I’ve been thinking a lot about feminism these days.
I’m not a women’s studies specialist: I’m a fifty-year old woman, married, with a seven-year-old son, a graduate student in English of unfortunately long standing (must… finish… dissertation…), newly menopausal, and all sorts of other descriptors. I’m also a Teaching Assistant for university-level English courses ranging from first to third year. Occasionally, the question will come up in our discussion sections: who in this room describes her- or himself as a feminist?
Often, mine is the only hand that’s raised. When pressed, my students will grudgingly admit that they’re all for equality and all that, but they’re not *that* kind of feminist, and we’re already equal and everything, right? We don’t need to be feminists now!
I’ve been working on a forthcoming book for Inanna, A Force Such as the World Has Never Known, in which women from around the world describe their lived-experience as women, the challenges they face, and the beautifully creative ways they are making change happen. The book is both exciting and heart-breaking, and I want every single one of my students, female and male, to read it and have their complacency ripped away. I want to answer my students’ apathy with a shouted “How dare you?”
There are many different kinds of feminists, and yes, there’s a lot of fighting between different schools of thought. But the enemy is not the radfem or the libfem, the second-wave or third-wave feminist. The enemy is complacency. The enemy is the idea that our mothers and grandmothers have already done it all for us so why should we need to? The enemy is us, thinking that being comfortable is the same as freeing ourselves from sex-based oppression.
Yesterday, Dr Henry Morgentaler died. Today, I read an article in the Toronto Star about a woman named Beatriz, in El Salvador, whose kidneys are failing and who has lupus, whose fetus is anencephalic and cannot survive, who is still being denied a potentially life-saving abortion*.
Feminism is not yesterday’s news.
*UPDATE. The Salvadorean government has now given permission for doctors to perform a premature delivery via caesarean section.
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