Monday, January 23, 2012

On Being a Feminist (Male) Who's Vocally Pro-Choice

At a time when women's bodily autonomy is increasingly under attack, I think that it's important for feminist men to voice their support for women's right to have control over their own bodies. I don't say this because I think that the voice of men is more important than that of women.  

Gawd no.

I say this because, as stupid as it is, women are more likely to have their opinions read through an overtly negative lens of gender-bias than men. While men might be called out on their ideas, their perceived intelligence, their politics or any other number of factors related to the ideas that they put out there, they are a lot less likely to have to deal with discrimination based on their gender alone. Sexuality and ethnicity, etc., can be the cause of discrimination, but these are things that women will face as well - and these types of discrimination will also often be couched in terms related to their gender, to boot. This means that a lot of really well-reasoned arguments are dismissed, purely because they were written by people who have vaginas or who identify as women; and if having a dick means that I can contribute to getting us beyond this point, then I am all for taking advantage of that.

I also say this because, as infuriating as it is, it's predominantly men who are trying to gain control of women's reproductive rights - and I think that other men who disagree with this increased focus on the inner working of women's bodies need to be vocal in their acknowledgement that, at the core of it, this is all about sexism. As far as I'm concerned there's no ifs or buts about this - it's sexist to suggest that women aren't in the best position to make decisions about their own bodies, because, boy, those women just don't realise what's best for society (read: male egos), am I right? I mean, how can the one who's literally going to be living with the consequences of their pregnancy - not from afar, but in an embodied something-growing-inside-them-for-nine-months sense - really know what's best for them?


Women's bodily autonomy isn't just an issue for women to be vocal about; it's a matter for anyone who's interested in equality. The anti-choice (it's not pro-life) movement is about the control of women. It is essentially about putting them in a position of submissiveness to the desires of men, focussing on their capacity for baby-making ahead of their own individual needs and desires. It reduces a woman's sexual expression, at the extreme (e.g. where discussions of restricting access to birth control take place), to a choice between being pregnant or not (excluding instances were reproduction isn't possible). It reduces women to being less than they are capable of being.

That's wrong.

I don't feel that it's my place to take up the fight for women's reproductive rights as if it's a battle that requires my voice in order to legitimise it. It doesn't. Anything I could say on the matter has already been said a thousand times over by women who have a lot more authority on the issue than I. If anything, I see my role as being one of acknowledgement.

I acknowledge the right of women to have control over their own bodies. I acknowledge the ability of women to speak with authority, particularly on matters that have a direct impact on them. And I acknowledge that it's not my place to challenge a woman based on nothing more than the fact that our genitals don't necessarily match.

I think that, as a man who also identifies as a feminist, it's my place to recognise that it's not my place in all of this that actually matters. I can share my opinion on the topic - and have obviously taken the opportunity to do exactly that - but it's not my body at stake, so it's not my choice that really matters.

I really do think that it's really as simple as that.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, and you do underscore something terribly important where it would be pretty silly to say to a man "What do you know about what's good for men? You silly boy *pats on the head*" and not get your teeth knocked out or a throughout tongue lashing, basically I doubt you'd get the privilege of being ignored and allowed to continue.

    Despite being a woman these issues don't really hit the same buttons for me they do for others. I care, I agree, but somehow it seems distant much of the time. Sometimes I suspect I don't really "identify" as female beyond "Oh, I have girly bits, I'm a girl -- I guess?" I think people have innate rights regardless of gender, sex, label, social, or financial status, race, whatever. Discrimination based on any of these categories seems silly at best. People are people. Period. The End. The fact that we aren't all completely physically identical shouldn't even enter into it.