by Taylor Marsh
Today on Women on the Web, an interview about "Pro-Life Feminism" takes a walk through the feminism debate. The irony that it appears the day after a "pro-life" right wing fanatic murders a women's health care doctor is not missed, though it is being ignored by some pro lifers. Did you check out "Morning Joe" this morning? Dr. Tiller's murder was reduced to the "Daily Grind" segment and the crawler. It further drives home the point of the pro selective life crowd, which simply do not want to deal with what their rhetoric has wrought. According to Women on the Web, "an entirely different group of women are reclaiming the F word: 'the pro-life feminists.'"
I was one of the people interviewed. One excerpt is below:
Like Ellen Malcolm, Taylor Marsh, a blogger who describes herself not as "pro-choice" but as "pro-civil rights," also described "pro-life feminism" as an "oxymoron," but goes one step further:
[The pro-life feminist] platform is a pro-selective life, because if they really were pro-life then these individuals that want to curtail a woman's civil rights would also be for preventing pregnancy, they'd be for contraception ... And then we could get into the stem-cell debate and what that does for quality of life and pro-life. Their argument is morally bankrupt.
I want to address the part regarding my supposed "equally harsh words for 'maternalism'". The response above was to a question that had nothing to do with "maternalism," which is traditionally defined as a mother's innate instinct to care and protect her child, something that is real and to be respected, which I assure you I do.
The author's question to me, verbatim (we tape all interviews), which inspired the response I gave, was actually as follows:
ANDREW: "I think so, too. Another argument that has come up from the so-called pro-life feminists is the idea that the ability to have a child, that maternity is an essential part of a woman's being. What do you make of that, that it's like a woman's duty to have a child almost?"
As is obvious, my response was to his question "that it's like a woman's duty to have a child almost." Here's my complete response:
TAYLOR: That's propaganda placed on someone else because you want to control them. Its guilt, it's marketing, it's making it laudatory without . . . without considering the personal woman's own life. Again, pro-selective life, the life they want you to lead has nothing to do with her civil rights and her willingness to find her own soul's journey. Each person is not in it for . . . as much as I want to move the collective forward, each of us is not in this world to simply be part of a collective. Through our own soul journey we find answers and our own bliss, which leads us to a higher place that makes us more valuable in that group that can push forward and make change. But the first thing you've got to do is go through your own soul journey. And they want to cut that off and make it . . . make women feel a duty to do something other than they're being called to do. It's coercion.
The reason this is very important is that when feminists are asked to speak on issues of life, including motherhood and abortion, we're often cast in a harsh light; projected as being anti motherhood, etc. I have faith that this was not the author's intent, so perhaps it morphed in editing. But nevertheless, by turning the definition of "maternalism" on its head and following it with a quote of mine that had nothing to do with the actual definition of "maternalism," that's exactly what happened.
However, the premise of the article, that is that "pro-life" women are reclaiming "feminism," is not only absurd, but a bizarre fantasy. It seems Ellen Malcolm and I have joined in sisterhood on this one:
"[Pro-life feminism] is a bit of an oxymoron," says Ellen Malcolm, the IBM heiress who founded Emily's List, a political machine designed to elect pro-choice female lawmakers. "To say that women should be able to make decisions about their own lives, except when it comes to their bodies -- that seems contradictory to me."
Evidently, the site Women on the Web is working to give voice to a new type of feminism:
Reproduction as Political Action
Preferring to call herself "feminine" rather than a "feminist," Giroux explains that she and her peers hope to save the nation by "encouraging women to again have more children." A mother of nine who's also a registered nurse, Giroux feels American women were duped into thinking they could find happiness at the workplace, thereby leading many to choose to stop reproducing after a couple of offspring. WIN's website describes the phenomenon as a "China mentality," and states, "Mothers today carry an enormous burden. We live in a world where it is now a luxury if one is able to stay home full-time with her children. Yet we truly believe that 'the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world'."
... She and her allies, says Giroux, are intent on undoing "the severe damage that has been done to women through contraception and abortion by the pro-abortion feminist movement." And that damage can be repaired through reproduction, an assertion at odds with many "mainstream" feminist activists.
One would hope in the 21st century we could at least agree what feminism is not: "encouraging women to again have more children."
Have six kids if you want, but feminism isn't about somebody else. It's about a woman finding her own expression of how to manifest her own life, which could include the joys of motherhood, but also could be something that has nothing to do with this. Instead, choosing to expand her own individuality through work, study and other accomplishments. Both choices equally valid. It's up to each woman to decide what suits her soul journey best and pursue it, whether it's motherhood or breaking the corporate ceiling.
Feminism at its core is about freedom and civil rights to do what we choose while being rewarded equally for those choices, taking responsibility for them as well. Everything else is about your intent to create.
TM NOTE: Thanks to Women on the Web and Andrew for correcting the article, taking out the portion that I felt was a misrepresentation of my views.