by Ashley Chilek
Due to its association with pushing extremist abortion dogma, many women have rejected feminism. However, feminism, in its essence, is not about abortion, but equality and freedom. In its most basic definition, it is advocating for social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. When a woman exercises her right to vote, wear the clothing she wants, date who she wants, say what she wants, work her own job, buy her own place, that is all as a result of feminism, a step towards equality and freedom. And that equality, that freedom, should be extended to all members of our human family, including the unborn. A popular tenet of modern feminism is intersectionality. True intersectionality includes everyone. In this sense, I identify as a feminist, someone who advocates for equality and human rights for every human being.
I’ve encountered the argument that it is no longer necessary to be a feminist in the United States. While current barriers in the legislative domain have definitely lessened and are not as pressing, sexism is still ingrained in the culture we live in. I’ve personally experienced instances of sexism from even my own family. At the dinner table discussing the possibility of law school after getting my undergraduate degree, my dad said, “You’d make a great politician's wife someday.” Why wouldn’t I be the politician?
I've also seen sexism specifically within the pro-life movement, and this drives away women, who want to be respected and supported rather than shamed and condemned. Men tout things like “keep your legs closed,” or express more antiquated thoughts on how all women should keep their babies not because the baby is a human being but because “all women should be wives and mothers.” I’ve had conversations with pro-life men (and women) who believe women should not vote or be involved in any way in politics, should not work, should not get an education outside of how to best care for children, should only care about her husband and children. There are many people who reflect these beliefs. These are only a few examples of what I have experienced. So, when someone claims that feminism is no longer necessary here, I must dissent.
But, as a feminist, I do not and cannot support abortion. Abortion doesn’t grant women the equality they are seeking. It demonizes the biological functions of the female body and dehumanizes its natural product: the human fetus. Abortion allows a patriarchal system to continue to force women to hurt themselves and their offspring in order to conform to what has been deemed the norm in our society: the cisgender male body. Abortion does not benefit women: it perpetuates oppression by redistributing it to weaker members of our human family, and it refuses to address the root of the issue, that women feel that in order to succeed, they must be like men and must destroy their own unique capabilities in the process. Abortion, put simply, is an extension of patriarchy. It is not freedom, nor equality, nor intersectionality. And that is why I call myself a pro-life feminist.
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