The Washington Post published an article just Wednesday, anticipating a win for the nation’s gay rights movement. Such headlines are scant for the reproductive rights movement, as states (North Dakota, Kansas, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Dakota, the list goes on) pass laws restricting abortions or preventing easy access to them.
The unity of the marriage equality movement is something to be admired and strived for. I can’t count how many of my friends changed their profile pictures to the symbol for equality this past week, which means a lot—that even the most conservative of people can show their support for their friends. A lot of people can call this act “slacktivism” and start rage wars over it, but I’ll say one thing about it: even if it is the only thing you do to support the gay rights movement, it’s something. Support is necessary; unity is vital. This essential ingredient is exactly what the women’s movement is missing.
Right now the women’s movement is divided on pretty much any issue it encounters. Our greatest attribute is also our downfall in that we are so diverse. We have people from every culture, race, religion, political ideology—we have men, women, and every gender in between. With all these people comes an amazingly diversified—and contradictory—collective voice.
The feminist theory does not exist. There is no common ideology we all prescribe to; and there is no Code of Ethics that tells us what feminists think or what specific goals we’re moving toward. We’re a mess—and there is so much preventing us from cleaning it up.
First of all, we’re so deep-rooted in theory, we can’t come out of it and come together on something that is so very important, like reproductive rights. We spend more time analyzing and criticizing what other feminists are saying and doing than we do actually pushing our movement forward. We fight about everything. There are varying opinions on pornography, prostitution, abortion, birth control–name it, there are probably 50 different perspectives on it. There are even discussions over whether S&M role playing can actually be consensual. We have so many differing theories, it makes it impossible for us to cooperate.
The conservatives that are introducing and voting for these restrictive bills have it together. They are rock solid when it comes to their views on abortion. And they aren’t wasting time making sure the rest of the country falls in line.
The most restrictive abortion ban to date was passed this week in North Dakota. Carrying the same name as the bill Ohio tried to pass last year, the ‘heartbeat bill’ bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected—which can happen as early as six weeks.
Similar bans are being implemented elsewhere. Idaho, Arizona, Nebraska and countless others are banning abortions after twenty weeks. The anti-choice movement is gaining amazing momentum. The women’s movement is struggling to stay in place.
NARAL Pro-Choice America’s Facebook page is the greatest example I can point to that demonstrates our completely chaotic disunity. There are countless comment threads where women and men debate the legitimacy of many states’ abortion bans.
Twenty weeks seemed to a lot of people a reasonable place to put the ban; if a woman doesn’t know by five months whether or not she wants a child, she just has to have it. This view stems from the attitude toward late-term abortions that is fueled by pro-lifers wielding signs with dismembered babies and the general misinformed mindset that one usually encounters in this kind of discourse.
The point that is so often missed is that women don’t just wake up one day, seven months into their pregnancy, and decide they don’t want to be pregnant anymore. The decision is usually made because the mother’s life is in danger or the child will have a serious birth defect, limiting the quality of life.
Any decision made about a woman’s body without her consent or consultation of her doctor is putting her at risk. It all comes down to trust. We need to trust women to make decisions about their own bodies—without that, the fight will continue.
And our fight is transforming into a battle. With conservatives passing anti-choice bills around the country, our only strategy is to play defense. Instead of introducing bills, we’re constantly preoccupied with trying to shut them down.
The feminist movement has a lot of power behind it. It’s fueled by intelligent, vibrant and pissed off individuals, making us a force to be reckoned with. But we’ve lost that drive. In our dissension, we have lost sight of our goal. Until we come together on issues, states will continue to test the boundaries of Roe v. Wade and all of our goals will remain undefined and out of reach.