Further to my previous rant, I thought I’d rant a little more. Though maybe slightly more coherently (though maybe not). The reason for this is that I got a few Facebook comments from ‘friends’ the last time, making jokes about feminists, jokes about man-hating, and generally chiding comments about being a bit, you know, over the top. Call me a humourless feminist, but I didn’t find it it funny. And this is why…
The thing that underpins my whole feminism is a belief that patriarchy is underpinned by violence against women – it is this violence that allows patriarchy to function and perpetuates the power of patriarchy, though it plays no small part in also propping up capitalism. And I see violence against women everywhere, everyday, when I just want to go about my business quietly, which has made me into someone who is often sad, often angry, but always determined to be vocal about it. I don’t think this makes me some sort of wierd, incoherent social outcast but it does make lots of people – male and female – uncomfortable and unwilling to admit that they see the same things. It’s like Andrea Dworkin said: ‘People are willing to cluck empathetically over the horror of rape as long as they are not made responsible for punishing the rapist’.
Why does this relate to my post about abortion? Well.
When I was working for various Women’s Aid groups and people asked what I did and I explained, the reaction was generally positive. They thought, oh, those poor battered women, what monster could beat someone like that. People could disagree with that sort of violence against women, as long as they can also ignore the nuances within the whole concept of domestic violence, because it’s so visible and visibly disruptive. Get on to rape and things start to change. Hmmm. ‘Stranger rape’ (the Ken Clarke version) is bad, especially if it’s done to sober women who were dressed properly. The sort of rape that is what the vast majority of women who are raped experience – the sort that is perpetrated by a known man, often in the home – doesn’t really exist in mainstream public consciousness. Is it because it so uncomfortably brings it right into our front rooms? Is it because it is thought that in excess of 50,000 women are raped each year in the UK and there can’t be that many psychotic strangers lurking and someone has to be doing it? We don’t want to think about that.
Which brings me on to abortion. For me, denying a woman the right to choose whether or not she carries and gives birth to a child is violence. Just as rape is a violation of someone’s body, their mind, their humanity, so is taking control of someone’s womb. We could spend all night analysing the research about when a foetus begins to feel pain but we, as a thinking, philosophising, feeling society, have set a time limit for abortion which reflects that rational thinking. I don’t see the anti-abortion lobby jetting off to India to tackle the shocking sharp rise in the practice of aborting female foetuses – but maybe this is because all those non-white people are barbarians who don’t know any better? Or maybe it’s understandable because they’re not good Christans either – wierd idol-worshippers? Or maybe it’s because there, like here, girls and women are not valued, are an underclass, are not worth the effort? Whatever, the anti-abortion lobby concentrates its efforts on flyering university campuses – like they do here in Swansea – or insinuating their beliefs into parliamentary policy making. And it makes people who may think that domestic violence is wrong, that rape isn’t justified, think twice about whether women should have the right to an abortion. Take away that right and you violate someone’s body. You take away her autonomy and you deny her humanity – you privilege a formation of cells over the rights of a thinking human and turn her into nothing more than a vessel. You tell her that she doesn’t matter. Denying a woman’s right to an abortion, it seems to me, is a violent culmination of the messages a woman gets everyday about society’s rights to comment on her body, to consume that body as it sees fit, to sexualise, dehumanise and discard her. And that’s why I’ll be protesting in London in July. I wouldn’t care if I had to go by myself because I will not be complicit in pretending that the government’s appointment of Life to the sexual health forum is anything but a sinister, underhand attack on the rights of woment to live free from violence.
Call me a reactive, humourless feminist if you like…
This is a post written by SFN founder Adele. All opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual writers and not necessarily those of the SFN, its committee or its membership.