6'1" - Liz Phair
One of the many things that continues to amaze me in the current kulturkampf is the degree to which in 2012 feminism remains an object of attack and scorn for those on the right. The radical proposition that women are equal to men remains contested ground not just among conservatism's many deeply insecure and misogynistic men, but also its despicable ladies' auxillary. [These are just representative samples of the ongoing madness -- there is a mind-boggling amount of it being written these days.]
The current imbroglio in Virginia over the incredibly offensive attempt to impose trans-vaginal ultrasounds as a requirement before having an abortion should be seen not as simply another attempt to erect obstacles to exercising a constitutional right, but part of an overall fight against women controlling their fertility generally. Thus, we have right wingers not only asserting their alleged "pro-life" agenda, but also affirmatively attacking contraception, something that for most people ceased to be controversial sometime around the Nixon presidency. These attacks go to the heart of women's autonomy and particularly their sexual autonomy. (Which is why the right wing can manage simultaneously to denounce contraception while also decrying the large number of women who are giving birth while unmarried in apocalyptic terms.*)
The ability and right to control one's fertility is an essential element of women's health, not some kind of frivolous luxury. It is also crucial to being able to attain the kind of advanced education and work opportunities that result in being an economically self-sufficient individual -- something one might think these brave Galtians would all favor. But no, when it comes to women the message is one continuously based on fear-mongering -- "you'll end up alone with withered ovaries and no one but a cat with whom to spend your sad miserable final days" -- you know, that sort of thing. And nothing infuriates them more than women don't succumb to the fear and settle for that willing man. Except women who have sex outside of marriage and pretend to enjoy it.
I honestly would think that these debates would be firmly in the past by now. I have been married for twenty-four years to someone who -- and trust me it kills me to say this -- is smarter than I am. (I also had several relationships in my pre-married days where this was true as well.) It never occurred to me that my wife's ambitions should be deemed less worthy than my own. As a result, we figured out strategies to share the burden of home and child-rearing while both of us worked full time. In part, we did this by having only one child, but I've seen many other people -- probably with a higher tolerance for sacrifice than me -- who have managed the feat with larger families. I have also had the pleasure of working with a host of extremely competent women in my professional life -- superiors, mentors, peers, colleagues, friends, fellow professionals, and now that I am an old guy, quite a few mentees (if such a word exists).**
Does anyone seriously want to argue that we as a society would be better off with all of this talent shunted into domesticity or appropriately pink-collar career choices? Does anyone really think women generally or society writ large would be happier if we returned to the social constraints of yesteryear with respect to women's work and sex lives? Would men be happier? I suppose a certain kind of man -- Taranto and Rod Dreher and the small-dicked mouth breathers at NRO I guess -- but no one who is remotely sexually and socially well-adjusted.
It is discouraging that these battles continue to have to be fought, but as with gay marriage, l think this is a last gasp before what is actually happening out there in the real world renders these arguments obsolete.
*I am actually a bit uneasy with all of the single parenting -- not out of any moral concerns, but because I continue to believe that parenthood is best done in teams and as I have observed here before, sometimes two isn't enough. I worry about things like the stresses of one parent grappling with ill health, unemployment, or any of the other myriad things that sometimes require a reliable backup. I also remain a huge believer in marriage, again not out of any kind of religious hogwash, but because as a lawyer I really like the bright line certainty that marriage brings to families in terms of both rights and obligations. As someone who does a fair amount of work with things like medical coverage and pensions and the like, marriage really simplifies a host of legal matters that have a huge impact on the daily lives of parents and children. It's one of the reasons that I am so vehement in my support for marriage equality. In the end, though, family structure will continue to evolve and people will try to figure out ways to make their lives and those of their children work. A state that took care of things like health care, mandatory sick and parental leave, day care, and a guaranteed minimum income with a child allowance would go an awfully long way to minimizing some of the worries I've cited.
**And, of course, I have the benefit of the wisdom of the many women who comment at this blog.
What say you? And what else is happening out there?
I have no idea why this post stopped accepting comments. I put up a new post, so hopefully comments will work there. God forbid I should need to exercise some technological competence.