Speaking of Women's Rights: You Might As Well Hand Over Your Uterus

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You Might As Well Hand Over Your Uterus

Why slacktivism shares fault for the slow erosion of women's rights

by guest blogger Maria Miranda

A recent Washington Post article highlighted the silent victories that anti-choice organizations are winning across country. They are chipping away at the iceberg of choice with ice picks of laws passed at the state level that create barrier after barrier for women seeking an abortion. These people are relentless. They are dedicated to making women's lives miserable. Their desire for a puritanical society in which women are simply voiceless vessels drives them to take whatever measures necessary to win. I recently compared this to killing someone by stabbing them once a day until they bleed to death.

Many choice activists are scratching their heads baffled as to why Roe is dying a slow death.

It's because thousands of women are looking the other way.

Slacktivism will be the death of us. If the days of confronting what oppresses you in person with the inherent threat of risk that comes with it, is replaced with joining a fan page or tweeting that the eradication of civil rights "sucks", then our progress towards equity is stalled. For those of us who were born into a world with integration, choice, careers and all the other liberties that we take for granted, we have grown painfully complacent. We have adopted a brand of feminism that accommodates us and doesn't force us to question our role in perpetuating the dominant culture. We think our desire to wear pink is a choice.

We are more concerned about what infringes on our individual preferences and desires than what impacts us a gendered class. We swim in a cesspool of identity politics that serves to see who can race to the bottom and determine who has more content in her backpack of privilege. We have eschewed the second wave politics that brought us our birth control pills, our seats in the lecture hall, our place in the cubicle and the freedom to make the decisions that will impact our lives. We look at women from this generation with disdain and sometimes we mock them for fighting a fight we think is won. We can't be any worse than the suffragists who thought that voting was the ultimate solution to a woman's inferior place in society.

Hell, we let Sarah Palin co-opt the feminist movement for her own political gain.

With the advent of this pop feminism comes the delusion that online petitions, postcards and catchy t-shirts are doing the work that our foremothers did. Nothing makes me feel better than clicking "OK" on a pre-populated form letter addressed to a representative I couldn't identify on the street that talks about why [insert issue here] is important to me. I mean, if it's important enough for me to click send, it must be a matter of life and death, right? In the comfort of our homes, we can "speak out" against injustices, but who should bother to listen? Just as easily as I click "send" on my online form letter, some intern on the other end can delete my email.

Moreover, it behooves us to be aware that the entities that own and operate digital media are run by people in power that do not have women's interest at heart. We are nothing more than tools. We are not their constituents; we are their product. We are what they sell to advertisers who also capitalize on the oppression of women in all its forms.

There is something to be said about the power of community and for centuries, women have been the architects and keepers of community. Online community is a soul-sucking thing. It fills us with a false sense of empowerment, alienates us, isolates us and diminishes the essence of our existence. Not a week goes by that I don't consider deleting every online account I have. We need to find a way to communicate and conscious-raise the old-fashioned way. No, really, I'm serious. There is power to speaking woman-to-woman, face-to-face about the issues that impact our lives. No corporation can own that. It can't be commodified for one person's gain.

Does it occur to those of us with technological privileges that we further lessen our impact by keeping the message of women's liberation all to ourselves? How exactly are we reaching marginalized women with our tweets? The other side of effect of lazy liberation movements is the fact that we can't even reach the masses that need our message so badly. Even here: are we not just preaching to the choir? If you read a blog about women's rights, I'm fairly certain you already "get it". What do we do as a collection of activists to bring advocacy in 2010 to the women who need it the most?

Now, this isn't to say that blogging, tweeting and online communities are without merit. This isn't to say that in certain countries, blogging, tweeting and social networking isn't a risk and way to actually mobilize critical masses. Perhaps I glorify the feminism of another era. Maybe I ignore the value added that the digital age brings to activism. There is power in raising awareness. People can't find a solution if they don't know what the problem is. However, once you know, what do you do then? There is value to assuming risk when demanding what is rightfully yours. In fact, it's actually invaluable. In order to address the paradigms that create invisible currents of oppression, we must get a little uncomfortable and be more brazen in our actions.

And this is where we are dropping the ball. Many of us have let down the organizations and individuals leading the charge. They need us: to march, to demonstrate, to paint signs, to write real paper letters, as well as, stuff envelopes, make phone calls and write checks. We can't do all of that with a wireless connection and a grande no-foam, soy, green tea latte at our sides. The movement will always need real, live bodies. We can't win this war with drones.

The system that impedes our basic freedoms works because we have let it work. Where is the anger and the outrage that fueled marches in the streets and confrontations with the powers-that-be? We have snarky columns and edgy feminist websites, but beyond harping about it, what are we doing these days to show the other side that we are not to be messed with? They tweet, they blog and they click petitions, yet they must be doing something else since they seem to be winning.

No Democratic majority is going to shield us from the onslaught of attacks. We can't get fired up only during election season. If we only deal with weather disasters when they occur, how will we ever be prepared for the next one? We can't get tired now. We most certainly can't get comfortable. We must remain vigilant and prepare for inevitable fights ahead. They don't sleep, so we can't sleep.

I know all of us aren't capable of doing everything for every issue, but what is the fight for true equity without a little sacrifice? What are you willing to do to protect your way of life? What are you willing to risk in order to further the status of women? If you can't readily answer this question, then you're most certainly ready to admit defeat.

Maria Miranda likes to choreograph one-woman dance performances in her room. She is also the founder of Whisper to a Scream: a feminist performance arts collective and a columnist for Spangle Magazine.