Around a year ago, I wrote an article for Odyssey called “The F Word” but I felt compelled to write somewhat of an update here. In my previous article I wrote a lot about how feminism is not a dirty word, and the effects that the negative rhetoric of our society on rape culture. I reiterated my point over and over, and I think I need something a little more fluid. Without further ado…
Feminism. What does it mean? To put it simply, feminism is the expression of equality among the sexes. Men and women are equal. Right?
Then why is it, that when I tell people I am a feminist, they look at me with disdain? Why is believing in equality something that is so radical? Emma Watson makes it look easy.
In my opinion, the extremist feminists are the ones that give this radical example. They are “men hating” and “bra burning”, which is not the point of feminism. If you hate men, you are not preaching equality, and those “crazy feminists” are the ones setting the standard for the no-so extreme.
Thus, when I have conversations with some of my liberal friends they often tell me that while they believe in the concepts feminists talk about, they don’t identify with feminism. Why?
I’ve also heard the argument that we should change the word feminism to equalism– which I can understand. But my argument to that is, FEMINISM IS NOT A DIRTY WORD.
This rhetoric around dirty feminism has nothing to do with what we are actually doing. Preaching equality, is not something that is men-bashing. I believe that I can do anything a man can do. I am smart, educated, and talented. Why can’t I be a doctor or a journalist? Why can’t I make the same amount of money as my male counterparts?
THAT is my goal. Wherever my career path takes me, I AM going to be making the same amount as my male colleagues doing the same job as me. I AM going to be worthy of my position, and I AM not going to stand for any different treatment just because I was born with a vagina.
Feminism is not a derogatory word. It is a safe word. Feminism means equality for the sexes. Simply, we are all equal.
Just because we have different anatomy, we are equal. We are powerful.
I recently had a chance to talk to Ellie Boothe, whom I met in a feminist club on my college campus. At one of our meetings, we talked about how Ellie is not only actively feminist, but she also identifies as pro-life. This is irregular in the feminist realm, simply because feminism is more aligned with pro-choice beliefs. My friends and I were intrigued, so I decided to ask Ellie a few questions!
Q: In your opinion, what does the term “feminism” mean to you? In my opinion, “feminism” can be defined as the equality of the sexes in social institutions including education, family, politics and the workforce.
Q: Similarly, what does “pro-life” mean to you? To me, “pro-life “does not end at being “pro-birth”. If an individual is to take the stance of being “pro-life” that individual must also be pro quality of life. Pro- life is more than just ensuring a child is born, but that that child enjoys a safe community, a quality public education and receives adequate health care regardless of the ability of the parents to provide these rights. If an individual claims a pro- life stance dedication to that life can not end at the birth of a child.
Q: Would you say that being a feminist conflicts with your pro-life beliefs? I do not say that claiming a pro-life stance conflicts with being a feminist. However, there are feminists who will make that accusation. I feel that the larger ideological umbrella of feminism, equality regardless of sex and gender, encompasses the pro-life movement.
Q: What is one thing you want the feminist community to understand about the pro-life stance?
I want the feminist community to know that as a member of the pro-life movement, my goal is not to end safe abortions to push women into unsafe and potentially deadly situations. Instead my goal is to ultimately end a need for abortion by perusing avenues such as effective sexual education, and access to family planning information and affordable birth control measures to prevent pregnancy, and, if pregnancy is not prevented, access to quality healthcare and general family welfare support after birth. I understand that to hold a pro-life view I need to be willing put forth my part in ending the need for the procedure by helping mommies and eventually adopting babies.
Q: What is your history with feminism, and also with pro-life?
I became a feminist in high school. I attended a rural high school in North Georgia where young women were repeatedly spoken down to and their opinions diminished. As I navigated conservative Appalachia, feminist rhetoric struck a chord with me. I sought feminist avenues while attending the University of North Georgia. I participated in the campus production of The Vagina Monologues for four years, serving on the board of directors my last year. In addition, I joined the club “ Dahlonega Feminist Egalitarian Movement “or “DFEM” my senior year.
As a child I attended Catholic school, which impressed upon me the sacredness of life from an early age. During high school, when I discovered feminism, I claimed to be pro-choice. I was a recovering conservative and wanted to be a cool liberal so I agreed with everything I thought would make me a better democrat. However, as I matured the holiness of human life was demonstrated to me repeatedly. As a college graduate, my stance as pro-life has been cemented.
Q: How do people react when they hear you are pro-life?
It depends on the social situation. In spaces such as a Vagina Monologues practice my being pro-life elicits surprise to say the least. Most feminists view being pro-choice a major requirement for identifying as a feminist so I usually encounter confusion and some negativity. However, in spaces such as church or family Christmas hearing that I am a feminist garners a negative reaction, so it’s a lose/lose.
Q: Are there any personal experiences you’d like to share that deal with being a pro-life feminist?
While not directly related to pro-life feminism, this experience altered the lens through which I view myself as a pro-lifer.
One of my best friends is Catholic. We were speaking one evening and I mentioned that I take an oral contraceptive for a pre-existing condition. Knowing I am pro-life, she noted that to her “I might as well have an abortion”if I were ever to be intimate with someone , as many Catholics believe that you are preventing life planned by God. I sat in stunned silence, feeling belittled and thinking that she made a ridiculous claim. However, upon further reflection, I realized that that is exactly how pro-choice women must feel in response to the pro-life platform. Since this encounter, I make a much greater effort to better explain my view without inadvertently making others feel belittled for their decisions or viewpoint, so we can reach a point of understanding.
Q: How has feminism affected your life? What is something you do in your daily life that stems from feminism?
Learning about feminism as a teenager helped open my eyes to large-scale institutionalized inequality. When I attended college I chose to study sociology to gain a better understanding of inequality in the world and how to diminish disparities between social groups. In my daily life, how I speak to and about other women has changed because of feminism. There are a lot of bad things that happen to women, my words should never be one of them.
Q: How do you feel about other women choosing to have an abortion, and thinking it’s the best option for them? (ie the baby having something wrong with them, or the mother could die giving birth, etc.)
I honestly hate abortion. But I will never hate a woman who makes that choice. In college I interned with a non-profit that worked with people with disabilities and their families. Every person with a “disability” that I know has a life with immeasurable value. Ability does not determine value. Every person has a gift to give and I believe every life has a purpose. I am not a mother. I cannot imagine the fear a mother must feel when she is told her child has not developed typically. However, I will do my best to contribute to providing resources for families with a member who is not developing typically. Quality, affordable healthcare and social support and both pivotal in the effort to end abortion as a response to having a child with different abilities.
I hope to God I am never put in the position to determine the course of action to be taken in a situation which could lead to my death in birth as a mother. I am in no position to criticize any woman who had to make that decision.
Q: What are your thoughts about Planned Parenthood and the other services it provides?
Other than abortion, I am supportive of everything Planned Parenthood does.
Q: How do you feel about sex education? For/against?
I am pro sex education. By effectively teaching young people how to practice safe sex you are effectively preventing unwanted pregnancies, STIs, and other unpleasant surprises.
Q: How does religion play a role in your pro-life beliefs? Do you believe in separation of church and state?
I would be lying if I said religion didn’t play a role in my pro-life beliefs. My religion plays a major role in all of my beliefs. In Psalm 139:13, David wrote “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb”. I feel that calls me to value life in the womb as well as life outside of it. Yes, I believe in separation of church and state. I feel that my role as someone who is anti-abortion is not to make all abortions illegal but to try to alleviate the need for abortion.
Thanks Ellie for your perspective! Remember to follow Ellie on Instagram.