Women’s Rights no. 1: Bearing Children and Keeping Them

This is the first of a series of posts I will be doing concerning women’s rights. After the march on January 21, I saw posts on my social media accounts from an alarming number of women claiming that women’s rights weren’t real. They said that that marching for them created or acknowledged a “false” barrier; that these women “just hated men” and that everything in America was equal–we didn’t have to “worry” about “real problems such as sex trafficking.” At least three women who I know stated that “calling women’s rights human rights” was wrong, dumb, or ignorant.

First of all, we do have to worry about sex trafficking. It is a very real threat in America. Secondly, women’s rights are definitely a thing, and they are human rights. Why even put “women” in front of “rights” then if they are just human rights? Why not just march for human rights? Because women are the one’s who have been historically and currently denied rights and we have to claim them as our own. Voting was not a woman’s right, now it is. It’s a man’s right and a woman’s right. In America at least. Also, there are rights which are particular to women. Reproductive rights that deal with a women’s body for instance. Or what about the right to decide, as women, if we want to have intercourse or not? How much does that weigh in? Well, until the 1990’s, if we were married, we didn’t have the right to decide, our husbands did. Do I even have to mention the Brock Turner case to prove that we haven come very far?

Furthermore, I don’t think that people protesting the march understand that rights can be violated even if laws are protecting them. Social mood creates acceptance where the law does not. Social mood allows for the ignoring of laws, i.e., the sex trafficking that occurs in America that women apparently don’t see.

What about reproductive rights? No, I am not talking about abortion. I am positive you have already thought about that one. I am talking about the right to carry a baby. The right to keep your baby. The right to get pregnant. The right to your uterus. You might not think of that because it would be absurd even to have to consider it. But did you know that during the seventies African American and Native American women could have their uteri removed without their knowledge under fake federal programs?[1] Others knew it was happening but didn’t stop it. It was illegal. It was acceptable because of social mood. And no, it didn’t just occur in the South. Historian Rickie Solinger states that in the fifties white girls were tricked, forced, and bullied into giving up their babies into illegal adoptions. It was common, they were advertised in the newspapers, and no one stopped them.[2]

The point is that the pressure to have the perfect family resulted in life-changing actions. Ann Fessler notes that this is particularly horrible for white middle-class mothers who guided their daughters into relinquishing their babies.[3] Both mother and daughter felt forced and unable to find other options. In later years, many of these mothers stated that they regretted not knowing their grandchildren, but they felt that was the only socially acceptable options.[4]

Now, do you think that there are women’s rights? Do you think the actions above violated them?

[1] Rebecca M. Kluchin, Fit to Be Tied: Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in America, 1950 (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2009), 107-109.

[2] Rickie Solinger, Wake up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade (New York: Routledge, 1992), 95-96.

[3] Ann Fessler, The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe V. Wade (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), 8.

[4] Ibid., 129, 198-202.

 

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