One of the best pieces of advice I ever read about professional development for women was to stop trying to not take up so much room. The author noted that when women sit down at a conference table for a meeting, we have a tendency of organizing all of our papers and folders and pens into tiny piles as neatly as possible, right in front of us, so as to not take up too much room on the table.
This is all part of the way women have been taught to almost be seen and not heard. People are constantly trying to make us smaller! Don’t laugh too loud, it’s unladylike. Don’t eat too much, being more than 100 pounds is unsightly. Don’t be too pushy, too aggressive. And don’t take up too much time talking in a meeting or use up too much space on the conference table. In essence, do everything you can to minimize yourself as a human being, and then maybe men won’t be so uncomfortable or threatened by your presence.
I thought this was incredibly insightful, and I realized that it wasn’t just me who was doing it on an individual level. It was the women’s movement as a whole. We’re always trying so hard not to offend people, to convince the mainstream that we’re not crazy, psycho feminists who are out to get you. It takes something as extreme as the Stupak Amendment or the Mississippi Personhood Amendment to really get our engines going.
Actually, convincing the world that women are crazy and irrational is one of the smartest and most effective campaigns to destroy women’s lives that has ever been waged by the patriarchy, especially the US Republican establishment. Instead of fighting on our issues and spreading awareness about perfectly legitimate threats to women’s rights, health, and well-being, we’ve gotten ourselves sucked into the argument about whether these threats really are threats. It’s like being a candidate for President and spending all your time and energy just trying to get on the ballot.
Instead, we’ve taken to messaging around “women’s issues” by demonstrating how little these things we fight for actually matter. We sell our strategy by saying “but this wouldn’t allow any federal money to specifically fund abortion!” and “but Planned Parenthood only spends 3% of its money on providing abortion services!”
This messaging is dangerous, and it falls right into the category of “we want you to know that we value your concerns about abortion and we are doing everything we can to try to not get in the way of your beliefs while still saving women’s lives.”
You may be wondering what inspired me to write this post on this topic tonight. It wasn’t just the disaster that was the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation‘s decision to stop financially supporting Planned Parenthood, although that was the catalyst.
It was the collective support of my friends/colleagues/acquaintances, and other random people who happen to be Facebook friends with me, who clicked “Like” on a post I dashed off a little bit ago:
In the past 30 minutes, dozens of my Facebook friends have liked this status, and the number is growing even as I type. This got me thinking. Maybe I’m not the only one. Maybe I’m not the only one who is tired of making excuses, tired of apologizing for “having to bring up feminist-y things again”, tired of pretending these things aren’t a big deal or aren’t that bad, just so that everyone else who is causing me problems in the first place won’t be so offended/annoyed/disturbed/threatened/bothered/harassed.
Know what? Going to bat for – screaming at the top of lungs in support of – organizations that save women’s lives and protect women’s rights is not something I will apologize for. It’s not something I will lower my voice for. It’s not something I will attempt to justify because you’re a misogynistic moron who would rather see me and anyone who looks like me die than give me the rights all other human beings seem to be born with.
So I’m going to stop with the “qualifying justifications.” With saying “oh but we’re reasonable because we’re allowing exceptions for this and that,” or “yes but here’s how we’re going to make sure that we don’t use any of your hard-earned money to support women – I mean, abortion.” I’m done with that.
I will stop saying “this abortion-banning bill doesn’t even include an exception for the life of the mother!” as though such an exception would somehow make such a bill acceptable to me. I will no longer consider it reasonable that federal money can’t be used to fund abortion or an abortion-related services. And I will no longer try to reason with, or appear reasonable to, people who think women’s lives aren’t worth saving and women’s rights aren’t worth protecting.
Oh, and that Facebook post I mentioned earlier? It’s at 33 likes and counting. Looks like I won’t be alone in my newfound intolerance for dumbed-down messaging.