Jesse Kornbluth asks why, with women’s rights under attack in America and around the world, we should argue about who gets to be in the club against these abuses.
This article is a response to “Why Being a Good Man is Not a Feminist Issue” by Tom Matlack.
There’s a summer flu going around, and I’ve got it. Lightly fevered, the world looks different. On Madison Avenue, the people who are healthy seem a little clueless. Inflamed, I’m convinced that I see more than they do.
It was in that condition that I read Tom’s essay. The words had an odd effect — I could not follow the argument. Oh, I think I understood the positions. I got the back-and-forth. What baffled me is how, considering what’s going on around us, anyone really cared about this stuff.
Seriously, is there a more privileged, elite, First World topic than one that has “men” and “feminism” in a single sentence?
Consider all that this conversation requires. Ample food. Decent clothing. Comfortable shelter. A computer. Broadband. Leisure time. In short, enough money and all it buys so you can participate in a conversation that has nothing to do with your short-tem survival.
Most of the world cannot afford this conversation. Most of the world is poor and hungry and isn’t worried at all about the issues that we care about. We know this, of course, as a conversational matter, as a statement of fact, but that’s an inch deep.
What we especially don’t see about poor societies is that they are all organized around pretty much the same idea. The men call the tune. Whatever rights women have are rights that men have granted — and can withdraw at whim. What justification do men have for subjugating women? Over and over, the same answer: God’s will.
As poor societies prosper or when their young people rebel, what happens to patriarchy? It gets stricter. No one likes to give up power, especially men empowered by God. So they double down. Crazy but true: In cities with electricity and plumbing, women can be made to live in the 14th century.
And now we see the rise of patriarchy in our own country. More and more American women are getting an education and getting decent jobs; threatened by a changing world and a shitty economy, more and more religious, low-tech men are asserting power “in the name of God.” Their goal: women, barefoot and pregnant. And, above all, submissive.
When it comes to the status of women, what’s the difference between the Taliban and hard-core Christian Evangelicals?
Here’s a scenario I find worth discussing. Mitt Romney has pretty much signaled that, as President, he’ll have no legislative agenda. Congress — he anticipates, a Republican-controlled Congress — will pass legislation, and then he’ll sign it.
What kind of legislation?
Well, just this week, Rand Paul attached an amendment to the National Flood Insurance Program that would give legal protection to fetuses from the moment of fertilization. It’s not going to happen, but if Romney wins and controls the Congress, there’s your headline for Day 2 of the Romney administration. Kiss choice goodbye.
And Rand Paul is just one brick in the wall. In Louisiana, textbooks that teach “young earth creationism, global warming denial, history that is not factual, and bigotry toward Catholicism, Mormonism, other Protestants, and non-Christian religions” will be on the desks of approximately 380,000 students in 2013-2014. You may be assured that these texts do not challenge the concept of men as lord over the dominion of women and children.
Scary stuff, and there’s much more of it. And I know this may look off-topic given the discussion at hand, but I have to think that women’s absolute right to control their bodies is a bit more crucial than whether men can be feminists, or whatever destination Tom’s original point landed at. I have to think a global effort by threatened, reactionary men to maintain their power by controlling — in essence: enslaving — women is worthy of a global effort by all women and some good men to push them back. And I have to think, in the face of that threat to women, a high-minded, deeply felt conversation taking place about whatever First World hot button Tom pressed is about the most useless, counterproductive exercise I can imagine.