“The characters in Sex and the City were all scrambling for a man-I don’t call that a good message for women. Couldn’t just one of them say Look, I prefer to masturbate than go out with another one of these jerks?”
“Many women feel that porn is degrading. Some feminists would argue that porn is a direct threat to the status of women in the culture. If we want to understand why some women hate porn, we need to understand that the majority of porn depicts the male model of sexual response. Taken as a whole, the sex acts depicted are the sex acts that bring men to orgasm, not women. Only about 20 percent of women achieve orgasm from vaginal penetration alone. The majority of women need direct clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm.”
I started having sex when I was about 17. I realize now that 17 is neither too old nor too young, but pretty normal. However, at the time the main messages I received from my parents, my school, and the media were saying, “Good girls don’t have sex. If you’re having sex, you’re bad, and bad things are going to happen to you. Furthermore, you will be in no position to protest because you will have done it to yourself.” That was only 13 years ago in the deep south, and based on the behavior we saw in the Texas state senate last night, I know things haven’t changed very much since then.
As a sexually active teen, I was smart enough to take precautions, but I knew that if I got pregnant or got an STD, I would have no one to turn to. Sure, my parents said I could tell them stuff, but could I really? Not without a whole lot of fear and shame. I didn’t want to be told that I was ruining my future or worse, disrespecting myself. I heard more than enough times that having sex was somehow degrading to me, which is complete bullshit because I was acting on my own desires and no one else’s. Still, I knew I couldn’t be honest with my parents, teachers, doctors and certainly not any of the priests at my Catholic school. Instead, I carried condoms with me, confided in my girlfriends, and made a point of knowing where I could get an abortion should I ever need one. I kept a $500 cushion in my bank account at all times because I heard that’s what an abortion would cost. There was no Planned Parenthood in my town, either, so I was prepared to drive several hours to the nearest clinic I could find on Google, which was in Texas. Later, when I moved to Texas to go to college, I made it my business to know where the nearest women’s health clinics were and their prices.
Aside from getting birth control pills and treating a couple UTIs, I never had to use those services, but I felt safer knowing where they were and that I could take care of myself. If my boyfriend left me, my parents disowned me, and I was pregnant with a baby I couldn’t take care of, I knew exactly where I could go and what I could do. Even now, happily married, I know that I could take care of a baby if I became pregnant, but should I need an abortion, I know where to go. That’s a pretty powerful thing, and young women need it. Young women need to know that they are in control of their own bodies. They need to know that they have the right to decide to become a mother or not.
What the Texas state senate showed the women of Texas and those watching from all over the world last night was that we still have to fight for sovereignty in our own bodies. We have to stand up for 13 hours explaining the issue to a bunch of men who don’t want to hear it. We have to scream from the gallery even if we might get arrested. And we have to stand up for one another. This is not a women-against-men issue, for the record. I am grateful to the male and female colleagues who stood by Wendy Davis to the end last night, but the sad truth is that the power over women’s bodies is still largely in the hands of rich, old, white men who cannot accept that women are human beings with a right to self-determination.
I hope we all remember Wendy Davis and her filibuster the next time a bill like this comes up, and it will, probably soon. We have come a long way, but we are not there yet when you can say a discussion of legally mandated pre-abortion sonograms is not germane to a discussion about abortion. When the movements of female senators can be blatantly ignored by the president of a mostly male senate, all is not right with the world. When the senate takes a vote after midnight and half the members aren’t even sure what they’re voting on but they vote anyway in hopes of forcing through legislation that the people don’t want, we’ve got serious work to do.
Yes, we all want to reduce the number of abortions taking place, but if you try to do it by making abortions illegal, it only results in more risky behavior. I know for my own part, 17-year-old me would have driven further than Texas. I would have sought other means of terminating any unplanned pregnancy. I very well could have made some dangerous choices, but I didn’t have to. I don’t want other women to face those choices.
If you want to reduce the number of abortions, educate kids about sex and their rights. Here is what you tell them:
- You own your body, and you are solely responsible for yourself. No one has the right to force, coerce or expect you to have sex when you don’t want to. You do not have the right to force, coerce, or expect sex from anyone else.
- Go masturbate. It’s not wrong. It feels good. You can’t get pregnant doing it. Furthermore, you’ll have better sex later in life if you learn to get yourself off now.
- Birth control is a many splendored thing. There are tons of options out there, and when practiced properly, most of them are pretty good. Masturbating with your partner is also lovely alternative to the boring old in-out act.
- Abortion is a safe, legal medical practice. It’s available to you as an option, should you need it.
Thank you, Wendy Davis, for standing up for all of us last night. Thank you Leticia Van de Putte for calling out the sexist bullshit on the senate floor. Thank you Kirk Watson for standing strong with your female colleagues. Thank you Royce West for fighting against the senate president’s abuse of the rules. Thank you to the audience in the gallery for raising enough hell to let the lawmakers know that we are watching them and we won’t let them trample women’s rights. Thank you to everyone on social media who put up a fuss last night and made sure the world took notice.
“Liberty and justice for all” is an extremely lofty goal, but every little victory is worth it. Stay alert. Stay strong. Stay true to your heart. The work’s not done yet.
Do you think of yourself as a feminist, or are you one of those people who say, “I’m not a feminist but …?” Or do you theoretically think you want to be a feminist except that you’re married, religious, a parent, or some other thing that you think makes you not fit the stereotype of a feminist? Do you think women are super amazing but feel like you can’t be a feminist because you’re a guy?
You may already be a lovely feminist in your own right and just not know it, but in case you need a little guidance or clarification, here are my five steps to being an awesome feminist.
Whether you are male or female, the first step to being a feminist is adopting this attitude: People are people, no matter their gender, and despite our differences, everyone deserves basic human rights and respect.
Once you’ve got that bit down, even though we may not agree on all the details, we can iron it out later. Starting from a place of respect for all people is essential, and it’s a massive step in the right direction.
Try really hard to actually apply that belief. Notice the different ways that you view and judge men versus women. Perhaps you expect men to be gainfully employed whereas you might not bat an eye at a woman choosing the “housewife” role. Acknowledge that this is a pretty silly double standard and not a universal moral code or standard.
Ask questions. My favorite question is from Caitlin Moran who, in her book How to Be a Woman says, “Are the guys doing it?” That is, are guys expected to wear makeup to work every day? Do they get up two hours before they have to leave the house to do an elaborate skincare routine? Does anyone care if they have a little flab around the midsection? Do the guys get asked to fetch coffee for the boss? Wherever you see inequality, take note. This is a straightforward way to assess discrimination in any form, whether in relation to race, gender, age, appearance, religious belief, etc.
Change your thoughts and behaviors. You don’t have to participate in a massive protest, sign any petitions, wear slogans on your t-shirt or whatever if that doesn’t suit you. But if you find yourself judging women based on what they weigh and not batting an eye at a heavyset man, you can change that. You can tell yourself, “She deserves happiness and respect every bit as much as he does.”
Speak up. Here’s the thing: Most people seem to think that when you speak up, you have to be a jerk about it, which is what gives feminists and all kinds of activists a bad name. However, that’s incorrect. You can be friendly. You can be funny. You can be loving. I like to give little “friendly neighborhood feminist” reminders to my friends when they get carried away with trash talk, and I don’t have to pick a fight to do it. Sometimes you may find it necessary to be loud and aggressive. I’m not telling you to be polite all the time by a long shot, but there’s also no need to seek out confrontation if you’re new to this! Here are a couple simple things you can say, for example, when people are hating on women:
- “Well, that’s an interesting thing to assume about her …”
- “Man, I’d hate if anyone said that about me/my mom/my sister.”
- “She is working really hard and doing an amazing job, and I don’t think her fashion choices are the most important thing about her at this point in her life.”
- “Would you say that if she were a guy?”
In other words, keep it simple and try to encourage people to think rather than just engaging in conflict.
And that’s it. Well, those are the basics at least. If you just use these five steps in your everyday life without changing anything else, you will be on the road to being a damn fine feminist. As you get more comfortable identifying yourself as a feminist, you may feel moved to sign petitions, attend rallies, donate to feminist nonprofits, or write articles about the issues that are most important to you. Or you might just be a really good parent or coworker. That’s cool too.
I think a handful of Marylanders read my blog, as I do happen to live in the state. I’d like you to know that our legislature is soon to debate a bill to recognize same sex marriage. We’re very close to getting this bill passed, so now is the time to email your legislators about it!
Guys, this is really simple, and it’s really important. Here’s how to follow through:
- Go to MDElect.net and enter your address in the search bar at the top, then hit “enter” or click “find.”
- Check out the menu bar on the left — it should show you a few names of people who represent you in the government.
- Click the names of your state senator and state delegates. This issue is currently in our state legislature, so contacting your national representatives will not be particularly helpful.
- When you click their names, you’ll be taken to their individual profiles, which include their party affiliation and detailed contact information.
- E-mail is the easiest thing in the world to do, so e-mail them your opinion on this issue. If you’re really motivated and amazing, you can also call them.
In case you don’t know what to write, here is the exact e-mail that I wrote to my representatives. You’re welcome to copy it word-for-word if you like, or you can adapt it to reflect your personal feelings on the subject. I recommend that you at least plug in the correct name before hitting send.
Dear ___,I’m writing to you today because I want Maryland to be the next state in the movement to respect equal marriage rights for all Americans. It bothers me that in our national conversation, we’ve resorted to using the clumsy rhetorical shorthand of “legalizing” gay marriage. Love is never illegal. Although it may be intoxicating, it’s not a drug, and it’s certainly not a crime. In times like these, when there is so much suffering, violence, and poverty in the world, we need to honor, celebrate, encourage and welcome love in all its forms.As your constituent, I am asking you to support legislation to recognize same-sex marriage in Maryland when ever you have the opportunity. The right of consenting adults to marry whomever they love is a basic human right, and for a community to refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of such loving relationships is nothing better than petty bullying and group think. We can do better than that.Please support the equality of all Marylanders, all Americans, and indeed all human beings by supporting marriage equality in Maryland.Sincerely,___
In the event that you are reading this and you don’t agree with me, well that’s just a darn shame. But you, too, deserve to have your voice heard, so go ahead and write to your representatives as well. After all, this country belongs to all of us, and the one thing we shouldn’t do is simply hand over all our ideals and let someone else make all our decisions for us. Go ahead and speak up.