Why My Daughter Still Needs Feminism

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I’ve never been one to shy away from discussing my political views here on my parenting blog. I’m a firm believer, after all, that the personal is political. And frankly, this does concern my family. Because, you guys, I’m scared of the political climate my daughter will grow up in.

The recent sentencing of the Steubenville rapists (or more accurately, the reactions to it) have brought to light for me, more than ever, just how many people still want to contribute to the oppression of women. “Oppression” is too dramatic a term, you say? Women can vote, earn degrees, choose to work. Surely feminism has done its job. I could go on at length about why we still have a long way to go in terms of equality but the area I currently find myself most preoccupied with is sexuality.

One need not look very far into the comments on any article regarding the Steubenville case to find people calling the teenage victim a slut, or much worse. No such words even exist to describe her attackers. That’s because we live in a society where “boys will be boys.” We expect them to be sexually violent and make excuses for it. But girls? Girls are sluts and whores.

Worse than just name-calling, there seems to be this idea that if a girl engages in sexual behaviour, even if it’s non-consensual, that she then deserves any trauma that comes her way, whether it be rape, unwanted pregnancy or STDs. This is why we see such strong opposition to:

  • Birth control access
  • Abortion access
  • HPV vaccines
  • Sex education that goes beyond “abstinence-only”

The reason why is that all of these give women agency to be sexually active, without being “punished” for it. This need to dominate and control women’s bodies has far-reaching consequences. It leads to more children being born into disease in poverty, putting a strain on public resources. (Most of these resources are also politically opposed by those trying to control women because, of course, hand-outs would simply reward their slutty actions, right?) It’s really amazing how many social problems come back to this.

I’m going to extend it to one more, because it’s something I’ve personally been affected by.

In the months following Lu’s birth I found myself having awful nightmares about being raped. I’ve talked about it in therapy and we’ve related it back to my birth trauma. Though I’ve written about it before, there are some details I’ve not shared. Details about ways I felt my body was violated by doctors. For example, I was given an episiotomy without consent. (I’d even expressly written in my birth plan that I did not want one.) There have been physical and emotional consequences that I’m still recovering from.

The over-medicalisation of childbirth is yet another way that women’s bodies are being controlled.

And this is where conservatives roll their eyes and think I’m just another hippie shouting “abortions and homebirths for all!” But in reality, I’m simply advocating for the basic human right that women be allowed to make decisions over what happens to their bodies.

And it is my strong hope that my daughter grow up in a world where this right is a given and not something she has to fight for.

3 thoughts on “Why My Daughter Still Needs Feminism

  1. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when it is suggested that feminism is no longer relevant. In the west, we are discriminated against in our career opportunities, salaries, reproductive rights and our sexuality. In other parts of the world, we are missing 100 million women to infanticide and sex-selective abortion, women do most of the world for the least pay, are denied reproductive rights, are criminalised for abortion or even miscarriage in some places (read about the El Salvadorian women imprisoned for aggravated homicide after miscarriage), and are routinely raped as a weapon of war. Yeah, I’d say feminism is still pretty relevant in this world. I’m pretty happy that my niece is going to grow up instilled with a sense of its importance.

    1. Often the conditions for women in third world countries is used as an argument for why we don’t need feminism still in the West though. Like, “Oh, you think you have it bad because your birth didn’t go as planned? Young girls in Africa routinely have their genitals mutilated.” Or something along those lines. As if we’ve come far enough and should be grateful for what we’ve been given.

      But yes, you’re absolutely right that what goes on elsewhere is horrific. And also underreported in the media!

  2. It’s all part of the same fight against misogyny though. I didn’t mean it as a contrast, but rather to make a point that there we have serious issues to be overcome in the West, and elsewhere the situation is even worse for women, so of course it is relevant. It’s pretty clear that we haven’t come far enough, at all. Just seeing the way the media have sympathised with the perpetrators and not the victim in the Steubenville case, or the fact that a politician can openly claim that women are not as capable as men, and still be our likely next Prime Minister, should tell us that!

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