A guest post from Jane Cawthorne.
There are a lot of things to worry about right now. Last weekend, I attended a conference on climate change. It was devastating, if unintentionally so. I left knowing that it is less likely my daughter will reach fifty years old than I will, and if she does, she will live in a world markedly different from the one I know.
I wanted to cry on the couch for a while, maybe watch movies. I didn’t. Instead, I thought about the appeal of denial. Denial is a kind of emotional haz-mat suit I like to wear when I don’t want to face what is truly terrifying. It works best when I don’t think, when I distract myself with movies or make myself so busy I can’t see past the next thing on my “to do” list. Like many people, I feel sometimes that I frantically deal with what seems urgent, but fail to see what is strategically important.
Then I started to wonder if the current frenzy of activity among anti-choicers is motivated by denial. All this focus on the fetus might be their way of forgetting that post-utero humanity is in pretty big trouble. Anti-choicers are pretty busy right now. If you read the news, Abortion seems to be the single most important issue in America, even more important than the economy, and certainly more important than climate change.
But there is more than denial at work in their fervor. We are, indeed, in a culture war. The war is not merely between Democrats and Republicans or left and right (or as I like to say, people who “get it” and people who don’t.) It is a war between patriarchy and whatever basic principle of human organization is emerging from its wreckage. For patriarchy to work, women and nature must be denied agency. Both are made “other” (and lesser) while men are linked to the divine. Women and nature exist only to serve. Of course, women have always been used by men in patriarchy, valued only for what we can provide, not for what we intrinsically are. Historically (and presently in many cases) we are subjugated within the family and, in the eyes of the most fundamentalist among us, we are baby factories producing heirs to men’s fortunes and workers for their factories. Sometimes we are allowed into the foyer of power, sometimes even into the board room. We work for their enterprises, but never in conditions that allow us to alter their course. Similarly, the natural environment is just a source of raw materials. The forest is only the trees. Worse, it is used as the dumping ground for the prolific waste that patriarchal society creates.
The anti-choicers, the climate change deniers, the union busters, the givers of corporate tax breaks, the right wing think tanks and their allies are working, literally, for the man. They work for patriarchy.
Pro-choice activists don’t work for the man. We are engaged in creating a post-patriarchal society where the rights of women are respected, where human rights include reproductive rights. We do this work in conjunction with environmental activists who know that social justice cannot exist without environmental justice. No matter what our location is in this struggle, no matter what part of the matrix of patriarchy we chip away at, we need to remember we are doing strategically vital work, and that we work with allies. It’s not a question of which work is most important, but how together, it serves to move us forward, towards justice, and not backward, towards tyranny.
Denial won’t serve us now. Neither will getting discouraged. The foundations of patriarchy are crumbling. Now is the time to keep working, to remember our allies, and to keep our vision for the future in focus.