Archive | January, 2013

What’s in a name?

31 Jan

By Zoe Coyle

We live in a world where political labels are given the utmost importance.  Especially as a college kid in DC, it is nearly impossible to maintain a political discussion with someone without labeling yourself as a democrat or republican, liberal or conservative.  That is why Planned Parenthood’s recent decision to drop the term “pro-choice” from its lexicon (while still remaining pro-choice in action and values) can be both a disheartening as well as a puzzling decision. As a ‘pro-choice’ ‘feminist’, these labels are a valuable part of my political identity, and are inextricable from my personal and moral views as a whole. It’s sad to see a cherished organization shy away from a term that I am proud to hold on to.

However, as a student on a Catholic University, where topics like abortion can be the third-rail in many political debates, I also understand why Planned Parenthood would want to back away from a term that can provoke hostility. While more Americans are pro-life than pro-choice,  six in ten Americans do not want to see Roe v Wade overturned. As Gail Collins argues in her most recent column entitled “The Woes of Roe”, people support abortion rights a lot more when they themselves are not asked to make a legal decision about it; these findings show how labels don’t accurately reflect people’s political views in practice.

There is the fear of course, that a quiet burial of the term “pro-choice” is little more than newspeak in order to make reproductive issues seem more palatable. I am a member of the pro-choice group on my campus, Hoyas for Choice, and we have recently begun to debate whether or not we should remove the term “choice” from our name as well. For our group, the term “choice” can inaccurately describe the work that we do as a group – an umbrella term such as “reproductive justice” or “reproductive health” might not be as catchy, but it is a broader catch-all for students who might be uneasy about abortion but definitely support access to contraceptives on college campuses.  The term pro-choice does not always accurately describe the wide range of reproductive health and justice issues that organizations and activists work towards. A binary label system can very easily restrict and isolate people who can be both intimidated and unsure of how the two labels apply to them.  Furthermore, this division forces people to ‘choose’ a side on issues that are often not seen in black and white. Regardless of labels, an American citizenry that remains loyal to Roe v Wade is certainly something to celebrate.

Event: Men Can Stop Rape’s Black History Month Film Festival

31 Jan

Event Announcement from Jared Watkins 

Men Can Stop Rape’s Solutions Through Film Black History Month Film Festival is happening this Saturday, February 2nd, in Silver Spring, MD . The Festival is an annual Community Strength Project of the Men of Strength (MOST) Club, a youth development program for middle school and high school young men that teaches them to embrace healthier visions of masculinity that involve social-emotional intelligence, civic engagement, and all that good stuff as opposed to traditional masculinity that values power, emotional disconnect, and violence.

The film festival will be at the AFI theatre in Silver Spring (right outside the Silver Spring metro on the red line) from 2:00 to 6:00 PM on Saturday. We will be showing Byron Hurt’s (best known for Beyond Beats and Rhymes, a film that investigates masculinity and hip hop culture) new film Soul Food Junkies that uses soul food to investigate the darker side of the food industry and the growing food justice movement that has been born in its wake. Byron will be at the festival and will participate in a workshop led by DC middle school and high school students. We will also be showing Janks Morton’s Hoodwinked that investigates the myth that more black men are in prison than in college. There will also be a workshop with Morton after his film is screened. You can find out more about the films and watch trailers here.

Choice is a Jesuit Value

31 Jan

By Morgan McDaniel 

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This picture is of me, standing proudly in the free speech zone of Red Square, holding a piece of paper with a statement that some people might find controversial, disrespectful, or downright heretical.  To me, it is one of many beautiful pockets of truth amid the messy contradictions that are part of our Jesuit Georgetown identity.

Choice is a Jesuit value.  Let me tell you what I mean.

This week, H*yas for Choice launched our “Choice Is . . . ” campaign.  We wanted to show that even though people see abortion as a black-and-white issue, in reality to be pro-choice is to embrace all the shades of gray of human experience.  We want to show that no one’s life fits the same mold, and to be pro-choice is to respect every woman and man’s right to make decisions about their bodies for themselves.  That applies whether the decision is to have sex, to remain abstinent, to use birth control, to get an abortion, or to raise a child.  As Planned Parenthood’s newest campaign puts it, “nobody knows a woman’s specific situation – we’re not in her shoes.”

The reason H*yas for Choice has to use an asterisk instead of an o, and the reason we can only give out condoms in a free speech zone, is that the Vatican finds contraception and abortion morally unacceptable under any circumstances, so our Catholic University is prohibited from giving us access to benefits.  If we look at the history, this prohibition is completely arbitrary, and following it blindly is completely out of step with the Jesuit values I was taught to embrace since my first moment on Georgetown’s campus.  Let’s take a look at three of those Jesuit values, straight from Georgetown’s website for Mission and Ministry:

Cura Personalis

“Cura Personalis suggests individualized attention to the needs of the other, distinct respect for his or her unique circumstances and concerns, and an appropriate appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.”  I quote this sentence with pride because it has been the foundation of my personal growth and development around service and social justice at Georgetown.  I’ve learned that true service is based in humility and solidarity – that service based in privilege and the assumption that “I know best” is likely to do more harm than good.   It is not for us to judge or presume we know best.  We can only make a positive impact when we truly listen to those we serve.

Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that this language so closely echoes Planned Parenthood’s talking points – that we must respect each woman’s knowledge and understanding of her own situation, and respect her needs and priorities.

Faith and Justice

“This commitment links the authentic following of the Gospel of Jesus with an obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression, and injustice.”  This is an important point.  People who oppose contraception and abortion rush right past living breathing women in need to worry about justice for the unborn or unconceived.  I want to talk about justice for the women themselves , women who are part of our community.

Poverty and oppression are inextricably linked to a woman’s ability to control when she has children and how many she has.  Without being able to control her own reproduction, a woman cannot control her own income, ensure access to education, or have any job security.  Studies on this issue tend to focus on women in developing countries, but this is still true for women in the US and is absolutely true for many women at Georgetown.  We should especially consider the high rate of rape and sexual assault in the US and yes, right here on campus, even though people don’t like to talk about it.  One in four women will be sexually assaulted or raped over the course of her four years at college, and blocking access to contraception or abortion is perpetuating an injustice.

Community in Diversity

“Approximately 52 percent of our student body are women,” says Mission and Ministry.  That’s 52 percent of the student body who will face choices that the male authorities of the Catholic Church will never have to face.  How can Georgetown value diversity if it expects all students to conform to the same behaviors, same ideas, and same morality system?  To value diversity is to seek out and incorporate different perspectives, to learn from each other, and to understand and accept that different people have different needs and different contexts.

That extends to the ways that gender intersects with other identities and factors that make us diverse – race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status.  All of these things affect us differently and make our situations and choices that much more complicated.  If we want to respect and value the diversity of our community, we must abandon judgment in favor of compassion for everyone’s unique circumstances.

We’ve heard people say that H*yas for Choice is anti-religion, anti-Catholic, anti-Georgetown.  That’s not it at all.  Dig a little deeper under the doctrine and you’ll see what I mean.  When we say we are pro-choice, we mean we hold distinct respect for each person’s unique circumstances and concerns, and an appreciation for his or her particular gifts and insights.  We mean we feel and obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression, and injustice.  We mean we value the diverse needs, contexts, and choices of every member of our community.

Choice is a Jesuit value.  Pass it on.

Violence Against Women Act

30 Jan

by Mary Toscano 

The Violence against Women Act (VAWA) supports programs that provide lifesaving support services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. However, some politicians oppose its reauthorization. Why? The Act protects immigrant and gay survivors of domestic violence. Believe it or not, VAWA is controversial.

Alyssa Peterson and I launched the “DC Students 4 VAWA Campaign” because we’re frustrated. We’re angry that some politicians consider politics more important than human lives. Domestic violence affects both Republican and Democratic survivors every day. Domestic violence is not controversial, and all survivors deserve protection and support. Period.

In the past few weeks, students from various backgrounds have joined our campaign.  We are a group of DC students who have an intense personal interest in reauthorizing VAWA. We come from a variety of backgrounds–we are men, women, feminists, gay rights supporters, immigrant rights supporters, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, friends or family of survivors, and certified domestic violence advocates. We are united because we recognize that domestic violence is a serious problem that requires serious actions on our campuses and in this country.

Through the DC Students 4 VAWA Campaign, we hope to raise awareness about domestic violence and tell our congressional representatives and universities that we care about stopping domestic violence and supporting survivors. If you, too, believe that domestic violence requires serious action, please see www.dcstudents4vawa.com and sign our petition, which will be sent to colleges in Washington, DC and congressional representatives.

Thank you for your support,

Mary Toscano

The Friendzone is a Sexist Myth

30 Jan

by Erin Riordan

The Friendzone isn’t real. The idea that every “Nice Guy” is owed sex or a romantic relationship by his female friends is ridiculous. And if you think that’s not what Friendzoning is about, it absolutely is.

The movie Just Friends perhaps explains friendzoning best with the line, “See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.”

Or Urban Dictionary with, “When you are expected to support a girl you really like while she searches for a smarter, richer, or more handsome boyfriend. There is little you can do to get out without feeling like a dick. All in all, one of the meanest things girls do, whether they mean it or not.”

To some degree, the assumption of every guy claiming to be “friendzoned” is that if they indicate an interest in one of their friends, she is in some way obligated to return the interest, and reward it with a relationship or sex. This assumption is problematic for a whole host of reasons, but most in that it ignores choice. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to someone’s romantic or sexual interest. There is no obligation to return interest, and if a person rejects you, it does not make them an awful person. Especially when that person is your friend.

I understand that rejection sucks. It hurts and it’s shitty when someone you like, want to have a relationship with, want to have sex with, etc. doesn’t return that interest. However, no one is obligated to be interested in you or want those things with you. While sex may very well be a human need, it is not something anyone has a right to, and thus we are not “owed” it.

Underlying the promulgation of friendzoning is the idea that a female friend who rejects her guy friend’s advances is a bad person, and is a bad person in part because she sees her friend as just that-a friend. As a brilliant person on the Internet wrote, “Friendzoning is bullshit because girls are not machines that you put kindness coins into until sex falls out.” This line wonderfully highlights the inherent sexism in friendzoning. That women should in any way be obligated to reciprocate sexual or romantic interest completely undermines the notion of women as autonomous people with the right to make their own decisions, and especially the right to make their own decisions about romantic relationships and sex.

No person is ever obligated to return romantic interest. That we penalize and antagonize women who reject men interested in them is sexist, and, to beat a dead horse, stands against the idea that women are equal.

If a guy determines he is interested in a woman, there are a few obvious courses of action. If he has just met her, he can indicate his interest in her. At that point, it is the woman’s choice to either return his interest or to reject him. If a guy doesn’t realize his interest in a woman until they are already friends, he can tell her how he feels. There is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is to react to rejection by that friend by calling her a slut or a bitch and complaining about how he is just a “nice guy” unfairly trapped in the friendzone.

The now-defunct tumblr, niceguysofOKCupid, documented this phenomenon of men behaving badly after being rejected by a female friend. (Note: I do take issue with many of the privacy implications of this tumblr, however, it provides ample evidence of the “Nice Guy” phenomenon and thus I’m referencing it). Profile after profile showed self-described “nice guys” ranting about “bitch women who always talk about wanting a nice guy and then go for the asshole.” Many news sites collected highlights from this tumblr showing men proclaim, “[I am] a really really nice guy” and then answer questions like ‘Would you ever film a sexual encounter without your partner knowing?’ with, “I’m not sure.” Hint: If you’re not sure whether or not you would film a sexual encounter without your partner’s consent, you’re not a nice guy, you’re an ASSHOLE.

Another disturbing example is the man who describes himself as, “a scientist, a philosopher, an engineer, storyteller, but above all else what I truly am is a gentleman,” and answers the question ‘Do you feel there are any circumstances in which a person is obligated to have sex with you?’ with a “Yes.” The number of men featured on niceguysofOKCupid who answer that question in the affirmative is astoundingly high, and something I find deeply disturbing and upsetting. There are NO CIRCUMSTANCES under which a person is obligated to have sex. That is what consent is all about. Everyone has the right to say “Yes” or “No” to any sexual encounter, and everyone has the right to give, or not give, consent and to have that decision be respected. When consent is violated then a person has been sexually assaulted or raped. No man who disrespects consent or the idea of consent is a gentleman or “Nice Guy.”

This sort of answer happens again and again with these so-called “Nice Guys” claiming to be friendzoned. One friendzoned gentleman (his description, not mine) answers the question, ‘Someone is drunkenly flirting with you. You know that with a sober mind this person would never engage in casual sex, but now it seems that they’re willing. What do you do?’ with “Take advantage of the situation.” Taking advantage of someone who is drunk and unable to give consent is sexual assault, end of story. The number of friendzoned men who fundamentally misunderstand sex, consent, and choice is ridiculous, and highlights the fact that friendzoning is based on the idea that men are owed sex and women are the people who have to give it to them.

Beyond that, friendzoning suggests that all women are good for is sex. When a man laments the three years he wasted as a friend of a woman, only to be romantically rejected at the end of it all, he invalidates the idea that this woman might have any other worth beyond sex.  The reward of being someone’s friend is not sex, it is friendship. If you are actually this person’s friend then their friendship is a really awesome reward.

As friendzoning gets an increasing amount of attention the dialogue around friendzoning has begun to change. The voices that recognize that women are people worthy of friendship and worthy of having their choices respected are beginning to dominate the conversation, and are delegitimizing the friendzoning phenomenon. Hopefully with this dialogue shift we can see the death of the “Nice Guy,” and focus instead on the men in our lives who are truly awesome people worthy of friendship, and if both parties desire, more.

 

 

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My Kind of Feminism

29 Jan

By Nicole Chenelle

The more I learn, the more I become a feminist. The more I engage in the world, the more I see the necessity of feminism. The more I grow, the more I see individuals as either feminists or supporters of the patriarchy, either directly or indirectly – ignorance can no longer be respected as a viable third option. I am a feminist in the same way that I am not racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, ageist, classist, and any other ideology which aims to divide human beings on the basis of irrelevant qualities. I will no longer shy away from the identity of feminism simply because it has a negative connotation. The fact that the term “feminist” has a negative connotation is proof of its necessity! For too long, I have qualified my feminism by saying,“But not the crazy kind!” and I feel ashamed of my former self. Radical feminists were radical because they were angry, justifiably so. When I identify myself as a feminist now, inside, I am itching for someone to taunt me, to provoke me, to give me a reason to defend my choice of identity. I am ready to rant about feminism at any time; I am like a spring that is always loaded. Today, I am tempted to qualify my feminism by adding, “Yes, the crazy kind” because that anger is there. That anger is there every time someone makes a rape joke, comments on a female authority figure’s appearance, uses a derogatory term which has no male equivalent, defends the anti-choice position, or implies the double standard that exists around male and female sexual activity. I live with this rage, burning underneath my fingertips, ready to be deployed at anytime. This is my feminism.

My definition of feminism has evolved as I have evolved. When I was younger, I would defend feminism to my friends and peers by saying, “No, feminism doesn’t mean you hate men, it means you support gender equality!” While I still believe that statement is true, that is not all that feminism is. Today, I see feminism as an intellectual standpoint, as well as a political movement, that seeks to achieve justice for women and eliminate gender inequality. Feminism also accepts the reality of the patriarchy. Recognizing the existence of the patriarchy is crucial to this definition. I have met many people who call themselves feminists, believing in gender equality, yet see this fight as largely finished. When I bring up the patriarchal structure of society, these people ridicule me, laugh at me, dismiss this idea as ridiculous. While these people may call themselves feminists, they do so only because they see it as an anachronistic identity, in the same way one would call themselves “abolitionists” or “suffragists.” Those battles have been fought and won. These individuals support the idea of gender equality, yet see that goal as essentially achieved. Feminists are continuously fighting for gender equality, continuously fighting to dismantle the oppressive nature of the patriarchy. The identity of feminism is an active one.

We Still Need Feminism

28 Jan

by Clara Gustafson

I believe that Caitlin Moran said it best in her book How To Be a Woman when she contended that despite the gains of the women’s movement in the last half-century, “we still need the word feminism.” There isn’t a better term to describe what women have been fighting for since the moment we stepped out of the kitchen: equality of opportunity, the ability to choose what to do—no matter what that is. Granted, there were glass ceilings at least nine feet thick in many places in our society preventing women from participating in any way. That’s why many women of the preceding generations had to take up the word feminism with fervor, together to punch through eight and a half feet of glass ceiling. Those women had to do it all so that today we have the greater ability to choose. However, doing it all is impossible and their fight for equality probably affected many friendships and areas of those women’s lives. The men have never had to do it all. There is no reason that my great-great aunts, great aunts, and aunts should have been expected to do all of this, but they were and together it looked like they succeeded.

This mirage of the miracle woman, the woman who needs no man or even a friend, is just that—a mirage. This idea, at least in my lifetime, was made popular by Anne Marie Slaughter in her much talked-about article “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” in the Atlantic Magazine. I think it has taken a generation and will take a few more for women to realize that now, with only a half a foot left to destroy, the idea is not for women to run everything everywhere. The idea is for men, women, gender-nonconformists, and everyone to have the ability to choose. Choose parenthood, choose to not have kids, choose to work full-time, choose to stay at home, choose to work part-time and stay at home part-time…. the list of options is endless. The ability to choose any of the endless options is still not available to many women in our nation. This is why we still need the word feminism. Every person who wants the ability to choose their future, and not be paid less for doing the same job as others in your field because of who you are, should identify as a feminist.

Personally, it has taken me, a 22-year-old white girl from crunchy Portland, OR, all my life to really embrace and own the fact that I am a feminist and have always been a feminist. For me the word feminism connoted aggressive and obvious actions to advance all things female. Growing up my mom stayed at home and we played sports and were encouraged to push the limits and become the best at everything. The problem for me with feminism, or what I perceived to be feminism, were comments about women who didn’t work, or who got four year degrees and then decided to stay at home to raise kids. My mother is the hardest-working woman I know. “Staying at home” is no picnic, and on top of raising us kids my mother has volunteered for everything under the sun that needs an extra pair of hands. In college I have never really studied the word “feminism” or taken any Women’s and Gender Studies classes. However, as I have been exposed to more of the world and read more broadly I have found that the comments of my past were not comments from true feminists. A true feminist celebrates a person’s, especially a woman’s, ability to choose how they want to live out their life. Putting down my mother only alienated me from the cause of feminism. We need to embrace the ability to choose different ways of life, even if a particular way wouldn’t make you happy. It’s not about you, necessarily. It’s about the other person. It’s about every person and their ability to make a decision for their own life entirely independent of anyone else.

The Porn Wars

27 Jan

by Meghan Ferguson

The Internet is really, really great…for porn.  Or so says Avenue Q.  But let’s be real here, for as great as the Internet is for scholarly research, cat memes, and your favourite feminist blog (ahem), there’s a whole heck of a lot of porn.  And unlike in years past when the only way to acquire such materials was your local adult theatre or porn shop, the Internet provides free, anonymous, and unlimited access to any kind of porn your little heart desires.  Yippee.

Now, odds are, by this point you’ve fallen into one of two camps – either the mention of porn has already made you feel all of the feelings about the objectification of women, the patriarchy, and rape culture; or, you’re all excited about sex positivity and armed to the teeth with arguments about the agency of women and their free choice to be porn stars or consumers of pornography.  I fall into the latter category, but allow me to explain myself.

Pornography has been a contentious point amongst feminists pretty much since day one, with anti-porn activists like Catherine MacKinnon fighting for a ban on pornography and obscene material on the grounds that it degrades and oppresses women, and creates a culture where the abuse of women is acceptable.  Reading such arguments, you are faced with graphic descriptions of the foulest, most violent scenes from what are supposedly popular porn films, and these scenes are held up as a monolithic image of pornography.  There are also stories of women forced into the porn industry, held there against their will, and treated inhumanely.  I do not doubt the truth of such stories, and in the sex industry, the abuse, manipulation, and objectification of women is heartbreakingly inevitable at some point, as a large part of society is incapable of seeing women in a sexaul context as anything other than an object to be used.  I also do not doubt the existence of truly violent, degrading, and dangerous genres of porn.  However, I do not believe that the way to go about solving these problems is to shove all porn into this category, ban it, and then skip merrily off into the sunset knowing that you’ve done your moral duty.  That isn’t solving any problems; it means you’re doing a very good Ostrich impression, but that’s about it.  Ignoring the problem does not address the underlying causes of the violence against women, or the reasons why some women feel that sex work is their only option to making a living.

Historically, yes, pornography has catered almost exclusively to men and male desires, which has led to all sorts of problems, from expectations on what the female body ‘should’ look like, to the fetishizing of ‘girl-on-girl’ sex (All The Feelings on that later…).  Porn used to be a way to exclusively legitimise white, heterosexual, male sexuality, but that’s beginning to change (God bless the Internet).   Ah yes, our technological friend returns to save the day.  The Internet has opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for pornography, the most important of which is the development of queer and ethical porn.  One of the beautiful things about the interwebs is that anyone can upload anything they want, and in our case, that means the queer community is no longer excluded from the porn industry.  In recent years, sites such as the Crash Pad Series, QueerPorn TV, FTM Fucker, and Indie Porn Revolution, to name a few, have cropped up, each offering a plethora of porn, some of it amature and some professional, catering to a wide range of tastes, and all made ethically without the exploitation or maltreatment of the performers, and all done with consent from all parties involved.  For the first time, there are positive, accurate representations of queer sex made by queer people for queer people.  No more of this two blonde, leggy, double D-cup cheerleaders hooking up with the football team watching bullshit (now it’s the women’s rugby team that gets to watch).  But I’m kidding.  The best part of this is that it’s all ethically produced.  The performers all chose to be a part of the production, they use safe sex practices, no one is forced to be there, no one is committing malicious violence against another person.  Similarly, women as a whole have been able to have a say in what porn gets created, and because of the increased access to porn, women have become a larger percentage of consumers, and now mainstream producers are listening to what we have to say.  It’s a basic fact of capitalism – you want to make the money, you listen to what your consumers want, and you do it.  Consequently, there is an increasing (though still relatively small) amount of porn that is aimed at women.

For the first time, sexually marginalised groups have a mainstream forum to express, explore, and own their sexuality, and pornography has been a major player in making that happen.  Is pornography faultless? No way.  Are there a lot of problems it’s caused that piss me off to no end? Yup.  But, like anything else in this world, porn is not a monolithic category and to disregard the many facets of it is to do a disservice to society – the only way we can fix the problems is to know what we’re dealing with, and in knowing what we’re dealing with, we can see where a broken system has gone right.

Feminism: A Necessary Ingredient for LGBT Equality

26 Jan

by Mark Stern

My first year at Georgetown University, I saw a flyer on campus advertising a meeting for “LGBT pro-life students.” The meeting, further research uncovered, was sponsored by PLAGAL, the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians (former name: Gays Against Abortion). The organization, whose logo contains a fetus levitating in a cartoon heart winged with rainbow spikes, does not boast an extensive membership list or a high profile. But it’s still worth contemplating, not just as an amusingly pathetic fringe organization of very confused people, but as a reminder of why feminism and LGBT equality fuse so neatly.

Today, the women’s rights and gay rights movement overlap in myriad arenas: nonprofits that support one almost uniformly support the other; they share support from largely the same demographics; and their concrete goals are frequently identical. Intersectionality–the feminist theory that discrimination is best seen as a web of societal oppression that affects more that the explicitly targeted group–explains some of this, but so does common sense. Sexual orientation, like sex, is an inborn trait–in other words, part of one’s identity. And to be oppressed due to one’s identity obviously violates the very premise of equality.

The oppression inflicted upon women and LGBT people is vast and longstanding, too sweeping to catalog in any great detail here. At the heart of both forms of discrimination, however, lies a denial of one’s right to chose one’s own destiny, to follow one’s own heart, to live as an equal human being. These basic rights–fundamental to the American Constitution–can be easily ripped away by a majoritarian society unsympathetic to the plight of persecuted peoples. This dehumanization was, and remains, a core principle of the anti-choice movement, which cloaks its agenda in concern for human life while championing measures that demean and degrade women’s dignity. When the anti-choice movement proposes that women seeking an abortion have a large probe inserted in their vaginal canals and be forced to gaze at their fetus, they are not, in any way, respecting human life. Rather, they are revealing the true intention of anti-choice activism: to shame, humiliate, and frighten women against exerting control over their own bodies.

This goal is the hollow heart behind the anti-choice movement’s plaintive cries for mercy for “human life.” Theirs is a selective kind of mercy, one which ignores the dignity of women while obsessing over the potential of a cluster of cells. I once stood on the steps of the Supreme Court with about twenty activists from the National Organization of Women while 75,000 anti-choice Catholic protesters surrounded, taunted, and shamed us for our beliefs. (Several shoved, kicked, and cursed us.) After witnessing firsthand the manic passion with which these people oppose abortion–and the chillingly savage vitriol with which they treat their opponents–I must believe that many have been duped into the laughable notion that the anti-choice movement is about babies. But a brief look at the history of anti-choice activism proves beyond a doubt that it is not; it is about women, and preventing them from controlling their bodies and their destinies. When a woman is forced to carry an unwanted child to term by the state, she is being denied a basic tenet of liberty, surrendering her independence, physically and mentally, and power over her own fate.

Without the right over their own reproductive systems, of course, women inhabit a lower place in society–exactly the place most anti-choice activists desire them to be. A fully empowered woman with true autonomy is a threat to a male-dominated society; free of the fear of unwanted children, women have been able to flourish in the work force, enter the upper echelon of politics, and rise through the ranks of the military. With the right to choose snatched away, much of this progress would be reversed. This factor, above all else, explains why self-proclaimed pro-life feminist groups are such a farce: to be anti-choice is to be anti-feminist. Many–perhaps most–of the hard-fought gains of modern feminism spring from pro-choice activism. Roe v. Wade did more than legalize abortion in the United States. It recognized a woman’s right to be an equal human being.

An identical goal lies beneath the fight for marriage equality. As Molly Ball explained in her gripping account of 2012 marriage equality battles, same-sex marriage–while a noble and worthy goal in and of itself–is really an umbrella issues, one which captures a plenitude of other LGBT aims. To recognize a same-sex couple’s right to get married is to recognize the dignity of each partner, the validity of their love, the strength of their commitment. Anti-LGBT advocates have long succeeded by denying LGBT people such dignity; gay people have been painted as freaks, perverts, predators, and libertines. All of these allegations are incorrect to the point of silliness, but they were shockingly effective in allowing otherwise decent people ignore LGBT cries for equality. Same-sex marriage potently undermines each calumnious accusation in one fell swoop, revealing gay people to be regular human beings who want only the same rights as straight people, the same opportunity to pursue a committed relationship with the person they love. The fight for marriage equality, in the final analysis, is really quite similar to the fight for abortion rights, a crusade for the freedom to live one’s life free of oppression, state-sponsored opprobrium, and shame.

Which brings us back to PLAGAL. It should be clear at this point that the very notion of an anti-choice group founded and run by LGBT people violently contradicts the central precepts of LGBT equality. To advocate for LGBT rights while campaigning against women’s rights is as illogical as being a vegan hunter. To support one but not the other is to deny that all human beings deserve equal rights, equal protections, and equal opportunities. And the fact that a class of historically oppressed people are willing–enthusiastic, even–to perpetuate prejudice onto another is not just dispiriting: it’s embarrassing. Feminism and LGBT equality don’t merely overlap in specific goals; they spring from the same principle of justice. At their core is the same battle for rights, the same fight for equality, and soldiers for one side are soldiers for both. PLAGAL and other such self-contradictory groups are an affront to feminists and gay people alike, implying that pro-choice beliefs are not an inherent part of equal rights. These groups are wrong: there is no more vital component of equality than choice. And the hopelessly confused dogma of anti-choice gay people deserves no place in the LGBT movement’s march toward victory.

Fabulous Feminist Fridays: What does feminism mean to you?

25 Jan

In Honor of Fabulous Feminist Fridays, we present you with select responses to the question: What does feminism mean to you?

I am feminist because I believe in equality.  Feminism has nothing to do with shaving legs or burning bras; it’s about fighting for the rights, freedom, and opportunities that men take for granted.

Mary Toscano

The global sisterhood. Supporting and empowering women who do not have the same opportunities I have.

Kat Kelley

Feminism, to me, stands solely for equality. It does not mean hating men (as a man, that would make no sense), it does not mean lesbianism (again, I cannot be a lesbian because I have a penis), it does not mean yelling loudly in the streets, and it does not mean every woman has to become CEO. It means a woman has just as much right to choose for her life what she wants out of it as a man does. If someone tells her to live it any other way, be it from man or woman, than she has been wronged, and as a feminist, I seek to right that.

Johan Clarke

For me, feminism is empowerment, equality, justice, a challenge to oppression, and a movement that puts forth the notion that all people deserve dignity, respect, rights, and opportunities.

Erin Riordan

What does feminism mean to YOU? Leave your answers in the comments.

To be included in next week’s edition of “Fabulous Feminist Fridays,” email feministsatlarge@gmail.com with your response to the following question: What movies or T.V. shows speak to your brand of feminism or have inspired you to be a feminist? Include one to three sentences explaining why.