Friday, September 3, 2010

Men's Place in the Abortion Movement

Originally I intended to write this blog about queering domesticity, and using queer models to revisit gender based domestic roles. I aimed to ultimately steer the conversation towards unlearning masculinity and the responsibilities of feminist men in redefining gender power structures. However, this morning prior to posting, I was witness to (yet again) an anti-abortion demonstration, of the variety with incredibly graphic billboard sized photos. So, still with the aim of addressing men's roles in restructuring the gender hierarchy, I will be using abortion rights as my vehicle.

I will be clear from the beginning, I think there is only one place for men in the abortion rights movement, and that is as supporters of people's rights(namely women) to make their own reproductive choices about their bodies. I realize that this is a heavily politicized position, but it is my deep and genuine value none the less. As a feminist man, it is my responsibility to encourage other men towards valuing what I visualize as actions working to eradicate, or in the least address, misogyny in their lives. One of those crucial steps towards addressing oppression is asking men to step out of the abortion rights debate except as passive supporters. Unless you are a transgendered man who can become pregnant, or an otherwise man identified person who would possibly need to seek an abortion, I do not believe you should have an active voice in the rights debate about abortion.

This morning, the overwhelming majority (9 of 10) of the persons protesting against abortion were white men over 50, people very incredibly unlikely to have ever had to make reproductive choices about their body regarding abortion. I was completely frustrated by this expression of misogyny. I protested back to the men holding the graphic signs that men have no place the reproductive rights struggle.

The last abortion rights action I was involved in was a pro choice queer response to a large nationwide pro life rally that was happening in San Francisco in 2007. People often question why queer people should have a voice in the reproductive rights struggle, just as I challenge the way that men take up space in the abortion rights debate. I counter with a reminder that many queer people can and do become pregnant, and many have and will seek abortions. Most men however, can not become pregnant and should not be participating in deciding the rights of those who can.

People with more rights, or more access to rights, decide the privileges of others with less rights all the time. This is one of the foundations, though I realize a heavily generalized one, of social and political oppression. I hope this is one of the injustices we all seek to remedy as we become lawyers. An important key to dismantling the effects of the patriarchy, or other oppressive social power imbalances, is to ask those who have unfairly had power to step away from those processes that do not affect them and allow those whose bodies, privileges, etc,are affected to have autonomous governing of their identities.

I realize asking the government to allow only those who can become pregnant to control legal access to abortion is incredibly impractical if not actually impossible. But what I do think is right and responsible and possible to actualize everyday is to ask men to remove themselves from the frontline of the abortion debate. Even though we can not change the gendered political structures of legal abortion controls, we as men can practice feminist ideals in our personal political choices by allowing those who would need abortions to have the privilege and the responsibility of being the primary vehicle of the movement for those reproductive rights.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Although I am 100% pro- choice, I think it is always prudent to look at opposing viewpoints. With the emerging celebrity status of Sarah Palin and her views on abortion, I was curious about the pro-life feminist view and found an article by Colleen Carroll Campbell who says,
“For many American women, the feminism that once attracted them with its lofty goal of promoting respect for women's dignity has morphed into something antithetical to that dignity: a movement that equates a woman's liberation with her license to kill her unborn child, marginalizes people of faith if they support even modest restrictions on abortion, and colludes with a sexist culture eager to convince a woman in crisis that dealing with her unplanned pregnancy is her choice and, therefore, her problem.”

If we in the pro-choice feminist camp are to win in the court of public opinion, we must counter the arguments of Sarah Palin and Colleen Carroll Campbell in public forums and social media. Our fight is not just with older white males, but educated middle-class conservative females.