Women's (and Men's) Issues

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Women's (and Men's) Issues

This week in the news: everyone has an opinion about Rush Limbaugh versus Sandra Fluke. Yes, it is 2012 and most people in the world are male chauvinist pigs. Almost all men and also a significant portion of women believe than women are lesser people than men in some way.  All women at some point in their life have suffered discrimination because of their sex. Most of the time this is either highly severe (rape, spousal abuse, etc) or moderately severe (unequal pay, unequal education, etc). Strictly speaking, this is hardly news, but it is outrageous enough to make a fuss over anyways.

Outrageous that, in this information age, most men are still ignorant about “women's health issues,”otherwise known as “basic sex education.” And why are male chauvinists so opposed to sex education, abortion, and women's easy access to the pill? Because if they take these away, men lose very little, but women are trapped again, the way chauvinists want them.

A teenage boy who has sex in ignorance may possibly catch an STD. A teenage girl who does the same will almost certainly get pregnant. Her boyfriend can deny he is the father and it will take a lot of effort from that girl to nail down child support or access to an abortion. She can't escape the health risks of a pregnancy, or an abortion. A woman with no knowledge or access to contraception is likely trapped into early marriage and child-rearing. Something that should be a choice of love becomes only a harsh responsibility.  For centuries, women were kept in ignorance about sex and for centuries they were controlled by men. Chauvinists are just smart enough to see the connection.

But women's equal rights are not just for straight women.

Much of the motivation behind homophobia and racism also stems from male chauvinism. Consider the mindset of someone who regards women as property and also hates black people: they would think black women are objects for raping and black men should be beaten up if they try to stop you or try to “steal” any of your white women property.

For the male chauvinist, a lesbian is defined as someone who rejects being the property of any man.  They see lesbians as usurping a “man's place” in the workplace and the bedroom. A chauvinist also partly defines his masculinity in terms of how he owns or controls women.  A gay man rejects this version of masculinity. So homophobia naturally goes hand-in-hand with macho cultures and subcultures. If racial minorities and gay men want equality, they are  going to have to realize that feminism is their cause too.

There is also the question of religion. Christianity (along with many other religions) requires that men quit fighting, arguing, cussing, drinking, screwing around, or becoming too career oriented. Basically, they must give up any of the riotous or negative kind of macho behaviour that is associated with “proving your manhood." Now, according to the Bible, men are supposed to instead go out and prove their manhood by establishing peace on earth and goodwill toward men. (Actually trying to achieve that goal really does separate the men from the babes.)

Unfortunately, most Christian men decide that this is unrealistic and impossible and feel emasculated.  So some instead proposed the false doctrine erroneously called “family values.” The Family Values Doctrine says that Christian men should prove their masculinity by conforming to a set chauvinist gender role. They should marry, have kids, and then protect their family. However, since they aren't supposed to get into physical fights (“for we wrestle not against flesh and blood”), they can only fight “spiritual” attacks on their family. Looking for spiritual fights to prove their manhood, they target anything that rejects their Family Values Doctrine gender role. Why do Christian men say feminists and homosexuals are destroying marriage and the family? Because that gives them an excuse to prove their manhood by expressing anger and calling these people names (which is the next best thing to cussing, but also a sin, btw). Feminist Christians are not told that they are ruining men's machismo, but that they are ruining men's “spiritual role” and so are going against God himself. As a result the church is crippled. Women are prevented from contributing fully and gay people are kicked out.

This is why, though I am a butch lesbian, I refuse express my masculine identity only in how I treat another woman. A bit of mild chauvinism toward feminine women might be an easy way to prove my butch-ness, but at what cost? Am I really free to support racism, homophobia, and the destruction and subversion of my faith? But it sometimes seems like winning the fight for equal rights for women is an impossibly huge task, so what are my small efforts worth?

They are worth this: I am fighting for peace on earth, therefore I am proving my masculinity.