Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that whole thing down," declared former United States Rep. Todd Akin. First, the word legitimate, which was defining the kind of rape he was mentioning (as if there are different levels) caught my eye, and then I saw "United States Representative." Although I believe that each and every human is entitled to their own opinion, it was shocking and difficult to comprehend that this man was representing, at one point in time, the country that I call home. I interpreted this as Mr. Akin sharing the knowledge that the women's body is able to detect rape, and therefore not become pregnant once that "rape alarm" sounds. In this way, he thinks that women do not need birth control because they already have some natural ability to "shut that whole thing down." Does this also mean he thinks women should not have control over their own bodies? (I'm not sure, but would definitely like to have a stern talk with Todd someday). I only pose this "control over one's body" question because I read a frightening scenario in the our reading, A Day Without Feminism. "If a woman goes under the knife to see if she has breast cancer, the surgeon won't wake her up to consult about her options before performing a Halsted mastectomy (a disfiguring radical procedure, in which the breast, the muscle wall, and the nodes under the arm, right down to the bone, are removed). She'll just wake up and find that that choice had been made for her." (pg. 9). In the 1970s this was the norm because even after a hundred plus years of fighting for women's rights, women were still a man's property.

I was extremely intrigued by the different waves of feminism, and was excited that this was being taught to me by such an empowering, independent woman. In this way, even though we were learning about how women have been severely mistreated (in our past) and how we still have a ways to go, I was able to feel hopeful because of who Ms. Ruhl is and the way she presented the information. The people in history that truly fascinate me are the ones that were way ahead of their times. For example, Lucy Stone, "an abolitionist and somewhat conservative feminist, was the first to rewrite marriage vows omitting the word obey. She was also the first woman in New England to graduate from college--graduating in 1847 from Oberlin... her name became synonymous with independent women." (pg. 71). Thus proving that Lucy was decades ahead of the people around her, which is essential when trying to spearhead a movement.

Although Lucy Stone started a crucial movement, it did not move as fast as I had thought. It was appalling to find out that in 1970 women were still considered a man's property. When Ms. Ruhl told us about how a man had asked her, "Why is it bad if woman get slapped around every once in a while?" I arrived at the shocking realization that a hundred years after Lucy's time men still viewed women, to put it quite simply, as "cattle." Ms. Ruhl mentioned how in the 19th century men. by law, were allowed to hit their wives just as they were able to hit their cattle. So if a hundred years later a man still believes that he can hit his wife to "teach her a good lesson," the second wave of feminism was absolutely essential to the wellbeing of our society.

A Day without Feminism asks, "Has feminism changed our lives? Was it necessary?" I think that the feminist movement was evidently unbelievably necessary. However, we would be kidding ourselves if we felt that the job of feminists is over. Which is why we are an integral part of the Third Wave.  If I have a daughter in the future, I want her to be able to walk from the parking garage to her apartment, wearing whatever she wishes, feeling safe and not having "911" already typed out on her phone--just in case.

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