Thursday, July 28, 2005

pro-lifers as feminists?

So I've been slacking with this blogging thing, and there's really no way I could possibly make up for a week's lost news/blogging opportunities, so I'm just going to pick up and go.

In my daily (compulsive) perusing of feministing's latest posts, I came across this post by Hannah, discussing the stance of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' wife as ex-board member of Feminists for Life, and broaches the difficult concept of pro-lifers and their inclusion/exclusion in the feminist movement.

This is something that's been bothering me since my good friend's assertion in my History of American Feminism class last fall ('04) that she could very much be a feminist and pro-life. I respect this woman immensely, so I didn't argue with that assumption, and it was also obvious that she'd been hurt in the past by people denouncing her claim to feminism because of her pro-life stance, and I didn't want to be another one of those people. So I remained silent. But I've been turning it over and over in my head ever since.

Obviously, I'm pro-choice. And obviously, I'm a feminist. A feminist who is very adamant about the diversification of feminism so that we don't repeat the mistakes of the 2nd wave by excluding everyone who wasn't a white, middle- to upper-class. heterosexual, biological female.
However, I'm very torn on the inclusion of "feminists" who are anti-choice in this developing canon of feminism.

On the one hand, who are we, as pro-choice feminists, to say that someone who identifies as a feminist cannot identify as such because ze doesn't believe that abortion is morally correct? It seems anti-feminist to exclude someone because of their moral creed, and antithetical to the movement to alienate those who may stand with us on other issues.

On the other hand, I don't really understand their definition of feminism if they are ok with the controlling and curtailing of other women's reproductive rights. At least most of these feminists, including Feminists For Life are (from what I understand at least) pro-contraception (well, maybe not FFL particularly, but most pro-life feminists I know), (real) sex education, and, for the most part, pro-equal rights and whatnot. In every other aspect, really, these feminists "fit." But I'd say that a woman's right to choose is a pretty damn important part of feminism.
And maybe abortion shouldn't have to happen, but the changes that need to occur in order for abortion to not be necessarily legal - real sex education, access to contraception, etc. - sure as hell won't happen under Bushie's "culture of life."

(Note: I'm not going to get into whether or not I agree with Feminists For Life's position or campaigns or anything, because I don't really have time to write a 10-page paper on the topic. Perhaps for a women's studies class later...)

This isn't really as coherent as I'd like, but I can only make it as clear as it is in my head, which, unfortunately, is rather blurry.

Now, I'm the last person who would tell a person that ze couldn't identify as a feminist because of hir "morals" or "values," no matter how much I disagreed with them.
But I still doubt the viability and validity of a connection between feminism and pro-life. For some reason, "Feminists for Life" still strikes me as a glaring oxymoron, and these women who rally behind the banner of feminism but question the morality of a woman's choice still rub me the wrong way.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While I don't really identify as a feminist anyway, I can easily see how a pro-lifer could identify as a feminist...

The problem with the abortion debate at its core is a disagreement on definition. For pro-choicers (and most feminists) abortion is a woman's issue, simply about a woman's body and her right to choose what she wants to do with it. (as I understand it)

Pro-lifers don't nessecarally dispute a woman's right to choose to do what she wants with her body. I certainly am all about real sex education, copious amounts of free birth control, pretty much EVERYTHING that planned parenthood does EXCEPT abortion... While for my own personal life, I will probably have children and I will probably stay at home and take care of the, I realize that is what I want with MY life, and that any woman should be able to choose if she wants to have children, and if she chooses to have them, she should decide how that affects her career. I'm all about choice, as most Feminists for Life would probably claim to be.

Its just that we don't define abortion as a womans issue, but an issue of human rights or the life of a child or just the right to life in general. (Take away the nasty anti-abortion connotations, and right to life sounds like a pretty valid thing, right?) If you (as pro-lifers do) define an unborn child as a human life, it isn't really a matter of choice anymore, its a matter of protecting someone that has no way of protecting themselves.

Basically, in the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "My right to swing my fist ends at the ends where the other man's nose begins." (go ahead and gender neuturalificate the quote if you want) Feminists for life are not against a woman making choices about her body--just about her making a choice that ends someone elses life.