Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This is what a feminist looks like.

I have the same shirt.  Except mine is obviously much (much) bigger.

I don't really look like a feminist.  Not what you'd expect, anyway.  Not all the time.  First of all, I'm a man.  Also, I'm a big man.  Also, I'm a big man with a shaved head.  Not typical.

Unless you see me with my daughters.  Then, maybe, I look like a feminist.

It wasn't my daughters that made me a feminist, though.  I've considered myself one for a long time.  Maybe part of it is liberal guilt.  If so, I'm okay with that.  It puts me on the side of the proverbial angels, so you should be, too.  But it doesn't take being the father of girls to recognise that women have, historically, and figuratively, be screwed.  Or that they still are, figuratively, screwed.  Or that something ought to be done about it.  Or that *I* can do something about it.  Is that liberal guilt?

It doesn't take being the father of daughters to realise that whatever progress women have made and will make is a) not universal (I'm looking at you in particular, Saudi Arabia, but you are not alone), and b) not safe and c) not certain.  Here, in the west, the right to contraception is still debatable. Here, in the west, the inviolability of a woman's body is still being negotiated.  Here, in Canada, women are not allowed to protect themselves if they are vulnerable because they are a sex worker.  And here, in Canada, we are still trying to figure out not whether or not a woman should have an abortion, but whether or not the option should be available.

Let me deal with the obvious.  If you want to prevent abortions, which you probably should want to do, then the best way is to provide women (and men) with sex education and access to affordable contraception.  And since women will still get abortions even if they're illegal, and you are actually concerned about people, and not about punishing sexually active women, then abortions should be safe, and therefore legal.

And since prostitution is commonly called the world's oldest profession, then it's safe to say that prohibition isn't working, and again, if you want to protect women, rather than punish them, then sex work should be safe, and therefore legal.

But beyond that, no matter what you believe about women, or about sex, or about abortions, if you believe in, as much as is possible, freedom, then you are, and ought to call yourself, a feminist.

Freedom is a small, trashy, flashy and overused word.  I hate to use it, because hateful men like to throw it about.  And they lie about it.  And they use it when they mean something else.But the idea is a good one, when considered, and reasoned.  What I mean by it is self-determination, as much as is reasonable.  And self-determination is what I want for all people.  And for my daughters, in particular.

The world is a harsh and ugly place, full of hateful and ugly people.  A gamed system has ensured we'll compete with each other rather than cooperate (and that's something I will address later, if you're good).  It has made sure that we'll take any advantage we can, and exploit the disadvantages of others.  In the past, sadly, being a woman has been a disadvantage when it came to self-determination.  In many places, it still is.  And here men (and women) are trying to make it so again. 

Life for my girls, for all girls, will be hard enough.

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