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Porn and My Sex Education

By Juanita Rodriguez 

When I first had sex with my boyfriend I was scared.

I wasn’t worried about how to do sex. But I was afraid of this thing that was going to come inside me.

I remember thinking it looked like a snake and I had visions of it biting me or something. Long story short, I was scared of the sex act. Read the rest of this entry

What Created Patriarchy? Many Possibilities

gender-equalityMost people think that the world has always been patriarchal.

Nope.

Women’s past status and power are evidenced by a variety of things. Read the rest of this entry

Men Guarding My Purity

Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006

Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006

By Lupe Martinez

Why do some men want to control women’s “purity”?

I was reading about Tara Conner, Miss USA 2006, who was almost stripped of her crown due to:

substance abuse, failing to make Miss USA promotional appearances, chafing at other obligations and nonstop nightclubbing at Big Apple hot spots.

Being dismissed for substance abuse and failing to make obligations, I get. But nonstop nightclubbing? What’s the problem?

Donald Trump, the pageant’s co-owner, eventually came to her rescue, granting her a second chance. Read the rest of this entry

When Gods Were Mothers 

Gaia, mother earth goddess

Gaia, mother earth goddess

There was a time when motherhood was so sacred that deity was The Goddess.

Even after patriarchy arose, complete with gods defeating goddesses, motherhood remained so valued that male gods sometimes became mothers.

Womb envy? Read the rest of this entry

Have Abortion Rights Led to a World of Missing Women?

A woman’s right to safe, legal abortion has created a world of missing women, according to the most recent anti-choice talking points.

A new book by Mara Hvistendahl, Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls and the Consequences of a World Full of Men reports that in the natural scheme of things, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. But those numbers are skewed in many countries: In India 112 boys are born per 100 girls, in China 121, in Azerbaijan 115, in Georgia 118 and in Armenia 120.

Hvistendahl does not blame the right to chose. But others do. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat and Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard (writing a book review for the Wall Street Journal) look at this study and blame abortion rights. Feminists cannot be consistent advocating the right to choose while criticizing sex-selective abortion at the same time, they say. In their view, abortion must be restricted in order to save the world’s girls and women and regain the natural sex ratio.

But the right to choose is not the problem. The core culprit lies in valuing male children over female. When girls are esteemed as much as boys, parents will no longer seek to have sons and not daughters.

Douthat wrongly claims that patriarchy isn’t the core problem. He sees women’s empowerment as leading to more sex selection, not less, with many women using their increased autonomy to choose sons. Somehow he fails to see that patriarchy lies behind the phenomenon. Strange, since his next sentence admits that sex selection occurs “because male offspring bring higher social status.”

Unfortunately, patriarchy becomes embedded in women’s and men’s minds alike. If males are more valued in a society, women unconsciously pick that up at a young age. Or they may ask their parents, who are likely to reinforce the status quo. Is it any surprise, then, that so many women choose sons over daughters, hoping to increase their own worth?

Meanwhile, the proposed remedy of abortion restriction would only devalue women further.

Another recent New York Times article introduces us to Danielle Deaver of Nebraska, a state which restricts abortion after 20 weeks. She was devastated when her water broke at 22 weeks, leaving her fetus little chance of survival. She risked serious infection without induced labor, but that wasn’t allowed under the new law. She had to wait another 10 stressful days until she went into natural labor. The baby only survived 15 minutes, while Deaver developed an infection. Angered, she said, “This should have been a private decision, made between me, my husband and my doctor.”

Last year, there was another even more horrifying instance of how restrictive, moralistic abortion policies impact women’s lives. In this case, a Polish woman named Edyta died because doctors felt that treating her colon condition could lead to miscarriage or force an abortion. As writer Brittany Shoot explained,

Poland is one of several countries (along with Italy, Hungary and Croatia) in which doctors, not unlike pharmacists in the U.S., can refuse to treat someone on moral grounds.

Do these restrictions really value women? Or do we become disposable nothings whose bodies, hearts and minds don’t really matter?

Despite what Douthat and Last say, feminists are consistent in being pro-choice while criticizing sex-selective abortion. We must get at the root of the world’s missing women–the devaluation of women–and not try to remedy it with a “cure” that exacerbates the core problem.

I originally wrote this piece for the Ms. Magazine Blog. It appeared June 29, 2011

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Early Islam’s Feminist Air

The founders of three great religions, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed (in order of appearance) were remarkably feminist in their leanings. In the month of Ramadan I would like to explore the feminist air of early Islam.

For centuries Muslim women enjoyed greater rights than most women in the world. The Koran gives women the right to work and to own property. Mohammed abolished female infanticide, slavery, and a widow’s obligation to marry her husband’s brother. Indeed, women were given the right to give their consent to marry.

Some things that look sexist today were a great step forward at the time. Women could become heir to one third of what a male inherited. (Since men’s role was to support women they were given extra help.) Muslim women were able to inherit much sooner than their Western sisters.

Islamic men are also allowed to marry up to four wives, and each wife must be treated equally. Doesn’t sound too heavenly to our ears, but this was progress from a time when men could marry as many women as they wanted.

Even the most problematic scripture in the Koran was an improvement. Chapter 4 verse 34 reads, “As for those women whose rebellion you justly fear, admonish them first; then leave their beds; then beat them.” This scripture actually gave women some protection against abuse in that men were cautioned against battering as the first response.

Some Islamic feminists note that there are other definitions for the word “daraba,” than “to beat,” one of which is “to go away.” Something to think about.

With early feminist beginnings it is not surprising that one of the largest, most egalitarian and peaceful societies is West Sumatra, Indonesia.

Yet over time the religion has become increasingly patriarchal in most corners of the world.

In what is claimed “countering Westernization,” Islamic states have kept busy restricting women’s rights, sometimes going against the Koran, as when the Taliban took away women’s right to work, or when the right to consent to marriage is ignored.

As one Islamic feminist put it, “Islam needs to go back to its progressive 7th century roots if it is to move forward into the 21st century.”

Sources:

Asra Q. Nomani. “A Gender Jihad for Islam’s Future.” The Washington Post. November 6, 2005

Neil MacFarquhar. “Translation of Koran Verse Spurs Debate.” San Jose Mercury News. March 25, 2007. (Originally published in the New York Times.)

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