Feminism Should Not Mean Making Assumptions About All Men. What’s With The Labels?

This morning I saw one of my favorite organizations post a quote via social media, similar to quotes I see quite often from women’s rights type organizations.

“Women are willing to reinvent themselves, & I think that’s one of the secret ways that women are luckier than men.”

This is just one example of language that seems to try and empower women, but putting down men. Who says they can’t reinvent themselves?  As much as I believe in fighting for the rights of women, and am very involved in many initiatives to take action for the, I have a hard time agreeing when these organizations put out quotes and ideas that undermine men such as this. It sometimes seems that the message is women have the only ability to change themselves, be sensitive, and have the ability to change the world. We work with the idea of women making up half of society and therefore dismissing them we can not move forward. This is absolutely true. I realize that right now men are in the majority of power positions, but with thoughts like this aren’t we dismissing their gender all the same? How are they supposed to gain these positive traits and also be relied on to do the right thing if we in our minds are assuming that they cannot and that it is women’s turn to essentially take over? Wouldn’t it be most beneficial to work together? To have the program and initiatives give the empowerment to both kinds but in the right away?

Making assumptions about groups of people such as some are about “men” seems hypocritical. Here we are as human rights activists saying that we can not judge all Arab groups as terrorists, as some people unfortunately do, but yet many organizations stand there and put out quotes that group all men together and cause people to jump to negative conclusions as well. Isn’t this doing the same thing? We should not characterize anyone in a group of people based on traits of which they cannot control. We should only look at the individual. The idea of feminism should not be based on ganging up on a particular side, but it should instead be based on making sure that women’s rights and opportunities are equal without dismissing men because some of them have been oppressive.

We have come to be in a world where women aren’t given these equal rights, but if the initiatives that are working so hard today succeed in making the difference for this to change, will this language cause the future to hold men as being looked down on instead? If so, we still have not won even if women do gain these great roles. I am a fighter for women’s rights, but when I see certain quotes that are so 1 sided and filled with assumption, it frustrates me and makes me disappointed that they shed light on the stereotypes that feminists are extreme and blame men. Do gay rights advocates assume that they are better than straight? Do those advocating for those who are disabled  assume that anyone who is not will not be on their side?  What is with all the labels? We are all our own unique individuals who deserve our own representation and chance to show who we are without being looped into a stereotype. We are all people and need to work together for those groups who are being denied all of their human rights without causing unnecessary negative connotations around another group in the process. If we do, we will never be able to have the best of all people to in turn reach their full potential collectively for a better world.




UN Declares Contraception Universal Human Right-What Does This Mean for The World?

Yesterday, the United Nations declared access to contraception and family planning a universal human right stating:

“Not only does the ability for a couple to choose when and how many children to have help lift nations out of poverty, but it is also one of the most effective means of empowering women. Women who use contraception are generally healthier, better educated, more empowered in their households and communities and more economically productive. Women’s increased labor-force participation boosts nations’ economies.”

This is a huge step for so much of the world. I don’t consider myself a major “feminist” by any means, however, it is just common sense that women make up roughly half the world. Therefore, if half the world is left behind or oppressed there is no way that the rest of society can effectively move forward. The unfortunate part remains that people immediate associate contraception to mean sex and irresponsibility. It is completely the opposite, well, the irresponsible party anyways. First of all, women have the right to choose their lifestyle. So even if it is solely to protect themselves for sexual reasons, they are being safe. Then there are those who are in committed relationships or married. Having this lifestyle should not mean that having sex with your partner could always lead to the possibility of a child. By planning in your relationship how many children and when you will have children allows the woman to pursue her career and achieve leadership positions that will benefit society. This also benefits the children that the couple will have since they will be in a healthier environment.

In developing countries, there are unfortunately circumstances that come up against women where contraception is needed to avoid the results that danger and violence can often cause. Many girls must travel great distances to get to school which often makes them targets of abduction and rape. Whether rape as a weapon of war, forced into child marriage, sex slavery/trafficking, etc., these crimes are often focused primarily on women and girls. Access to contraception can help them keep some power and control over their lives. When I was in Ghana, I saw first hand that many schools had no bathrooms, making it difficult for girls to come to school during that time of month. Contraception provides an opportunity to regulate this and control symptoms that may otherwise keep them home, eventually causing them to be so far behind that they drop out. Mothers in developing countries who have multiple children would now be given the chance to control the spacing between children. Therefore, delaying pregnancy, finishing school, succeeding in jobs, saving money, and lifting themselves and their family out of poverty.

In the U.S., Obama’s affordable care act is known to have access to free contraceptives. Many people are disturbed by this thinking that the government is forcing to pay for something that may not believe in. However, there is no way everyone’s tax dollars will go 100% where they agree. It’s not possible to make everyone happy. Secondly, if your concern is your religion, religion is personal. Religion is not the law, and not everyone has the same beliefs as you. Therefore, you can not harm the health and quality of lives to others because you believe in something that works for you. I’m still unsure why religion has so much control over laws and policy when it should be a personal relationship. There are so many different religions in the United States. Law must focus on the well-being of people overall and not give in to a few religions that may hinder others. Another issue in the U.S. that is extremely popular to argue on is the economy. But it has been proven that by having money go into providing family planning services for women will gain revenue as an end result. The money that is put in then goes back into society as these women succeed into leadership postions and careers that allow them to establish and support themselves, rather than not finishing school or moving ahead in work causing them to sink into poverty relying on government assistance programs. Again, if you leave behind half of your society because they are women and therefore have reproductive health issues that must be addressed, there is no way to move forward. Being a woman is not a pre-existing condition, and should not be treated as such. Men certainly aren’t going to stop wanting sex, and neither will women. So the fault should not fall on women who are trying to be responsible so they don’t fall behind by using methods that are much less reliable.

I will never forget the 14 year old girl we met in Ghana, who was so intelligent and inspiring to speak with. On the last day we found out she was pregnant, would have to quit school, and work to support her family instead. That was her life. No responsibility was even considered to be put on the boy. It was heartbreaking. These are things that could so easily be avoided. People often put a stigma on the issue that causes it to slow down rather than moving forward and succeeding. It is a shame, and I am thrilled to see the United Nations take this important step forward to push the world to take action in supporting women and therefore supporting the world.

To learn more, the UNFPA released a full report here: http://www.unfpa.org/webdav/site/global/shared/swp/2012/EN-SWP2012_Report.pdf