Wednesday, January 11, 2006

On giving up what isn't yours

Okay, so the backlash to Kate O'Beirne's women-should-stay-at-home-except-for-me anti-feminist screed is as to be expected: liberals are pointing out exactly how nuts she is, and conservatives (the men, at least) are patting her on the back vigorously for being a good woman and knowing her palce. Jane at Firedoglake has some fairly good points, and of course Jonah Goldberg can always be counted on to say something completely idiotic on any subject.

Amanda at Pandagon does a fairly good skewering of poor little Jonah, which is always amusing and is probably the most intimate contact he's had with a woman in quite some time. The entire thing is quite amusing, but this part jumped out at me:
This argument praising the “first generation” of feminists is a phrase that’s left deliberately hazy. For the sake of clarification, and since Goldberg claims he was educated by feminists, I think we can all agree he knows this, the “first generation” of American feminists basically won women the right to own our own property. Here’s a list of later feminist innovations that are post-first generation and therefore utter nonsense, by Goldberg’s own reasoning:

The vote
The invention of female-controlled contraception like the Pill
The right to contraception
The right to abortion
The right to take out a loan even though you’re not married
The right to be free of discrimination at work
The right to work without being sexually harassed
No-fault divorce
The right to attend college
The overturn on bans keeping women out of universities
Laws banning marital rape and domestic violence
Services for victims of rape and DV
Equal education for boys and girls in public schools
Family leave laws

To name a few of many, many, many more post-first generation feminist innovations. If Goldberg, supposedly educated by feminists, thinks post-first generation feminism is bullshit, I dare him to explain what on this list he opposes and why, instead of making vague arguments about strawfeminists while praising his friend O’Beirne, someone who is hypocritically taking advantage of feminist advances in education and equality and using them to bash feminism.

I pulled this out not because it's such an efficient and effective takedown (although it is) but because we all, men and women, liberals and conservatives, could do to look back every once in a while and recognize just how far we've come. I think that recent anti-feminist sentiments among otherwise intelligent women stem in part from the relatively easy lives we've led. A woman Kate O'Beirne's age has never lacked for a voice in government, has never lacked for birth control if she wanted it, has never been steered away from a position because it's not a "woman's job." Obviously, the fact that a woman's place is supposedly in the home hasn't stopped her from going out on her book tour. And something you've always had never seems as valuable as something you've had to earn.

We're seeing the same sentiment with our rights to free speech and privacy. The first and fourth amendments lay them out in ink, and for more than two hundred years, they've been there whenever we needed them. There's never been a time (well, up until recently) when we've had to keep our mouths shut for fear of government reprisal or worry about federal agents shuffling through our underwear drawers while we're at work. And since we've never had to struggle to secure those rights, all it takes is for one person to shout "War! War! Terror!" for people to start handing them over voluntarily.

I'd love to know that all of my rights - as a free-thinking person, as a person with a right to privacy, and as a female person equal to male people - will always be honored, but I'm realistic enough to know that they'll be challenged once in a while. Like, for instance, right now. My hope is that, with our rights in danger, we'll be willing to fight to secure them, and that the fight will also secure their importance in our minds. People fought and died for the rights we now enjoy; throwing those rights away is no way to show our appreciation.

No comments: