In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

On Modern Feminism in Late 2019

I’m sure most of us here are onboard with the idea that women are people, deserving of rights.

My own background is in reproductive healthcare, so I can see how women’s health and women’s rights go hand in hand like Michelle and Barack. But even if I didn’t have a degree in healthcare (and student debt to prove it), you don’t need to be a stable genius to see the link between human health and human rights. In a world with 195 nation-states, not a single nation that fares poorly in women’s rights have ever fared well in women’s health.

In fact, a lack of women’s rights is the most reliable predictor of failures in societal wellbeing. For instance, I doubt anyone is surprised to know that Indiana, one of the worst states in America for women’s equal pay, also has one of the highest rates of maternal death and infant mortality in 2019. I doubt anyone is shocked that Indiana experienced one of the worst outbreaks of HIV in the past decade under then-Governor Mike Pence, a misogynist who brags of denying opportunities to female staff for religious reasons.

But let’s think beyond Midwest enclaves like Indiana, beyond the immorality of thugs like Pence. Let’s think of the reluctant social justice warriors like Kathleen O’Donnell. She served in the National Guard and then tried living with her wife in Montana, only to be told by her landlord, “Oh, I don’t rent to your kind here”. Then she was terminated from her job at a car company for being gay. If that sounds familiar, it’s because her case is now before the Trump Supreme Court, which will decide if firing LGBT employees is constitutional.

I’m sure Kathleen will get a completely fair hearing – just like Marie Gallagher, whose school in New York completely ignored her sexual assault on campus. Not even her family knew, until last year a news crew filmed her confronting Senator Jeff Flake over his vote for Predator Kavanaugh. You may remember she said to his face, “I was sexually assaulted, and nobody believed me. I didn’t tell anyone, and you’re telling all women that they should just stay quiet, because if they tell you what happened to them you are going to ignore them.”

That, of course, is what the male Senator did. Fun fact: As of 2018, one-third of men on the Supreme Court are now alleged sex criminals.

Ultimately, the impact of state-sanctioned violence extends beyond American women. This summer, Yazmin Juarez testified before Congress about how the Trump administration detained her 1-year-old daughter and left her to die from an infection she contracted in her lungs. As Yazmin recounted to Congress, “Vinimos a Estados Unidos – we came to America, where I hoped to build a better, safer life for my daughter… Unfortunately, I watched my baby girl die, slowly and painfully.”

Look, these women I’ve mentioned have never met. They have nothing in common, except for the human desire to build a better future. In fact, I imagine none of them expected to face the assaults on their dignity that they’ve endured since the aftermath of 2016. Whether it was the Department of Education repealing Obama-era protections for campus rape survivors, or Predator Trump authorising businesses to deny birth control to women, I think all of us expected more from a society that styles itself as a beacon for human rights and justice.

Now these women and their allies find themselves with targets on their backs, not for what they’ve done but for what they’re not. They’re not straight, white males. They don’t have Confederate statues erected in their honour. They don’t have dirt to offer on the President’s opponents. In the American government’s eyes in 2019, they’re nothing. In the words of the President, “These aren’t people. These are animals.

That’s the bad news for women. The good news is that these women have allies. Those allies are each other.

They might not know each other. Yet the movements that inspire them recognise the intersectionality between their struggles. I remember in the mid-2010s as Title IX activists across America pushed the Obama administration to hold over 500 universities accountable for their coverups and mishandling of campus rape. You and I watched as that energy evolved into the #MeToo movement, holding powerful men accountable for crimes they perpetrated against women for decades. Today we watch as women candidates prepare to fight their way into future elected office, in 2020.

Our strength as activists arises from the knowledge that our struggle is shared. We know we cannot speak of injustice against one marginalised group without speaking of how it threatens the wellbeing of others. As reproductive rights activists in 2019, for instance, we know the right to birth control is meaningless if someone can’t earn enough to afford birth control, or if she’s fearful of violence from a partner who opposes birth control, or if her boss threatens to fire her for accessing birth control.

Everyone knows a woman who lacks workplace protections is less able to close the pay gap with her male colleagues, or to alleviate her student debt, or to leave an abusive partner. We know that women of colour face greater burdens around economic and reproductive health than white women. And we know that when poor, marginalised girls are ensnared in emergencies like hurricanes and homelessness, they face the most disproportionate disruptions to everything from their contraceptive access to their safety from sexual assault.

Sometimes local friends ask what the feminist groups with which I pal around do in the community. What we do is hardly ground-breaking. We unite allies. We educate colleagues on issues. Some weeks our meetings are simply a bunch of us in the sitting room of a retired grandmother, one who remembers the days before Roe v. Wade or Griswold v. Connecticut, as we strategize over effective ways to make one’s voice heard. Above all, we seek to discover who else is willing to fight alongside us.

The things that make the most difference don’t require millions of supporters wearing red hats or waving tiki torches. They simply require those of us who stand with women to be more dedicated than those who want women to suffer. An administration that traffics in exclusion and appoints predators will inevitably falter before a feminist movement which rethinks itself constantly to include those whose backgrounds might be different but whose objectives are the same: To bring equity and opportunity to all.