I’m passionate about women’s rights. If you’re reading this blog, chances are – you are as well. I thought this made me a Feminist. After all, Feminism is all about protecting women and their rights, right? Well, now I’m not so sure. I only began thinking of myself as a Feminist during the last few months. I felt frustrated by the bad name feminism had in society and stood by the statement that I was a Feminist with great conviction. But I hadn’t done my research – silly me.
Reading Kirsten Birkett’s The Essence of Feminism encouraged me to do some research of my own before I formed a belief.
Here’s a very brief summary of some of the main pros and cons traced back to Feminism.
3. feminine character.
Awareness and support: Society became more aware of issues such as domestic violence, marital rape and child sexual abuse. This led to the creation and funding of more shelters, rape crisis centres, women’s refuges and other services supporting women and children in dangerous and abusive situations.
Higher divorce rates: Due to the introduction of the no fault divorce and strong anti-marriage teaching in the 1970’s, divorce rates have soared. In her book The Female Eunich, Australian Feminist Germaine Greer expressed her belief that women needed to leave their husbands, regardless of what their husband had (or more to the point, hadn’t) done wrong. Feminists in the 1970s honed in on the nuclear family and painted it as being a patrical institute which oppressed women (this attitude became less popular during the next two decades as society realised the importance of family). The emotional, educational and financial impact of divorce on women and their children is astronomical. We see evidence of this everywhere. Feminism is also usually in favour of same-sex marriage .
Safer abortions: Feminists fought for the legalisation of abortions. Historically, abortion was illegalised and ‘out of wedlock’ pregnancies were socially unacceptable. This drove some women to having ‘back yard’ abortions which were risky and sometimes fatal.
Omission of truth: In her book Fire With Fire, Naomi Wolf laments that during the 1980’s fight for the right to abort, Feminists felt forced to paint abortion in a good light. “It (the campaign) tended to stress the operation as being ‘non-anaesthetized surgery’, ‘like getting your tonsils out’;” she writes. “..even for women who are adamantly pro-choice, abortion can mean loss and mourning… Our obligation to act publicly on behalf of choice did not preclude the responsibility we had, as people with a myriad of choices, to choose privately to at least try hard to avoid pregnancy.” Traditionally, the Feminist movement has taken a strong ‘pro choice’ stand; “My Body, My Choice” — NOW (National Organization for Women)
Decline in birth of baby girls: Due to sex-selective abortion and some cultures preferring male heirs, female foetus’ are being aborted in higher numbers than males.
Mental illness in mothers: Melinda Tankard Reist, author of Giving Sorrow Words: women’s stories of grief after abortion, sites these examples of the effect an abortion has on many women; Ginny from Melbourne: “I would hear a baby crying in my sleep or I would get up thinking I had to breastfeed or just getting up to check on the baby … No-one prepared me for the years of nightmares, the guilt and the pain.” And Susan: “My self-esteem plummeted, I no longer cared about work, I abandoned my studies, and I drank like a fish. One night I found myself sitting in the gutter, drunk and crying, wondering what the hell was happening to me. It was like something in me died the same time my baby died.”
Pros: Feminist groups have put a lot of hard work into gaining equal employment opportunities and wages for women. It is now possible for women to work in a range of industries with pay rates usually equal to that of their male colleagues.
Cons: Many women now struggle with the employment subject. As Kirsten Birkett wrote in ‘The Essence of Feminism’. “Many women today have an economic independence that they would not have dreamed of a century ago… However, the price they have paid has been their freedom. For all the rhetoric of choice, social, legal and financial pressures now limit women’s choice to the extent that they cannot choose to keep a household and care for their children.”
The fact that women are now able to vote, thanks to the Suffragette, is a definite plus.
I have no doubt that there was (and in some cases, still is) a need for women to rise up and fight against injustice and unfair treatment. I’m just not convinced that Feminism and its core beliefs is the answer we need.
What do you think of Feminism? Would you call yourself a Feminist?Sources The Essence of Feminism, Birkett, K Fire With Fire, Wolf, N The Second Sex, de Beauvoir, S The End of Equality, Summers, A Australian Feminism, Caine, B (Ed.) Timesonline AbortionTV MelindaTankardReist WomensHistory NZHerald OnlineOpinion Wikipedia JeremiahProject Dictionary RiceFamilyLaw FamilyLawCourts Images SwingingFromTheVine FeministSociety JesusisSaviour