“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”
“The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off”
Feminism is not a dirty word. Within four syllables, this loaded f-bomb encompasses the defiant, unrelenting and radical action of individuals fed up with our sexist, patriarchal society. The beginning of feminist organizing dates back to 1848 when a woman did not legally exist once she was married…though when unmarried she was essentially nonexistent and a social leper. Over the past half-century, one of the most significant American institutions has exercised their influence over the gender equity agenda. Hocus pocus, SCOTUS to the rescue. In the United States, the Supreme Court has played an important role in shaping the landscape for women’s equality over the last half century. By issuing rulings on cases involving reproductive rights, sexual harassment and marriage equality, SCOTUS is inextricably linked to the work of grassroots activists and feminist icons everywhere.
“If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” – Florynce Kennedy, Gloria Steinem’s lawyer
Sarah Weddington was 27 when she argued and triumphed in Roe v. Wade. While this iconic SCOTUS ruling marked a tangible progression for the feminist movement, it was not without backlash from prominent groups, mainly Republican and religious. Many anti-choice activists fight blindly for their cause without fully understanding the opposition—‘pro-choice’ is not synonymous with ‘pro-abortion’. I have yet to meet a pro-choicer who likes the idea of abortion, or enjoys the bloody posters shoved in their face as they escort women into clinics. As Weddington articulated in 1973, “We are not asking this court to decide that abortion is good, or that everyone should have one. We are asking this court to decide that that issue is one for the individual to decide, not the government.”
All of the key players in the movement flexed their feminist guns during that time; one “glorified dirty old man” in particular. Hugh Hefner, the Playboy mogul funded court cases to challenge laws that hindered his vision of healthy sexuality, including Roe and the legalization of birth control—both crucial to feminists. Hef prides himself on being “a feminist before there was such a thing as feminism” and even tried to date Gloria Steinem before she became feminist royalty. This failed miserably, in fact she turned out to be “the Playboy Bunny Hugh Hefner wished he never hired” when the disguised journalist entered the floppy eared world to reveal just how out of sync Hugh was with the female-empowerment agenda. The 70s were a time of sexual liberation, promoted by progressive legislative change.
# OF BILLS REGULATING WOMEN’S BODIES IN 2013 ALONE: 624
# OF BILLS REGULATING MEN’S BODIES SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME: 0
Roe stands on shaky ground these days; finicky state bills are being proposed that could effectively close all existing clinics. Texas was first; luckily, some epic women (Wendy Davis, Cecile Richards) have been working tirelessly to do everything in their power to protect women’s reproductive rights. Two weeks ago, with the country focused on #StandWithTxWomen rallies and the upcoming holiday weekend, the NC Assembly introduced and immediately passed the “Family, Faith, and Freedom Protection Act”. This single bill compiles every anti-abortion law that has ever been drafted in one slick move, closing all but one clinic within the state limits. The backlash was incredible; thousands of concerned North Carolinians raised their voices and their picket signs against the sneak attack on the female body. Wisconsin & Ohio have followed suit with similarly ridiculous attempts at ‘personhood’ legislation and closing these spaces that provide life-saving care. I’m sick of seeing old white men sit in the power seat determining these new policies. The tragic news last Saturday that Texas finalized the anti-choice bill will force many women into flea markets for dangerous, under-the-table pills to terminate their pregnancies.
Women don’t get pregnant for the sake of having an abortion. Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed; they have always and will always be done. However, legalizing the infrastructure, education, services and preventative care that empowers women to determine their own reproductive future will decrease the number of unwanted pregnancies. Today, the gender war still rages on and looks to undo the work of the many waves of feminists before us. As always, the actions of the government and the courts—led by their Supreme—continue to dictate women’s experiences with their bodies and the world. While court rulings have mandated nationwide recognition of some feminist principles, SCOTUS must lead the charge against our patriarchal society as a whole. The legacies of Sarah, Gloria, Wendy, Cecile and all feminist superheroes live on through this next generation of activists. We are primed and ready with compelling signage, a social media army and a ‘sick of this shit’ attitude that promises to make waves and break down barriers. Stop tampering with the women; it’s time to change the system.
“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.” – Gloria Steinem