Thank you for your post on where you see yourself as a feminist in your own life. I thought you hit upon some very important points, and some wonderful issues that feminists are addressing, areas where we have made progress and where progress is still needed.
I have always admired your treatment and respect of women, and especially your esteem of their professional lives; this includes Mom, your former bosses, and your female coworkers. Your relationships with these women helped model to me how women can be successful in their careers, and how men should treat them in a job setting.
I also agree that fistula is a very serious medical condition, often affecting poorer women in areas where medical care is limited or nonexistent. I’ve read about how it can ruin women’s lives, and I think it’s cool that your Rotary club was involved in such a radical project to help women gain social and economic power.
And I also grew up with a heart for helping the homeless, especially women and children, because of your work with groups like ECHO. Do you remember when we volunteered at the shelter overnight together? That is one of my favorite memories of you, Dad.
But you also mentioned some things in your post that I disagree with, Dad. You point to women you respect being “vilified” for being anti-abortion, women who believe in feminist ideals and yet would prefer that abortion access be nonexistent, or only available in cases of incest or rape, for instance. And while I think it is wrong to vilify or demonize someone for this view, it is antithetical to feminism.
One of the central beliefs of feminism is that we, as women, have a right to our own bodies. We have a right to freedom from sexual harassment and assault. We have a right to dress or decorate ourselves as we please. You agree that I shouldn’t be harassed when walking down the street, that my body is my own and that it is wrong for a man to mistreat me, ogle me or sexualize me. This bodily autonomy continues to abortion. It is my body that would carry a baby, and as such, it is my decision whether I want to carry it or not.
Saying, “I’m a feminist, but I don’t believe in abortion,” is akin to saying, “I support LGBT rights, but I don’t approve of anti-discrimination legislation.” It’s one tenet of a belief set. It’s about choice.
Mom actually said it best to me, and whenever I consider the abortion debate, I go back to her words.
We were watching “Knocked Up.” You know, that Judd Apatow film where Seth Rogen gets Katherine Heigl pregnant? There’s a scene where Katherine Heigl tells her mom, and her mother tells her to “Take care of it.” (Or something like that. It was a couple years ago.)
Mom turns to me and says, “Oh, I could never do that.”
“What?” I said.
“I could never tell you what to do in a situation like that,” she says. “That’s your decision.”
“Mom,” I said, shocked, “are you pro-choice?”
“You are! You’re pro-choice!” I said.
She paused a minute.
“I would say… I’m pro-baby,” she said finally. “I don’t think you should have a baby if you’re not prepared for one.”
I think Mom got it, Dad. While I would love to see a world where no one needs an abortion, the reality is, we’re not there yet. Being anti-abortion doesn’t help women in bad situations, and it doesn’t help children born into families that don’t want them, or aren’t prepared to care for them.
And that’s why it’s a feminist issue.