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Women’s Rights?

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Have you ever found yourself in the position where you know that your presence is making someone uncomfortable? Unfortunately what happens too often, and for the worst of reasons, is that I make slightly more then half the population uneasy. Why? Simply because of my gender.

Whether walking down a side street in twilight or sitting and sharing a doctor’s office with a single woman, I can sense the other person’s unease. I feel helpless with the knowledge that just by what I am and being there the other person is made to feel nervous. Is this anyway to live?

How have we allowed our world to degenerate to such a state where over half the population has been so subjugated, defiled, and maltreated in general that the natural state between our two genders is at best mistrust descending down into fear? With women still being treated as sort of high maintenance appliance by society, things aren’t likely to change for the better any time soon, either.

Its easy enough to point the finger of blame at the usual suspects: religious fundamentalist of all faiths primarily, but that’s a cop out. As is usually the case when we blame others we’re just as much at fault as those we try and pass the buck to.

There’s the dehumanization of women that occurs in the media. Commercials depict women as bleeding, smelly, and obsessed with vanity. I’m also still trying to figure out the connection between cleavage, cars, and beer. (Is it because the more beer a guy drinks the more deluded he gets about his appearance and ability to attract the opposite sex and the less capable of driving he becomes?)

But objectification can’t exist without a willing audience. If men did not accept this portrayal, if we were not complicit in the continual subjugation of half of our species, it could not occur. You may think that looking at pictures in a calendar or a magazine is harmless, or that telling that blonde joke doesn’t hurt anyone, but it all contributes to a culture of depersonalization. Each time we forget there is a person with a brain and feelings in that body is another time we treat them as less then ourselves.

It is this atmosphere that leads to the preponderance of rape, violence, and abuse. If we create a society where one segment, no matter how large a proportion, is considered something lesser, then that is the way they are treated. From the judiciary to the locker room, the male attitude of condescension is identical. Whether the dirty joke or the rape victim who is made to feel at fault its all the same thing. YOU DON’T MATTER.

Unfortunately there is no easy solution to this problem. With each passing generation there seems to born a new wave of repression. Currently the gangsta’ rap of the ghetto being adopted by everyone as cool has taken it to a new low. The backlash against political correctness fueled by the right wing has taken its toll on advances made in previous decades.

Women are again being divided into two classes. The scantily clad bimbo who is just waiting to fling herself upon the first available guy with money or the good girl who has kept herself for the marriage bed. These are the traditional polar extremes of what is deemed acceptable for women, of course, the whore and virgin. Sound familiar??? (Hint: check out the New Testament.)

Sure, a woman can now go out and work without social stigma attached (lucky to get equal pay for labour still) but that’s only because it’s convenient for the economy. But what about her rights as an individual? Her right to control what happens with her body.

In too many parts of the world, women are still considered no more then chattel to be bought, sold, or disposed of by men at their whim. In the more civilized areas we’ve managed to erode any hard fought for liberties under the guise of morality and righteousness.

What does the new American legislation allowing murder charges for damage to the foetus do to a woman’s right to chose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term? How will it affect Roe V. Wade? The conservative Christian agenda of eliminating abortion as an option is progressing on all other fronts. Is this not the final nail its coffin?

Right now there are three cases in the United States where women have either been forced to have caesarean section surgery or been prosecuted successfully for murder for refusing to have one. The one woman who was forced to have the surgery was dying of cancer and it was felt there was a better chance of prolonging her life without the surgery. The hospital got a court order forcing her to have the procedure. She died. One of the other two women is currently serving an eight year term for manslaughter in California, and the other is up on murder charges in Utah.

Thankfully there have been some improvements in that area. The family of the woman who died took suit against the hospital and won. The court’s ruling was that no woman could be forced into a caesarean section. This took place in back in 1987, and whether or not this ruling will withstand the tide rising against women is still to be seen. With the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, I don’t see much hope.

The voices of women are being silenced and nobody is speaking up in their defense. While reams of paper are covered in detailing the oppression of women under the Taliban and other regimes, not a word is spent on the gradual erosion of their rights in the West. Where is the world’s press on this story? Why is no one screaming outrage when a woman in Washington is condemned to death by the courts when they are all able to find the energy to protest the stoning death of a woman in Nigeria?

Every time that a woman is prevented from exercising her choice over what happens to her body during a pregnancy, we take another step backward on the road toward equal rights. Every time a woman is forced to make a decision that endangers her life because it may or may not save the life of a foetus, we as a society are condoning murder. Every time we force any person to have surgery against her will we are becoming a totalitarian state, refusing to recognise the rights of individuals. Will hospitals be able to procure court orders over the wishes of patients because it suits the moral temperature of the times?

Canadians need not be smug. We still live in a country where there is no abortion law. Women are still restricted in their access to the procedure in some provinces. Just last month we stood only a hair’s breadth away from an election that could have seen a socially conservative party elected to lead our government. They have made no secret of their intentions to scrap day care funding, impose restrictive abortion laws, and implement other regressive social policies.

I know that a lot of people genuinely believe that abortion is wrong and will take offense at my comments. I’m sorry about that, and I don’t mean to belittle your beliefs, but one group’s belief system can not govern the way our society works. You may not like it, but we are a secular nation.

If you have any interest in making the lives of 51% of the world’s inhabitants more comfortable, then maybe it’s time to look at your own actions and think about what you can do to improve their lot. Even simple things like crossing the street at night, so you’re not walking behind a woman on her own makes a difference.

Don’t laugh at the blonde jokes, and don’t participate in the drooling contests. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just walk away. What’s the worse thing that can happen? The “guys” won’t like you? Tell me honestly, if you don’t like what they’re doing why do you care if they like you?

This world can be a bad enough place as it is without us alienating and making life harder for half of our species. Try to remember there’s a person behind the image, and act accordingly.

I have tried to supply links to the stories of the women who are facing manslaughter charges for refusing caesarean sections. Unfortunately most were so dated that they no longer work. The two below are for the one about the woman dying after a c-section and one of the women facing manslaughter charges. The second link takes you to a women’s forum, where about halfway down the page you’ll find a reproduced newspaper article on the manslaughter case.

Woman Faces Manslaughter charges for refusing C-section

Mother dies after C-section

Edited: bhw

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About Richard Marcus

Richard Marcus is the author of two books commissioned by Ulysses Press, "What Will Happen In Eragon IV?" (2009) and "The Unofficial Heroes Of Olympus Companion". Aside from Blogcritics his work has appeared around the world in publications like the German edition of Rolling Stone Magazine and the multilingual web site Qantara.de. He has been writing for Blogcritics.org since 2005 and has published around 1900 articles at the site.
  • http://xraystyle.blogspot.com Bryan McKay

    Very interesting and thought-provoking piece – I certainly think the points you make here are valid, and your sentiments feel sincere. I did, however, find your opening paragraphs curious. Do you honestly feel as if you make women uncomfortable simply by being a male in their presence? Just being alone in the room with a male, especially in the sterile atmosphere of a doctor’s office, shouldn’t make most women uncomfortable. What exactly is it that makes you feel this way? I can understand where certain situations might create this sort of tension, but I don’t know any women who feel like this under such harmless conditions.

  • http://www.pippensqueak.blogspot.com gypsyman

    I just go by what I see. There have been too many times in waiting rooms where woman have seemed uncomfortable with my presence. I don’t think of myself as very threatening in appearance.

    I’m quite skinny, but I do have long hair and may be considered scruffy looking, and have a couple of tatoos on my lower arms, usually covered though.

    But whatever the reason, some woman do get nervous when there alone with me.

  • http://victorplenty.blogspot.com Victor Plenty

    Take up knitting, or needlepoint. Always carry one of your projects with you. If you find yourself alone in a waiting room with a woman who seems nervous about you, take out your needlepoint and start calmly working on it. That should alleviate any fears she may have about you.

    Well, that’s my theory, anyway. Maybe some of the women who visit here will confirm or deny the truth of it.

    On a more serious note, thanks for taking on these issues that deeply affect the quality of life for both women and men. I too often pick up the sense that women who don’t know me are fearful of me, solely because I’m male.

    In reality I’ve never harmed anyone, and probably never will.

  • http://notanotherword.blogspot.com Jones Violet

    This is a great article, gypsyman, and honestly, a little disturbing. As a female reading this, I was a little shocked to hear that you feel you’re making women uncomfortable just by being in the same waiting room. I wonder what these women think? I can understand walking alone at night when there aren’t a lot of people around and having the presence of an unknown man around – I’ve been on that end a few times and it is true, our minds start working in overdrive and we imagine the worst just because a man is walking quickly behind us.

    This made me think of Inga Muscio’s book, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence. While I personally think she’s a great writer on many subjects, her view on men are a little out there, along the lines of: every man has a plan against women and that plan includes rape. It’s a little depressing that women’s views towards men have come to this.

    Great article, though. Brilliant.

  • Lisa

    I just wanted to let you know.

    I’m a 17-year-old female, and I read this article with one thought in mind: “finally”! I happen to be trapped in the middle of those disgusting rap-infested minds, and it sickens me. It works two ways, though.. Women have to submit willingly to being whores to continue feeding the need. It’s in popular media everywhere, the message ‘how is it that a man can be deemed a “slut” and not a female allowed the same priviledge?’ Well, I do not consider being a slut a priviledge. I consider it a grossly demeaning dishonor, on both behalfs – the willing female and the requesting male.

    I am not vain. I am neither hard to look at nor attractive, but I do not care. I am openminded, a virgin, and everyone I am close to knows it – and had better respect it, and do, because not only do I dress like a ‘punk’ [I am not one, by the way – it pertains to another personal ongoing social conscience project, yet I digress] but I also possess physical strength, am neither meek nor mild, and definitely not brainless. I am a highschool student, and most definitely looked down upon because I do not conform to the pattern of this world. [Romans 12:2? :D] Well, Biblical reference for Biblical reference, I say.

    Secondmost, I also believe the reason this seems to be continuing to ‘breed’ in young adults is their apparent inability to think for themselves.

    I studied some cases of women being stoned. Was that the one about the woman being stoned because of her having sex out of wedlock, even though she was divorced? Anyways, yes.. There is proof of it; governments are far too concerned about presenting a false sense of internal security by promoting the realizations of external insecurity.

    I suppose that is a long and probably rather uncalled-for way of stating that YES, thank you, I wholeheartedly agree.

    [I apologize for the length.]