This post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium, Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.
John Erickson is a doctoral student in Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. His research interests involve an interdisciplinary approach and are influenced by his time as the director of a women’s center and active member in the GLBTQ and women’s rights movements. His work is inspired by the intersectionality of the feminism, queer identity, and religious political and cultural rhetoric. He is the author of the blog, From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter at@jerickson85.
I find it little ironic that I am writing about Mary Daly’s formidable “anti-male” book Gyn/Ecology. I remember reading the book when I was a sophomore in college and I owe much to Daly and her opus because they helped me to identify as a radical.
I know my position in feminism is sometimes misunderstood. I have often found myself on the defensive end when someone asks me the question: “Why are you a feminist?” However, although my identification as a feminist is always changing and growing, the label “RADICAL” is one I proudly wear on my chest everyday.
If you were to ask some of my closest friends to describe me, I’m sure they would start off by telling you that I speak my mind and oftentimes have opinions that tick people off. More specifically, they will tell you that I have “radical” opinions and that I am not afraid to say them aloud.
Although I have many “radical” opinions, I am often involved in heated conversations/debates/ and sometimes arguments when it comes to my stance on abortion.
It is here, in which Daly and I begin to have some common ground and common opinion.
No matter what, I strictly believe that men should have no say when it comes to a woman’s body before, during, or after a pregnancy (if she so chooses to have the fetus or invoke her constitutional right to get an abortion). I also do not believe that he should have any say whether he is her partner, spouse, husband, boyfriend, hook-up, or whatever symbolic term men often use to make a woman feel like she is suppose to ask for his opinion or be guilted into going through with a pregnancy even though she may not want to.
Daly states that “men have been lamenting for centuries, [their] immortality is out of [their] own control,” because they are not in charge during a woman’s pregnancy. I could not agree more with Daly. Men are not the ones “carrying” the fetus. Men are not sacrificing their bodies to bring a new being into the world. Men are not equal in this participation. Men are secondary in terms of pregnancy and women’s bodies and as we have seen in terms of recent political debate over Roe v. Wade or even with women gaining better access to birth control or health care during their pregnancy, men (and some very lost women in my opinion) love to inflict the control and power they do have in other ways. They do this not because “they care about the unborn ‘child’” growing inside the woman, but rather to get back a piece, no matter how small, of the power and control they lose to women throughout a pregnancy.
As we have seen via the Robert Byrn incident that Daly writes about, certain men (and women) love to go to congress in the name of “women’s bodies and un-born children” everywhere. They love to pass laws making it practically impossible for a woman to obtain an abortion or counseling for one. They love to pass out literature showing the remains of a deceased fetus or plant it on your car windshield while you are at the mall. More specifically, certain men (and women) love to infiltrate women’s bodies by passing laws that force women to have penetrative ultrasounds and listen to the fetus’ heartbeat before choosing to have an abortion (For more information about this, please read: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/us/28abortion.html).
It is usually around this point that men (and women) like to start giving me these “hypothetical” scenarios for me to ponder in relation to my “radical” opinion and hopefully force me to change or stagger in my opinion. Many of these scenarios are too lavish to write down in accuracy in this short amount of space but the overall point is that no matter what, people do not share my same opinion. People like to challenge me on this issue because they feel uncomfortable and I strike a chord at some of their core ethical, moral, and religious beliefs. When we bring these outside factors into the question, I believe that we get further away from the truth of the matter at hand. At the end of the day, the issue comes down to choice and the choice a woman has over HER body.
My simple answer to many of these scenarios is: “When you force a woman to have a penetrative ultrasound (without knowing the background as to why or how she became pregnant) to determine whether or not she wants to go through with an abortion, give the child up for adoption, or carry the fetus to full term and care for it, you inflict upon her a double rape scenario. You not only inflict a sociopolitical rape over her body, but also a medical one as well when you “force” her to have a penetrative ultrasound.
My retort back to the individual (or group) I am talking with is then: “How does it make you feel to medically force a penetrative rape upon a woman’s body in order to gain a fraction of control back over a woman’s choice to have an abortion?” While some do not answer, and most cannot bring themselves to, few walk away labeling me as a person who is “too radical” to have a conversation with and I couldn’t be more proud of that.
Upon reflection, maybe this is the point. Maybe members of society have to start being seen, heard, and viewed as “too radical” in order to change public discourse. Maybe, in order to gain back control over an individual’s body, one has to rustle a few feathers.
I am proud to call myself a radical. I am proud to call myself a feminist. I’m a radical feminist in the making and I am proud to call Mary Daly the Goddess I look up to for wisdom and inspiration.
Daly is the radical hag who rustled some feathers, ticked people off, and changed the world because of it.