that they didn't feel they had, implies the choice to not choose the choice that used to be blocked.

The current wave of feminism is thus more individualistic, embracing people taking their own paths--because there are more options now. But it is still true that there are people who object to people having and making such choices.

Hell, I get that. "What are YOU doing at home with the kids?" "When are you going to get a JOB?" Dolts. These were very conscious decisions that reflect very serious and profound family values. They also reflect realities--I'm better off at home because I have more patience (in the large) for the kids than my wife does, and have less tolerance for fools and imbeciles in the workplace than she does.

Power? We each have ours, and we share. There doesn't have to be a boss.

Steve said...

Hey, y'all,
I appreciate the feedback on my initial comment-- a good springboard to further discussion.

I often get quite a kick out of chosen user names. Alley Cat, Sozialismus, and Ogre? Jeez, that makes Steve sound so uncreative and bland. But!! My unofficial user name is Jawbone (of an Ass). There, I feel a little more self-important now... somehow.

Alley Cat: I love cats, but have bad memories relating to alleys.

Sozialismus: If on the Staff of Ra, you replace the 'Sun' headpiece with the 'Sozialismus' headpiece and and placed it in the maproom of Tanis at the proper place and time it would show the location of the 'Well of Souls Limited in Freedom Awash in Spiritual and Cultural Denigration Euphemistically Called Egalitarianism'. But Indiana Jones didn't use Rudolf Christoph Eucken's Der Sozialismus und seine Lebensgestaltung version to make the movie. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. Some call me Jawbone of a Smartass!)

Ogre: Your gracious writing belies your user name!

Ogre, judging from Lorraine's post, I really doubt that your version of modern femininism (fem. lite) would be acceptable to her. Like Sozialismus, I believe she feels that a woman who chooses for any reason whatsoever to live in a patriarchal family system, with that private choice by extention exerting itself into the political realm, must be verboten-ized. Since the private naturally affects the public, this would be an affront to the cause.

My main issue in not who wields the power so much as it is that anyone is enabled to bear so much of it. At least in the Legislative and Executive branches of our government, there is the possibility for change with votes. But as the Judicial branch turns the Constitution into a 'living document' with a nose of wax and overtuning the 'democratic' votes of the population; the choice of the public abrogated. Since many of Lorraine's choice of politicians are seeming to turn their backs on her chosen issues, is she applauding this method of change through the courts? I would expect that she might be willing to participate in the very culture of rape that she decried in her post on May 14, not physical, of course, but spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically through 're-education pogroms'.

This is all a battle of religions. With her level of rhetorical skill, I seriously doubt that Lorraine chose her blog title by the 'Dada du Jour' method. (Sorry, I didn't know how to write that in Italian!) If her feelings and argument were based on pure materialistic thought (whatever that may be) she could cogently argue little but what Dostoyevski argued so clearly-- 'If there is no God, then all things are permitted' and the life de Sade lived so consistently-- 'Might makes right' and 'Whatever is, is right'. No, her values come from her religious persuasion. I may disagree with many of her beliefs. We are allowed to discuss and argue with ever reddening faces and spewing spittle. We persuade as many as we can and, in a constitutional republic, we vote. If you lose this time, you keep trying.

Lorraine, are you feeling any guilt by your enjoyment of your Walden-esgue Catskill week of solitude knowing that it was essentially made possible by the same patriarchal system that some define as the 'scourge of the universe'? (That 'vacation' must have been truly delightful. Knowing how well you write, I hope you find a publisher quickly and someday to read your novel. Your first?)

Thanks again, y'all.

lorraine said...

Steve,
I'm not sure I understand some of your questions. You seem to be attempting to speak for me, and I'm capable of speaking for myself. I haven't responded to any of the comments mostly because I've been extraordinarily busy, which is a piss-poor excuse, but there it is.

In answer to your question. I am raising a family. I'm heterosexual. I'm trying to figure out what you mean exactly, but if you're asking whether I would stay in a relationship in which I was considered secondary to my husband and not an equal partner, well the answer to that question is no. While Paul may have defined the marriage of a man and a woman in terms of Christ and the church, well, since I'm not a Christian, I don't buy into such a system.

I'm not sure why women are assumed to be the lesser sex. I've read Genesis many times, and I wonder why the two creation stories exist. In one, woman is made from the rib of man, in the other, God created male and female simultaneously. I also have a hard time worshipping a god who in the old testament spends most of his time being angry, petulant, and destroying "his" creation, and in the new testament, watches as his child is tortured and executed. Not exactly stellar parenting in my book.

Given your comments on the judiciary, I'm assuming that you are opposed to "activist" judges. Unless, of course, those activist judges are upholding your family values. The legislative and executive branches are invaluable; I believe in checks and balances, but I also believe that for example, there is a right to privacy defined in the bill of rights. If the executive and legislative branches, currently controlled by the same party's radical wing, believe that the Bill of Rights should be suspended (as 6 of the 10 amendments are in the Patriot Act), then I hope that the judicial branch acts to check the power of such poorly conceived and badly enforced legislation.

I'm not sure what is your investment in a patriarchal family structure. I assume by your name that you're male. I won't assume you're heterosexual, but if, for example, you are married, are you invested in patriarchal families because you are the beneficiary of such a system? Would you feel the same way if you your chromosomes had given you the biological sex of female? If you have children, do you believe that your daughters are less worthy of their personhood and equal rights than your sons?

Gender as I understand it is not about biological sex so much as it is about power relations. Many, many men in this culture and throughout history have been perceived as "less manly" or feminine by other men with more power in our culture. Look at African-American men, who were perceived by white men to be over-sexualized, or Jewish men in the early modern period, who were assumed to be so feminine that they menstruated.

Why is the feminine such a threat? What does it represent to a man who somehow feels that extending equal power arrangements to other human beings somehow undermines his own power?

Finally, why did my trip to the Catskills come about because of patriarchy? I work for a living. I used my own money. I do so in a way that is mindful of other people--the system I live in is beyond my control to change, although I do my part. If you could explain what you mean, perhaps we could have a dialogue.

ogre said...

Steve,

"ogre" is the result of juvenile articulation by my goddaughter. Rather than "uncle"... and it stuck. But I try to play one and have at times indulged a certain anthropophagus privilege when some maroon deserves it. Sort of akin to the Texan observation "he deserved some killin'." Since "Pat" is more than frequently taken already in any Net venue, it's been convenient to adopt it as a nom de plume.

Self-important? Are you trying to engage in discussion or simply to aggravate people? Useful communication isn't served by projecting intentions. Or am I misreading your implication?

I have no idea whether my version of feminism is identical with Lorraine's or even approximately so. We've only communicated distantly, rarely and in passing until very recently. My sense is that it's at least within talking distance, however. I could be wrong; it's been known to happen.

You write:
My main issue in not who wields the power so much as it is that anyone is enabled to bear so much of it. At least in the Legislative and Executive branches of our government, there is the possibility for change with votes. But as the Judicial branch turns the Constitution into a 'living document' with a nose of wax and overtuning the 'democratic' votes of the population; the choice of the public abrogated.

Permit me to suggest that you appear to be protesting overmuch. It seems pretty clear that your stated concern wouldn't be a concern if the judges would just line up and agree with the currently, passingly conservative elected officials.

Particularly when you write:

This is all a battle of religions. ... We are allowed to discuss and argue with ever reddening faces and spewing spittle. We persuade as many as we can and, in a constitutional republic, we vote. If you lose this time, you keep trying.

Battles of religion are exactly what the framers of the Constitution intended to avoid. They crafted a document which is palpably a-religious, without being hostile to religion... and which in fact protects religion, in the broadest sense, from the state.

You say that your issue isn't with who wields power, but that anyone has such power. Yet you seem to have accepted the idea that the majority has the right to rule. And that's pretty explicitly debunked by the Founders, and provisions are embedded in the Constitution specifically for the purpose of protecting minorities and minority opinions from the tyranny of the majority.

The judiciary, in fact, is the last refuge for such minorities from the will of the mob when it goes red-faced and spews spittle. The Legislature (and particularly the House) is inherently sensitive to the fickle moods of the public. The Executive is... sometimes... less so. But the judiciary is designed to be somewhat desensitized to the will of the public. Its mission and mandate are to interpret the law and to uphold it. And it's been "activist" since at least John Marshall was Chief Justice, and his Court claimed the exclusive right to determine what was, and wasn't, constitutional.

Indeed, we all seek to influence the electorate. Some persuade, some intimidate, some lie and fear-monger. They're all hoary devices for moving votes. But that doesn't mean that the opinion of the majority is, either de facto or de iure right. It's just the majority, to which we have attached a certain weight and import. But not all. It's not the majority which is sovereign.

I reject the notion that this is a war of religion (I'll accept that some would like to make it one). In part because my ancestors started coming here as early as 1632 (not counting those resident long before...) to escape wars of religion.

I don't want to oppress Christianity or Christians. I want for you nothing more and nothing less than what I want for myself and others; the right to live my own life as minimally imposed on by the state--and by others, including those who want to misuse the state to impose on me...--as reasonable and possible. I don't have to agree with your religion, or your views on how people should live, or organize their lives, their families, etc. Nor do you have to agree with me, or Lorraine or anyone else. But for that to work, we have to leave a fair amount of room for variation and (O dread term!) diversity. We have to accept that other people will make choices that are different. Choices that are distasteful. Choices that are repugnant, even. So long as those choices don't reach the level of a fist approaching my nose, they're... tolerable. Even if I find them sad, silly, outlandish, backward... whatever.

Insisting that the judiciary bend its knee to the current whim of the red-faced, spittle-spewers is simply absurd. Were it not for the fact that the current phase of spittle-spewers seem to lean right and culturally conservative (or at least they pander that way), you'd be outraged differently.

The judiciary's object is to be a keel for the Republic, so that the state isn't blown about by the latest high wind or blowhards, who ever they may be.

Steve said...

Greetings to you all. And health, prosperity, and all enjoyment that life can afford as well.

Just a couple of important points in preface to (hopefully) help lay a foundation by which to interpret my comments. First, and most importantly, I am totally opposed to any development of a theocracy within the federal government, just as the nation's founders were in their creation of our constitutional republic. I believe that these men knew the deleterious temptations and effects of power given to natural human tendencies. They had just rejected government by a king and did all they knew to do to prevent reoccurrence through The Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The second point, in conjuction with the first, is that the power of the federal judiciary must also be limited. Activist rulings, whether 'right' or 'left', cannot be considered a legitimate to these courts' functions. If there is desired change, The Constitution itself provides the proper manner by which to make them. In addition to the actual wording of these documents, there remains many extant public documents and personal writings to ascertain with great accuracy the 'intent' of the 'Law of the Land'. Without this, we would be subject to the whims of a king, oligarchy, or democracy.

Now, on to the 'shotgun' approach to answering points and questions proposed by Lorraine and 'Uncle Pat'. Trying to be aggravating or putting words in someone's mouth-- Me!? Yes, often I will goad a bit, but it usually is in attempt to draw a response for clarification-- testing logical limits of a statement or idea, as it were. I seldom resort to ad hominem attacks. I hope they will not be taken that way.

Ogre, my definition of religion is a broad one. Much of what we are writing about here are values; values concerning good and bad, right and wrong, which form the basis of laws and norms. These values are derived from some scientifically unproven belief or faith. Therefore, I say that they are religious, irrespective of the fact that they do not come from the Bible, Torah, Koran, or Mad Magazine.

Self-important? That was a slap a myself as I regularly can make fun of me.

Lorraine, I do not purport to wish to dictate your relationship to husband, family, friends, neighbors, or business contracts outside the usual prohibitions-- murder, fraud...

The question about your Catskill vacation did not mean to imply that someone else provided it for you. I assumed that you earned it yourself. But, 'the patricarchal system' also assisted in providing the framework that made that experience possible. For me, that specific framework has afforded my family and I to do and to have a lot that I aver that no other system has ever provided for any other population in human history. Perfect? Utopia? Not even close. Room for improvement? Certainly. Historically, only tyrannies have tried to force these improvements quickly. No person or group has the intelligence or insight to bring this about. In this area I'd say that the 'wisdom of the masses' more steadily directs culture toward this goal.

Feminism a threat? No, except perhaps to its own stated goals. In trying to force a quick change in culture, some of its tenets may have produced effects deleterious to its own overall cause. One possible example is aspects of sexual liberation, stated as freedom from the repressive traditions of Christianity. In rejection of Christianity this is indeed a legitimate response. Its effect on culture, however, is not what was expected. (And what I would think is one of your valid complaints today.) It produced in society a perception of women as 'sex objects' to a much greater degree that ever before. (Judging from television and advertising, for sure.) So now Hillary has fat calves and Condoleeza's oufit is judged to be too... I see them both as strong political intellects and to be considered viable candidates.

In spite of your Biblical exegesis, I would argue that Christianity has been the greatest proponents of women's rights that the world has ever seen to this day. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galations 3: 28,29 NIV) That definitely has been a strong platform for Christian culture to acknowledge women's rights (albeit slowly). I know of no other cultures that have ever done this sort of thing other than in someone's romanticized version. (You may not agree, but in actuality I believe that we have come a long way from the Neanderthal, Og, clunking his mate over the head with his club and dragging her by the hair back to his cave. Of course, after a few weeks of Ogetta's nagging, Og seemed to spend a lot more time hunting the far-wandering herds of Mastodon!)

Homosexuality a threat? No, except perhaps to its own stated goals. Its 'leaders' in applying extreme pressure on the CDC and political leaders have been the major promoters of the spread of HIV and AIDS. How many of these quality people could have been spared this gruesome death had health agencies not cowed to 'political correctness' and treated this as it normally does other communicable diseases?

Minorities a threat? No, except perhaps to their own stated goals. I suggest that in this area, as well as homosexuality and women's issues, it may be that some of their 'leadership' has a vested interest in keeping their own influence and status rather than actually progressing the general causes.

Finally, questions concerning gender and power. In the issue of reproductive choice, particularly abortion, would I be correct in saying that many frame the issue in terms of an outside entity exerting power over a womsn's private choices and using that authority over the woman's use of her own body? But wouldn't it be also possible to claim within the framework of gender and power issues that the outside entity could be defined as the woman exerting power over the embryo/fetus/child by defining it as non-human and aborting it?

Thanks again, Lorraine, for the space.

ogre said...

Steve,

Ok.

The federal judiciary IS limited. Judges can be impeached by the legislature, and laws can be crafted to redress interpretations that are either contrary to intent... or which prove that the original law was boneheadedly written (a not infrequent event; I've collected my share of hate mail for pointing out in a LTE that California's Prop 22 -- clearly intended to ban same sex marriage -- brilliantly achieves the object of making all contracts between a man and a woman, except marriage, illegal.

Now, the court could rule on "intent". But the law is actaully grammatically clear.

Further, the courts have a very long established responsibility for determining constitutionality. So... if their action is deemed "activist" (and wrong), then the answer is to change--amend--the constitution.

It's also simply a fact that the 9th and 10th amendments make it very clear that there's a lot that's NOT included in the Constitution... and that the courts will have to address that. Privacy is such a matter. I don't doubt that the Founders would have agreed that it's another inalienable right. But it's not in the Constitution... was it activist to affirm that it's a constitutional right? No. The 9th amendment provides explicitly for that....

You say your definition of religion is a broad one. I'm immediately wary; it's a word which is already pretty darned flexible, now it threatens to be Humpty Dumptied When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean - - neither more nor less. I've no idea what your broad definition is....

I reject the notion that values are from religion. Religions claim and proclaim values, but there are other sources which aren't religious at all.

I know a professor of philosophy who I believe would reject the implication that values are inherently unscientific and unprovable. And I've seen work done which IS scientific and repeatable that shows, for example, the beneficial character of cooperation and altruism.

From that a lot of values arise.

To even speak of laws assumes a community. A community has an inherent interest in its own stability and continuation (a feature that appears to be inherent to every institution and organism...). So if you want that, you have to have laws, and you need to have them protect and benefit the parties to this community--or they'll leave it, or level it.

Bingo, without any religion, we have a matrix of fundamental values.... The fact that religions affirm them as well doesn't make the values religious. It just means that they're recognized and affirmed by different sources and institutions.

Some values may indeed be religious, but not all values are.

Those which are not, or which are widely shared by religions (and non-), or which are widely shared outside of religion, can be acted upon collectively.

You affirm: "Historically, only tyrannies have tried to force these improvements quickly."

Ummm. Define "quickly". The call for women's rights goes back centuries--at least to Christine de Pisan's "City of Women". The call was repeated, and slow--glacial--progress was made. But I think that half a millenia can hardly be called "quick".

You suggest In this area I'd say that the 'wisdom of the masses' more steadily directs culture toward this goal."

Poppycock. The masses have directed? That's like saying the herd leads. No, individuals go out in "front"--or what turns out to be the front, in retrospect--and stake out a position. "The masses" react.

Here's an example--John Woolman on slavery. Now, he wasn't the very first, but he was an early and vocal advocate against slavery, and he moved the Quakers a very long way, in his lifetime and in the years after it, towards the radical position of abolitionism. The masses didn't direct anything.

The masses provide a sort of cultural inertia. Objects at rest tend to remain at rest. Objects in motion tend to remain in motion. Women's rights have--through the efforts of innumerable women (and men)--slowly taken on momentum.

Feminism a threat? No, except perhaps to its own stated goals. In trying to force a quick change in culture, some of its tenets may have produced effects deleterious to its own overall cause.

How Hegelian. Thesis, antithesis...

I think this claim is absurd: "It produced in society a perception of women as 'sex objects' to a much greater degree that ever before. (Judging from television and advertising, for sure.)"

Mass media culture makes everything BIGGER and LOUDER... but that's not feminism's fault. And the objectification of women as sex objects and vessels for reproduction is old, old stuff. I think that what you perceive as "more" may be nothing more than more perception rather than more objectification--and filtered through the magnifying lens of mass media culture. It's no longer just accepted and ignored because it's the norm.

That said... I think that fleeing from our own fundamental biology won't work. Heterosexual males aren't going to stop seeing women in a sexual light because they've absorbed and embraced feminist values, any more than they stopped seeing women in a sexual light because Christianity insisted that thinking such things was a terrible sin. However, I think that there's a balance that can be achieved, in which women are valued as people who are of equal value, merit, ability and inherent dignity.... There's nothing wrong with finding a capable, admirable person attractive.

I'll respectfully disagree with "I would argue that Christianity has been the greatest proponents of women's rights that the world has ever seen to this day." Yes, you can cite Galatians, but the truth is that bereft of the women's movement and feminism, the only Christian movements I can think of that actually embraced what that passage says, and treated women as equals were deemed horrifically, terrifyingly heretica and were scoured from existence (the Cathars leap to mind). That said, I certainly agree that a Christian feminism could be developed from such passages (and probably has been, in recent times).

You say "I know of no other cultures that have ever done this sort of thing other than in someone's romanticized version."

Uh. I don't see that a Christian culture did. Not really--or at least not appreciably more than others, in context. There are flashes of the advance of female rights in various cultures, at various times. Rome made advances; women were substantially better off, legally speaking, at the latter end of the Roman era than at its beginning. Christianity briefly offered an improved stature for women... which was snatched away again when it rose to power. The advances in the rights of women in Christian cultures thus starts by crawling back to the rights accorded by Roman law... and struggling up from there, frequently into the teeth of stern denunciations from good Christians. Islam, at one time, offered women a significant step up (it backslid, too...) from the status of the Arabian culture of the day. That it didn't go as far doesn't make it lesser--it started with women in a far worse stature than women did in Europe, as Christianity became prominent.

You write "Homosexuality a threat? No, except perhaps to its own stated goals."

What? What? Goals of being treated as human beings, with simple dignity accorded them and the same basic rights affirmed and protected?

"Its 'leaders' in applying extreme pressure on the CDC and political leaders have been the major promoters of the spread of HIV and AIDS."

That's wingnuttery speaking. Not that gay men didn't help spread HIV in North America (they had the misfortune to be the initial vector community here)--but the single worst promoter of HIV was the semi-malign neglect during the time when the disease was still relatively limited in scope, in North America. Had the Reagan Administration actively tackled the threat of the disease, there would be many people alive today who aren't. The communicable disease proposals you seem to be making only came to the fore AFTER years of ignoring the "gay plague" meant that it had spread widely in the gay community.

After being ignored when pleading for help and attention... viciously stigmatized... the suggestion that HIV+ men be identified and -- in essence -- outted was, with real justification, seen as part of a program that either meant to (or at least would be used to) pillory more gay men.

You ask "...would I be correct in saying that many frame the issue in terms of an outside entity exerting power over a womsn's private choices and using that authority over the woman's use of her own body?"

Many? I suppose. But I know many who don't. Instead, there's a fundamental pragmatism at work:

When and where abortion has been illegal and punishable, it hasn't really kept it from occurring. Criminalization has instead created its own cesspool of hideous problems, while minimally impacting abortion itself. Criminalization didn't make abortion go away.

It's not a pragmatic solution. It didn't work. Instead of obsessing about controlling a woman's decision in these matters--which will fail, as history shows--instead focus on making abortion less needful.

Stop making it a hideous stigma (some real application of the "love the sinner..." bumpersticker slogan...).

Actively work to change the economic, social and political conditions that make it hard for a woman to have and RAISE a child, or another child. Those issues--health care, day care, wages--will have an immense impact on many women's decisions.

Collaborate with people who are vehemently pro-choice, but anti-abortion (a very common perspective; I know almost no one who is actually literally "pro-abortion"). Work to provide sex ed that counsels don't... but if you do, here's what you need to know.... Because abstinence has never really worked (on the whole); the answers need to be deeper than just don't. Work to make the options of having a child and either raising it or giving it up for adoption as viable as possible.

And accept that in the end, we can only make this better. We can't make the problem go away; abortion will (it appears) always be with us. But we can do much to reduce unwanted pregnancies and to minimize the need for abortions.

But in the end, yes, a woman makes the decision. It's her body, and we can't control her (and shouldn't).

But wouldn't it be also possible to claim within the framework of gender and power issues that the outside entity could be defined as the woman exerting power over the embryo/fetus/child by defining it as non-human and aborting it?

Uh, no. I know people (I'm one of them) who don't deny that an embryo is somewhere in the process of becoming human. The parallel you draw between outside entities is a false one.

If your embryo is an entity "outside" of the woman, then it's imposing on her, and imposing a significant risk to her health and well-being, and even her life. That's not even faintly parallel to the outside entity argument of the woman vis a vis society.

Bottom line? I think that Roe v Wade is a remarkably good and reasonable decision that's weathered quite well.

Now if only society would deal with it and shape itself to the end of trying to minimize unwanted pregnancies and to diminish the need felt for abortion... but no, it's far too convenient a political brickbat for those who object to women's rights....

Steve said...

Ogre,

Howdy. Since Ogre is ergo backwards, does 'Mus ogre, otigoc' mean 'Am I, therefore, think I?' That's gonna bug me all day.

Poppycock!? Wingnuttery!? Ogre, I don't even hear stuff like that out of the mouths of weather-beaten sailors. Careful, there may be children reading these comments.

I find myself greatly troubled by your rhetoric on two major fronts. First, I see a major disconnect with cause and effect reality and, second, your methods in tackling existing problems, drawn from that disconnect, would be directed to more and more governmental or otherwise ineffective measures and controls.

In the case of HIV/AIDS, you have shifted responsibility for its spread from those whose risk-filled lifestyle choice actually communicate it onto (‘unfortunately’) one homosexual vector, the Reagan Administration, and anyone, real or imagined, that ‘pillories’, ‘outs’, and ‘stigmatizes’. As rhetoric, it is very good. For seeking meaningful resolutions, it misleads badly.

As for feminism, I can only imagine what type of political action could or would be taken that may bring this culture to the point that you may envision. More intrusive or different laws? Less freedom of thought and speech on colleges campuses or more restrictive ‘sexual harassment’ policies in workplaces? Affirmative action, quotas? Price and wage controls? Government run health care and child care?

Your out of hand rejection of the correlation between sexual ‘liberation’ and the resulting greater objectification of women also means that attempted means to stem the increases in cases of depression, anorexia, bulimia, or suicide will be ineffective at best. Beliefs and attitudes direct behavior. Behavior has its consequences. Actions that direct themselves in dealing with consequences without affecting the beliefs, attitudes, and the subsequent behavior will ultimately prove ineffective, the good intentions of the helper, notwithstanding.

Values do indeed exist, but their origins are religious in nature . They are presumed from unproven presuppositions. The universe is as dumb as a hammer in instructing us concerning matters of morality. The theory of evolution suggests the survival of the fittest; and that the strong survive. Apparently, that’s the ultimate meaning that nature teaches us. Plato and Aristotle wrestled with the particulars and universal, as did countless great thinkers after them. The connection between was never solidly made.

Your rhetoric speaks of cooperation. Indeed, there are many places in which men could together make progress, but without a more solid and common foundation that cooperation will be continually superficial leading to few gains. Ultimately, however, the prevailing post-modern zeitgeist would provide for the further balkanization of mankind.

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