Part of my answer to my dear friend:
In the meantime, to address your question of yesterday: “what do Women's rights ultimately look like for you?” ...
There is no one answer to your question for me. It’s a constant creation of what that might look like. I am a woman of firsts for my family as I imagine you are too. We are the first women in our families to do all sorts of things. No one, I believe it’s safe to say, knows what women’s rights ultimately looks like and it’s really empowering and useful for me to remind myself that I am a pioneer in so many ways. So are you!
What I do know is that I’ve taken on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights— which I share in my show — as the basis for what human rights are universally, aptly enough. I also know that there’s a large gap for many cultures, including our own, as even really acknowledging women as full citizens, let alone, fully human. It’s taken YEARS for the international development community to even include “women’s rights” in the human rights agenda. As absurd as that may seem, it’s absolutely accurate. Charlotte Bunch of Rutgers was the first person to write seriously about including women’s rights in the human rights agenda. And unlike ethnicity, religion, etc., women have not automatically been included in human rights activists’ agendas. Whereas we boycotted South Africa for apartheid, very few people understand the parallels for gender apartheid that exists in many, many countries, and often in harsher more deadly forms than South Africa ever practiced. Anyway I digress a bit...
For me, reproductive rights/health rights are emblematic and primary to the women’s rights frontier. For thousands of years, women had no say in where, when and with whom she’d have a child and it put her/us in a very vulnerable position, as citizens, as people, as decision-makers. Our status was that of property not only in custom but in laws. It was codified in almost every civilization after the patriarchal system became world-wide that women and children were literally the property of men.
(This is all very general so forgive me if you already know all of this. I’m telling you a lot of this so you can see where I’m coming from.)
Rape was considered a crime against property; not against a person because if you don’t live as a person within a legal or economic system, a rape was simply a crime against the owner, the father, the husband, the brother even in some cultures.
So, jumping ahead by many centuries, we have this major breakthrough called birth control which makes a woman now capable of being the manager of her own reproduction. This in the scope of human history is MAJOR, and phew, just in time because we are also going through major stress on the planet because of a population explosion. Studies start to show that women will conduct family planning in such a way that things become balanced, for the family, the community and by extension society at large. However, most patriarchal systems put the most value on quantity/size/force by numbers.
But this creates a huge backlash with the patriarchy. And with a bit of Karl Marx philosphy sprinkled in here, all of a sudden the economy is threatened, patriarchal religions are threatened because the means of capitalism and production are intimately tied in with control of “reproduction,” not only production. Where are all the expendable workers going to come from if women can now control their own family size? Women who control their family size suddenly want education. They want to have more say over the economics of their family. They want all sorts of things that women aren’t “supposed” to want! Shock of shocks! They want a lot of the things that men want! It turns out that women are — gasp — human beings! They are not just baby machines. They have hopes, dreams, hunger, ambition, all sorts of attributes that heretofore are considered to be the domain of men only.
How does this all ultimately look? I have no clue. I was trained and raised to be a traditional woman; in many ways unconsciously but nonetheless, my parents’ vision for me, while they said that I could become anything I wanted, was more or less that of a successful executive’s wife. They didn’t envision ME being the successful executive. Had I been their son, I’m pretty sure they would have made sure I went to Harvard or Yale, with the brains and ambition I have? Phew. A guy with what I have would have been nurtured to be the executive, not the executive’s wife. Not that there’s anything wrong with being the wife of an executive. I don’t want to make that wrong. And that’s not my own vision of myself; a vision I was able to generate because I started tracking down the history of women, a theme that’s been largely left out of the “mainstream” history books and by extension, media.
Again I kind of digress but afterall, I have written a book and you can see that I have enough wind to do some more books about this.
Boiling this down again: After I did the Creation of Freedom Course and had heard Werner Erhard and Buckminster Fuller talk about “trim-tabbing,” I decided that I needed to create a movement. (Tell me if you know what “trim-tabbing” is. It’s useful to use as an activist if you don’t know but I won’t waste your time if you already know.)
The violence against women and girls statistics are shocking and awful; practically unconfrontable for most people. And the statistics are hard to come by because societies usually only count those things that they deem to be valuable; keeping stats on women and girls is a relatively new phenomonon. Anyway, according to the latest studies, one in three females on the planet are assaulted simply by virtue of their being female. In “Ending Violence Against Women and Girls” policies, on city, county, state, federal and international levels almost ALL the attention is on BEFORE or AFTER the crime, very rarely, if ever, DURING the crime. That leaves the woman or girl out of the loop on ending the violence that’s being perpetrated upon her WHILE it’s happening. It’s coming from a paradigm of women as property since the widely held unexamined belief is still that women are not capable of defending themselves. We are still taught/still believe that 1) men ought to behave themselves so therefore they WILL with regard to women and girls (we know this to be not accurate) 2) a man will be there to protect us (impossible, impractical, and not desirable if we are to be “real” agents of our own lives) 3) if we fight back, we’ll only fuck it up and make it worse (Not true and since we have the biggest stake in not being hurt, raped, impregnated, we need to know the basics.)
Since rape is often the crime that is committed against women and girls, and is also a way to impregnate them, I have taken the chunk of the “feminist” pie that addresses empowering women and girls to learn how to defend themselves. It’s not that I think that self-defense will work every time. Self-defense doesn’t work every time for men either. But my self-appointed job is to bring physical boundary setting to people’s consciousness. I have encountered everything from being utterly and completely ignored, told I’m a bull-dyke butch baby-killing ball-busting witch, having “new age” people tell me I’m “creating” more violence by teaching women how to defend themselves, to being considered somewhat of a “pariah” by some establishment feminists because things of the body are considered to be not credible or pertinent while they are working so hard to be considered real in “academia,” blah, blah, blah.
Meanwhile, I’m bringing into existence a recognition of the 3d article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
Right now, half of the planet can’t enjoy that right because they are physically intimidated by the other half of the planet; they are afraid of being forced to have babies they know their family structure can’t bear without having a great cost to the other family members, they don’t have access to birth control or safe and legal abortion, they are regarded as unable to make their own decisions about reproductive rights and health, and they only dream of “security” of their own body. Women do not feel free enough, regardless of country, to do the things that men have always just taken for granted. Walking in the park at night, going to a movie alone, or in the extreme cases in Sub-Saharan Africa, going to the well or to gather wood without being gang raped.
So that’s my piece of the Women’s Rights pie; my impossible promise from Power and Contribution; the thing that gets me up in the morning. The name of my paper for the Conference on Global Transformation is: Physical Self-Defense as Physical Literacy: To Empower Women to be Fully Participating Citizens Worldwide by the year 2040.
“The Abstract: This paper explores the possibility that ending violence against females is an access to ending all violence and that the existing language communities that engage in conversations about ending violence need to include the education of women and girls in self-defense as a part of physical literacy.”
I’m one of the only people on the planet that is generating this conversation on a global level but I always bring it back to local too.
I’m very fond of saying, “Think Globally, Act Locally. There is NOTHING as local as your own body.” When a government or a political party takes a stand against a woman’s individual ability or right or group’s right to make decisions about her/their own body, I will take a very strong stand to maintain choice. I would be completely untrue to my word as an integrity issue not to do so.
So this may be a much longer answer than you EVER wanted. And I wanted to share with you some of the soil from which I grow my views!