A couple of nights ago, while watching Brad turn my Pill pack over and over in his hands, I commented that what he held in his hand indeed had changed the world. When birth control became legal, a woman was allowed, literally overnight, to decide whether or not she wanted to become pregnant.
The decision about whether or not she wanted to be pregnant would not come for several more years.
Overnight, the sexual power balance shifted. Sexual activity didn't mean the looming spectre that was the likelihood of pregnancy. Women were allowed to decide what happened inside their bodies. We no longer had to beg men to wear condoms, or please abstain, or any of many other methods. Aside from the condom, they were all pretty much backwater methods that worked sporadically, if at all. All of a sudden, control of a woman's body was seized, taken from men.
I sound dramatic, but it's very true. When Aldous Huxley first wrote the Brave New World in the 1920s, one of the first novels which introduced birth control as a concept, he was ridiculed and insulted. He was called a satanist for writing a book where technology became the new religion, which is ironic, because the point of the book was to outline the dehumanizing characteristics of technology.
But I digress.
With this privilege, the privilege of being able to control one's own reproducton, came power. Power to end a marriage that was potentially abusive. Power to pursue a rapist. Power to fight against sex-based discrimination, and to earn the same wage for the same job. The power to decide, truly decide, who we want to love, even if that isn't a man. The power to be who we want to be, even if that's a diesel engine mechanic.
Many people dislike this idea of power, and try to 'protect' us, allegedly for our own good. Politicians try to restrict access to abortion and birth control. Conservative pundits wail about the prevalence of abortion. The common myth is perpetuated that a rape victim was 'asking for it.' Women are reduced to rail-thin big-titted doe-eyed objects in magazines, to be consumed for their appearance instead of their intelligence. Female politicians, like Belinda Stronach, are ridiculed for their sex by politician ex-boyfriends. There is still much work to be done.
I had a discussion lately with the lovely stripesalesman about the nature of feminism. She said that there's a stereotype which circulates around women's studies in University, saying it's a course for braless lesbians or somesuch nonsense. She said that in reality, it's a course devoted to rational thought concerning discrimination.
As such, in honor of national women's day, I ask everyone who reads this to think about discrimination, and keep that thought in the back of your mind. Next time you watch a movie, and the male love interest makes the automatic assumption that his female love interest will quit her life and friends and move across the country because he is doing so, will you see the misogyny? Will you reject the notion that the only valuable outcome for a woman's life is motherhood? Will you understand that the fight for gender equality has nothing to do with the idea that male == female, but rather that a woman deserves to be thought of as a legitimate person, just like a man is?
Brad and I sat on the couch the other night watching The Devil Wears Prada. Sure, it was cute and sometimes kind of out there, but there was a truly great moment in it. Meryl Streep's character made the point that nobody would give a second thought to her character's cold businesslike attitude if she were a man. Brad nodded in assent, next to me, saying "It's true. In the business world, she's a ball-busting bitch."
In the next year I intend to more clearly state my feelings on compulsive pregnancy, on reproductive health, and on the public beating that is motherhood.
Misogyny and sexism has done a good job of making women hate each other. We need to stop, and pay attention. Skinny women and Paris Hilton isn't what's hurting womenhood. It's laws that force women to carry pregnancies they can't afford, zealots who deny women their human rights based on proclamations from a magic sky fairy, and the entire concept that women are a certain way precisely because they're women.