I hope you enjoyed International Women’s Day yesterday. I’m sure you had a wonderful time with your friends holding up your fisty-venus signs at your rallies and shouting about how oppressed we are because Rush Limbaugh says stuff and because Republicans are still allowed to exist. Since yesterday was your Christmas and all, I thought it would be a courtesy to wait until today to write you this letter. I have some bad news.
I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve decided to call off our working relationship of so many years. ”Don’t you remember the good times?” You ask. ”Those teen-years spent marching in “Take Back the Night” rallies? Those drum circles where we’d totally stick our thumbs up the patriarchy’s arse by worshipping goddesses? Those millions and millions of poems we wrote about how we were going to kick down the brick walls of our biological prisons. Heck, one of them was even published.”
I know you’re thinking “Hey man! I gave you everything. How many A+ papers did you write as an undergrad after I showed you how much a particular author sucked because of the way women were portrayed in his work? Or because a female artist “challenged” the patriarchy?” I rocked your G.P.A. You got into Grad School because of me. Is this how you play me after all of these years?”
Yeah, the thing is, I don’t want to be associated with you anymore. Frankly, you do not represent me, or many women, although you claim to represent us all. You do not defend my interests. You have no idea what they really are.
You are immature, hypocritical and full of contradictions which any adult, with half a brain and a meter of human experience can immediately recognize.
Through one side of your mouth you oppose the sexualization of the culture and the objectification of female bodies. You rail against beer commercials with women in bikinis, playboy bunnies and Barbie dolls. You produce reams of paper and pixels on the negative impact of exposing young girls to explicit media-images, problems such as eating disorders and premature sexual experimentation. All of this is very good.
But then, out of the other side of your mouth, you aid and abet the same oversexed culture by promoting “Sex-positivity” on university campuses, by inviting prostitutes, madams and polyamorists to give talks on how wonderful their lifestyles are, by demanding free, unlimited access to contraception paid for by taxpayers and by giving the green-light to any artist or performer who exposes their bodies or their sex-lives on television as “risque”, “daring” or “pushing the envelope”.
You claim to be a defender of the weak and vulnerable. You love socialism, or at least the idea of socialism, though you’ve never spent a day in a socialist country in your life…except for that trip you took to a resort in Cuba with your friends last Spring Break in which you did a day tour of Havana and raved about free health-care and Studebakers. You believe that the State and Society has a responsibility to care for the poor, the disadvantaged and any vulnerable member. You consider yourself a tender-hearted humanitarian who wants everyone to be wrapped in the warm arms of the collective. “We’re all in this together” you say.
Except, of course, when the responsibility for caring for those in need falls on your shoulders, or more to the point, your uterus. When you find yourself unexpectedly pregnant and the fragile being you have created from the baby-making act has no-choice but to rely on your body for survival. Then, the warm-hearted, socialist turns into a stone-cold libertarian. “No way!” you say “I will not love you, or care one whit about your well-being …Yes, you may be small, you may be weak, you may mean me absolutely no harm, you may even long for me and love me in your own way, but I don’t owe you a thing. I have the right to live my life as I wish, and if I don’t wish to experience the inconvenience and discomfort of a pregnancy, then I have the right to take your life in the most brutal fashion, and no one can say anything about it.”
You praise the strong independent woman, the ones who become presidents and heads of companies. However if such a woman were to, you know, fall in love and get married, and discover that competitiveness and high social status could lead to a cold and lonely existence, you would consider her something of a traitor, one of those woman who “needs a man to make her happy”. Yet at the same time you, in your embrace of socialist ideals, rail against the consumerist system claiming that success, acquisition of goods and high social status are anti-humanistic and spiritually degrading. You praise the woman who “throws it all away” to go travelling to India on an ultimately self-serving “spiritual” quest to stare into her navel and find herself, but condemn the woman who “throws it all away” to care for her children.
Finally, you believe that religions create a false view of reality, based on a story invented by men which can’t be proven true, but you have created an equally false view of reality which is as unproveable as the Virgin Birth. Your entire philosophy is based on a constructed meta-narrative. You tell a story about how for thousands of years, women were treated as property to be bought and sold, how the whole of Western Culture, and pretty much every other civilization was structured on woman’s abasement. In your mind this thing called a “patriarchy” explicitly demanded women be enslaved to men in every way, shape and form. It determined how women would be represented in art, how health care would treat women’s issues, how husbands would treat wives, fathers, daughters, priests, nuns etc. ”The Patriarchy”, this shadowy cabal, held a tight-fisted control over every aspect of life and women had to eventually recognize it and stand up for their rights.
Except there was never a “Patriarchy”,
There were socially accepted gender-roles, yes, and there were prevalent ideas about how men and women should conduct themselves in relation to one another, and in public. These ideas extended to both men and women by the way. Women had certain duties to men, and men had certain duties to women. There were also horrible men who did and said horrible things, and horrible women who did and said horrible things. There were individual men who did wonderful things and individual women who did wonderful things. But for every example you can find of a “prevalent patriarchal attitude towards women” there are an equal amount of exceptions. For every misogynist cleric or bishop, there was a Sor Juana, for every screed in condemnation of the female sex, there was one in its defence. History is a wide, deep and broad thing, and most people fall just a little bit outside of the meta-narrative.
Thus I simply can’t stand you anymore. You think like a teenager who feeds off drama and it shows. It shows in your ability to take a small thing like a braying talk-show host or a cop using the word “slut” and turn it into a barrage of histrionic tweets, blog-posts and protests. It shows in your willingness to use a cancer charity cutting off its negligible donations to an abortion provider as an excuse for a witch-burning, introspection rundown bullying psych0fest. It shows in your inability to be self-critical, to examine the unintended consequences of your own ideas and re-evaluate them. If you did, you would not be so quick to defend abortion access after seeing it used to support racism, extermination of the poor, eugenics and female feticide. Even seeing an ultrasound at 10 weeks ought to get you to re-think your unquestioning fidelity to baby-killing. If you were honest.
You do not make me free. I don’t need to artificially sterilize my fertile body, or to put myself before others in order to prove I’m not enslaved or oppressed. I’m free because I am a child of God. I’m free because I love, and because I give.