the war on women continues

1926 US advertisement. "Birth Control"

1926 US advertisement. “Birth Control” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was passively enduring talk radio on the drive back from Dee’s soccer game this evening and caught the FOX shoutfest that is Hannity. They were yelling over each other about small government, which no American under 55 can seriously claim to have ever lived under or even have the slightest idea of what small government means in terms of daily life, but nevermind. Small government diatribes these days almost inevitably detour through the vaginas of America’s women, who are the true root of the horror that is big government.

“If they want birth control (I love it when “they” refer to us as “they”, don’t you?) then they can pay for it themselves,” Hannity opined like a Catholic bishop from the pulpit. “I don’t need to pay for their lifestyle choice.”

Lifestyle choice?

Let’s see. I have breasts, a vagina, uterus and two XX’s. And that’s a choice I made?

Being female is not a “lifestyle”.

Why is it that everything small government conservative types are opposed to is slapped with the “choice” sticker?

First it was choosing to be gay and now, apparently, one can choose to be female too. Like anyone would, knowing the world as the female non-friendly place that it is. Who wouldn’t choose to the male? And straight and white while one was at it. Why not? If life were a simulated reality video game, as was recently pointed out, smart money is on picking the easiest setting – straight, white male. A penis is like finding a gold ticket in a Wonka Bar.

But here is the real beauty behind the “lifestyle choice” strawman argument, it allows “them” to define “us” as sluts. Only a slut would use birth control. My mother certainly never used birth control. Except if she is a baby boomer, she most certainly probably did. Just as your sister probably did. And your girlfriend because the god of your straight white maleness forbid that you deny yourself anything by stuffing your burgeoning manhood in a condom as opposed to a sassy wet slutty cunt.

But your daughter, and likely many of her friends, use birth control. Your nieces. Your cousins. The women you work with.  The one who checks your groceries at the store and the one who cleans your teeth, make your lattés and tells you to “have a nice” day when you are strolling out of Walmart, all have a better than even by a long shot chance of having used birth control at some point in their lives.

Damn slutty female lifestyle choice. Can’t escape them. They are everywhere, tainting the landscape with their tending to their femaleness and thinking you don’t know it. They should be ashamed of their lifestyle choice.

I know I am.

If only I had chosen to be my brother, who’s had two children out-of-wedlock to my NONE.

But no, I chose the female lifestyle. With its monthly bloody shedding of uterine lining and sole burden of child incubating and birthing and breastfeeding and putting nearly all my own wants, wishes and desires on hold for ten or twenty years, so it can grow, learn and hopefully leave home before I am too old to get back to focusing on me for more than snatched minutes here and there.

Being female is a perk-filled lifestyle. I can’t imagine why more men aren’t choosing it.

When we are not bleeding, pregnant or lactating, we are being paid less for the same work and bruising ourselves against glass ceilings, doors, and walls. We cart home the bacon after having shopped for it only to cook it, be criticized for getting fat if we eat more than a bite of it and then clear it from the table and wash the plates from which it was eaten.

If we show cleavage, we are whores, but if we try to disguise our breasts, we are anal prudes with no sense of humor who should, “Just smile, Sweetie, because you are so much prettier when you smile. Don’t look so serious all the time.”

We get to have a special “place” and straight white god in heaven forbid that we shouldn’t recognize it and plant the asses we should not let get too fat right there where they belong.

What kind of bullshit is this lifestyle choice crap?

No woman on the planet would choose to be female. Why? Because as lifestyles go, it sucks. Lifestyles should be rich, famous, and packed with privileges. Being female is none of those things.

When the small government folk go on and on about “lifestyle choices”, they are attempting – and in the US with great success – to redefine what being female, or gay, really is. It’s not a choice. It’s a condition of being. Part of being female is managing the plumbing, and no one gets to stick his nose up my plumbing unless he’s my husband or has an M.D. behind her surname.

I am female by random chance, and I have lived a female’s life of which I am not ashamed of. Nice try, Hannity.

… even when it comes to such trivial matters as wanting to play middle school sports in a pair of shorts that aren’t so short and tight that a girl has to spend half her time pulling them out of her various crevices.

War-women Deutsch: Kriegsfrauen - Öl über Temp...

War-women Deutsch: Kriegsfrauen - Öl über Tempera auf Leinwand - 124x247 cm - Museum Schloß Bruck, Lienz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But that’s yesterday’s news already.

It’s not been a good year for women. In the United States, Republican lawmakers, with the aid of religious zealots, have re-launched vicious attacks on our right to birth control and to not be forced to submit to all manner of vaginal indignity when we seek to exercise our presumed right to decide all matters related to our health for ourselves.

In Afghanistan, women are jailed for running away from physically abusive husbands and in New York City, cops can now legally rape women at gunpoint and expect to go free if there is a man on the jury bloody minded enough to force his fellow jurors to vote for acquittal.

Sigh.  We are decades and decades into this fight for equality and, essentially, unless you are white and live in an industrial nation with a solid hold on what passes for a democratic government, we gained inches worth of ground – if that.

Men in my neck of the planet will argue that this simply isn’t true, but deep down, they know it is. They argue because it’s in the interests of their penis-granted privilege to appear to be in favor of the advance of gender equality while at the same time they know that as long as they don’t admit to the lack of progress, this grants them even more time in the driver’s seat.

How did this happen? Arriving in a new century and still battling sexism? Male dominion over nearly every aspect of our existence?

Erica Jong, in a recent defense of feminism to Hannan Rosin, brings up a very valid – though somewhat taboo – point about the collaborators of our gender. From the famous like Phyllis Schlafly to the Facebook friend of a friend who upbraided me for expressing my doubt about the necessity of skin-tight short shorts that my Facebook friend’s pre-teen daughter is expected to wear if she wants to participate in a sport she loves, women themselves are the greatest ally that male domination has needed in order to perpetuate over the span of human history. We are quite willing to rather meekly submit to all manner of controls, or make sure that others of our gender do, and the reality of this has stranded me in a crossroad without any clear idea of where I should go next.

Canada is hardly an equity utopia.  Ism’s of all sorts abide north of the lower 48 and a few are even more unsettling than those I left in the land of my birth. However, the manual labouring sector aside, women make strides here in all manner of this and that, and our basic right to physical autonomy appears – among the born and bred Canadian if not so much the immigrant classes – to be on sounder footing. The Neanderthal set may be ubiquitous the world over, but they aren’t suffered here to the extent they are in the United States.  I could simply mind the greenery on my side of the fence.  Settle in the pasture, so to speak.

But it nags at me that the gains that seemed to grow up along side of me over the past not quite fifty years are being swept away by male and female alike down there, and the social media feminist excepted, no one is all that upset by it, if they notice it at all.

Speaking up is running the risk of ridicule. Shame baiting stuff intended to call up emotions from days of yore when a woman was still literally a girl and more easily controlled by externals because she hadn’t lived enough life to know them for the shackles that they are.

I might yet live long enough to see women in the United States covering themselves like Hutterite women and be grateful for an eighth grade education. Too many these days would call that progress.

Call a gay person a faggot and it’s hateful. Sling the n-word at a black person and you are a racist. But call a woman a slut? Follow it up with slander about her sexual appetites and put in a request for YouTube videos of her “banging it five times a day”. That’s just …? What exactly is that in America? Business as usual? Lately it seems so. But whatever you call it, no one is likely to call if sexism – though clearly it is. Few will see it as hate speech though if you ask a woman how it feels to be called a slut for using birth control, she is likely to feel degraded and vilified for the “crime” of exercising her right to self-determination or merely just taking legally prescribed medication for a physical ailment.

Rush Limbaugh‘s recent slut problem is hardly the first time the shock jock has taken gratuitous pot shots at the female gender for the sake of pandering for a living. He’s a misogynist. A lot of men his age are. I would even go so far as to say that it would be difficult for men of a certain age to not take their preferred gender status for granted and have incorporated the tenets of sexism to such an extent that they truly don’t really most of the time that they really have no respect for women. That’s not to excuse them. Racists of the pre-Civil Rights era were blind to their racism to some extent as well, but it doesn’t make their participation in it innocent.

Thanks to the recent Komen backlash and the even more recent birth control versus the Catholic Church and Rick Santorum uproar, women of social media means near instantly ignited the public’s fury, which has resulted in Limbaugh’s rather predictable non-apology and the less predictable disavowal of him by his advertising sponsors, who are dumping him in droves. It’s heartening to see women uniting and demanding that sexist rhetoric have consequences in the same way that anti-gay rhetoric provokes outrage or racist diatribe earns the rebuke it deserves.

But I fear, that gender slurs where females are concerned is still not seen as too big of a deal. It’s 2012 after all. Did women win their freedom back in the 1960’s? They got the pill and burned bras, right? Or maybe it was when the government deigned to allow us the vote barely 80 years ago and only after they bad publicity of beating suffragettes and force feeding women on hunger strikes made Uncle Sam look too evil to do anything else.

No, wait. It was in the 1970’s. There was Title IX, which allowed little girls to play school sports and the Equal Right’s Amendment. Didn’t Helen Reddy sing something about roaring women to celebrate that victory?

Except there was no victory. Female collaborators like Phyllis Schlafly barnstormed the country with stories about housewives turning lesbian and little baby fetuses piling up in the gutters and people like my Dad voted against ERA and the Constitution remained blissfully male oriented.

But man means “woman” too.

Except when it doesn’t and that’s most of the time.

When I graduated from college in 1987, North America was firmly entrenched in paying lip service to the notion that “women could have it all” but only the most foolish of my gender went out into the world and didn’t soon discover that to be completely untrue. And twenty-five years later, it’s just as untrue. Our so-called equality is as shallow as an episode of The Housewives of Beverly Hills.

Sure, we can have it all as long as we stay thin, don’t appear to age past 40, bring home our share of the household income and do more than our share of the housework and childcare. Be sexually attractive but never appear to enjoy sex or discuss it or anything else to do with our “naughty bits”. Don’t ask and don’t tell and if anything “down there” needs looking after, be prepared to cover the expense ourselves. At that includes pregnancy and wellness checks and contraception. Don’t ask and don’t tell. If you ask, we’ll know you are not a “good girl” and if you tell, we’ll know for sure you are a slut.

You can’t call a gay person a faggot or a black person the n-word. But you can call a woman a slut or a whore or cunt or a bitch. You can sing it even while barely clothed young women grind poles (or each other) in the background on a YouTube video. You can expect a woman to make a video of herself for your “entertainment”. You can do this because of men like Rush Limbaught and Rick Santorum. It’s possible because of collaborators like Pamela Gellar and Angela Morabito. You can do this because the Catholic Bishops have a long history of female suppression (almost as long as their support of priests who like little boys). You can do this because everywhere in the world, women are universally seated in the back of the metaphorically bus and we’ve accepted it or been brutally suppressed when we didn’t.

Rush is taking his lumps for being caught with his old school pants down, and it may or may not cost him his job – I’m going to say “not” – but the essence of the problem has not changed. Women stopped fighting for their rights much too soon. We settled for crumbs and we are paying the price of it.

Why is it still okay to call a woman a slut? Because we’ve allowed it to be.