The Politics of Womanhood

14 03 2012

We women like to think of ourselves as these amazingly strong beings, and we are, but the past couple months have also served as reality checks to how much further we still have to go in terms of conveying that strength and power within us to others, and sometimes to women as well. In light of the fact that it’s Women’s History Month, I felt it was important to look at the past couple months that have shed light (at least for me) on where women really stand in 2012.

Let’s start with the Susan G. Komen fiasco. This was an organization very dear to my heart even though I’ve never walked with the group. I have, however, donated to them for a few years and recently cheered on one of my besties as she participated in the 3-day walk last year. And it’s been something that my grandmother has talked about for a while, as a survivor of breast cancer herself. My friend’s mom is also a survivor. So when you have people in your life who have managed to look at that ugly thing called breast cancer and beat it – you have a certain appreciation for organizations that are looking for cures and ways to help other survivors.

I say all that, because you have to understand how much breast cancer awareness means to me to then understand why it was so disheartening to see the stance they took on Planned Parenthood. Now, I get that I tend to lean very liberal when it comes to many socio-political ideals in America, but I honestly never saw Planned Parenthood as controversial until recently. Naive? Probably. But I soon learned that many people did and still do. For me, having a place where women (young and old) can go to get nonjudgmental health guidance for their bodies was and will always be a good thing. It never crossed my mind that an organization created to help women would try to take the stance they did against another organization created to help women.

But I’m also of the belief that the government doesn’t have the right to tell a woman what to do with her body, which is also apparently very controversial thinking. Virginia and Mississippi would certainly disagree. For those unaware, Mississippi wanted to pass legislation that would have declared life at conception, possibly making even birth control pills illegal in the state.* And Virginia wanted women to endure transvaginal ultrasounds before having an abortion. This was only slightly amended to an external vaginal ultrasound right before passing the VA House of Delegates.

Seriously – are we requiring that all men use Viagra, or better yet that they have to get the test where a needle goes up their penis before having sex?

No, of course not. That sounds ridiculous, right? Plus, that’s a man’s body – and the only thing men are more concerned about than their own bodies are that of a woman’s. We shouldn’t think this is anything new though. Women have been fighting for the right to care for themselves for thousands of years now. And men, who couldn’t possibly ever begin to know what it’s like to be a woman, have been trying just as long to control it.

Lest we forget one of the commandments in Leviticus that states that a woman was unclean while on her period and a man would be unclean if he slept (not had sex with – just slept) with her during this time. And so just like then, men are trying to make laws about things they know nothing about. Just a few weeks ago – we had Congress convene a panel to discuss women’s health and no women were in sight. Because you know, that makes so much sense.

But it’s all about politics. It’s convenient to go after women’s bodies because the truth is while we may run the world (girls!), there’s still so much left to do when it comes to truly having power. Oh we’ve tried for sure, in so many misguided and some successful ways. We’ve had women’s liberation, feminism, the sexual revolution, etc… but we’re still on the outside looking at men decide things about our bodies.

I hope that changes one day, but my suspicion is that we’ve got a long way to go.

* Surprisingly, Mississippi actually defeated the proposed amendment.

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