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October 08, 2006

Five things feminism has done for me

Red Riding Hood, originally uploaded by dpwolf.

Beep Beep! It's Me tagged me with the "Five Things Feminism Has Done for Me" meme.

Thanks to feminism (broadly construed), I can:

1. Read, write, and publish under my own name.
2. Earn money, own property, and get credit on reasonable terms.
3. Have sex without having children.
4. Take an active role in public life.
5. Earn power, responsibility, and respect.
I'm confident that feminism has done all those things for me, personally. However, I also realize that feminism still has a long way to go before every woman can enjoy these rights, opportunities, and protections.


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I have my own personal test to determine if a woman is truely "liberated"...

Simply put - it is if she considers sex a reciprocal act and therefore does not consider pornography "obscene".

Can men play too?

Five things feminism has done for me

1. I am able to have a romantic relationship with someone I consider a peer, not a posession.

2. I am able (and expected!) to be a full participant in the upbringing of my children.

3. I am able to have sex without getting someone else pregnant.

4. I am able to read the writings of smart women publishing under their own name.

5. I can work in an office with a lot of women in it, rather than just stinky boys.

Thanks for being part of the feminist debate, and for sharing what feminism has done for you.

For many years, I too was very grateful for the advances of feminism, from the right to vote, own property and not have children, to knowing I won't necessarily be branded as a "whore" if it happens I'm sexually assaulted. Then, one day, a very angry man told me that if we womenfolk insisted on being treated as fellow human beings, we could no longer reasonably expect chivalrous treatment from HIS sex. And ever since, I have to admit, I've lain up nights wondering: "What happens if I find myself on a sinking ship without enough lifeboats, and I'm not automatically loaded into one on account of my gender?" I mean, equal rights are nice and all, but what good are they if you're floating face down in the north Atlantic?

"Thanks to feminism (broadly construed), I can:...
3. Have sex without having children."

I would have credited medicine and contraception for that, but there are different senses of "can" -- as there are (forgive me) of broad construal.

The fact that I am able to do this several times a week is a credit to feminism. The fact that it's possible at all is a credit to medical science.

Like all human intellectual and technical pursuits, medical science is also better off thanks to feminism. Women can compete for spots in the profession. Moreover, feminist concerns (and fundraising skills) help shape the research agenda. Win-win-win.

Dabodius: medicine would not have applied its resources to these issues if the people most interested in birth control hadn't been able to demand it. The birth control movement going back to Margaret Sanger has been deeply linked to feminism.

Rob, thanks for the list. I really identify with your first point. In an earlier draft of the post I was trying to articulate how feminism enabled me to have real friends, romantic and platonic.

A couple of years ago, I would have just thanked feminism for allowing me to relate to men as a real person. In the interim, I've realize that i'm also grateful to feminism for allowing me to have real friendships with other women without being consumed by petty squabbles for male approval.

Thanks for the post, Rob. I considered putting the birth control point in my own answer, but like Dabodius, I believed that birth control was a scientific advance separate from feminism. I missed the importance of Margaret Sanger to the scientific development of birth control, concentrating instead on Betty Friedan and the feminists who followed in her wake.

Everything on Rob's list applies to me as well, except (2), so as another guy I'll add:

6. I don't have to deal with as severe of a masculinity straightjacket.

7. I can focus on the sexual pleasure of my romantic partner. (Women are obviously the primary beneficiaries of this, but 'tis better to give than to recieve and all that.)

8. Inasmuch as the Gender Gap applies, I'm governed by better leaders. (Shudder at the implication!)

9. I received more parental care than I would have in a large-familied world without feminism. Especially considering that I was raised Catholic.

10. Half of my friends and loved ones are substantially freer. (Or, technically, per the above all my friends and loved ones are substantially freer, but you know what I mean.)

11. I have a better theoretical basis for understanding how society works.

Okay, so of those only (6) and (7) are male-specific, but Rob did a good job with his list.

Lindsay already mentioned another major thing: with professions, especially in the sciences, opened up to women, we live in a materially more comforting world. Larry Summers can fuck himself.

The Pill permits us to have sex without children, but some of us paler and more wintery types really appreciate not having to bother with sex at all. And freedom from sex, as well as marriage and other forms of bondage, is very much a contribution of modern feminism.


If you have a moment, I'd ask for your opinion. I will also appreciate the opinion of others, esp those from legal or medical backgrounds.

I am having a discussion elsewhere about the subject of abortion, and we don't agree on some of the terminology.

In some places, it is always legal ( or virtually so ), in other places it is always illegal ( or virtually so ), and in some places it is often illegal but there is an exception possible "for the health of the mother".

It is that third group of places I want to zone in on.

What would your plain English understanding be of a circumstance that would warrant the "for the health of the mother" circumstance? How do you think most governments would interpret this phrase, this exception to what otherwise would be a ban?

I'm not looking to debate the issue one way or the other... and I am not trying to slant the question one way or the other...just interested in your thoughts on this one issue.

I'm not sure how courts and legislatures decide what's covered under the health exemption.

I think the real stumbling block is getting a doctor to say that in her professional opinion, this pregnancy constitutes a serious risk to the health of the mother. Doctors have a lot of discretion. I get the impression it's a kind of gestalt thing with a lot of discretion for the doctor.

In the bad old days, women would sometimes have to go before panels of doctors and plead their case. They'd have to convince the guys (and they usually were guys) on the board that they really were serious about committing suicide if they didn't get this abortion.

But if you were a judge, putting aside personal opinion , if you were asked to impartially interpret the law based on the plain English term, what types of circumstances might trigger the "health of the mother" exception?

I don't want to give examples because I don't want to steer the response.

If Lindsay were an American judge, she'd decide this under the cases and controversies requirement, which means that she'd never get an open-ended "what does this mean?" question unmoored to any specific set of facts.

In practice, health exemption judgments are subjective. I think we look to medical authorities to sign off on their personal opinions on what constitutes a significant health risk in any individual case.

Personally, I would include any pregnancy-related condition that increases the risk of death or significant bodily harm. For example, if a pregnancy seems likely to cause major depressive disorder, a condition with a non-trivial mortality rate, I'd cover that under the health exemption.

The reality is that pregnancy itself is always incredibly risky compared to getting an abortion or not being pregnant. One of the reasons that I support abortion on demand is that every pregnancy should qualify for a health exemption at some level. Everyone has the right to self-defense, including against unwanted fetuses.

I mean, even in the best-case scenario, pregnancy leads to labor and delivery which number among the most incredibly painful experiences a human being can endure, up there with kidney stones and the amputation of digits. When we give out health exemptions in other contexts, we include count other causes of agonizing pain and disability (time off work, lost wages, etc.) without even thinking. Somehow when it's pregnancy, people tend to shunt the potential risks off into some special mental category instead of weighing them against the risks of other conditions.


That's how YOU would respond. She can speak for herself.

As noone here is going to be sitting on the bench anytime soon, so those who care to discuss the subject openly can do so. No need to be coy!

Ah, she DID speak for herself.

Appreciated. As will be comments from others.

It really depends on which country you're talking about. "For the health of the mother" ranges from various mental health exceptions that practically allow abortion on demand to an exception only for the life of the woman.

Does anyone know how this term is/was used in practice in England?

"Does anyone know how this term is/was used in practice in England?"

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking here, but the current situation in the UK is that to get an abortion you need the consent of two doctors who must both agree that continuing the pregnancy would have a negative effect on your mental or physical health. In practice this applies to most unwanted pregnancies, since it's generally agreed that being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy is by definition detrimental to a woman's mental wellbeing. However this is not identical to abortion on request and there are (rare) cases of doctors refusing to give their permission.

Actually I think the situation might be different in Northern Ireland, but the above applies to England (and Wales and Scotland) which is what you asked about :)


I have my own personal test to determine if a woman is truely "liberated"...

Simply put - it is if she considers sex a reciprocal act and therefore does not consider pornography "obscene".

Is that not quite constricting? What about doesn't care about the obscenity of pornography but the harm it causes? Is that woman liberated if she cares about that? Cares about the pornographic re-enactment in the prisons of Iraq by US soliders? Or is it just nice pornography or erotica that a truely liberated woman would like?

It is an odd thing to decide liberation on and not attitude to economics, her environment, her role in the community or in a trade union, her activism etc.

Hopefully the "she considers sex a reciprocal act" should go without saying!!

Cat from Scotland

Hi, I think your article its very important and interesting,good work, thanks for sharing!! Have a nice day!

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