Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Women Making History

Well, it's not the first time a women's protest has been about sex. In 411 BC, Aristophanes's play Lysistrata involved the women of Athens and surrounding city-states going on sex strike until their long-suffering husbands signed a peace treaty and ended war. And certainly throughout history women have been demanding their sexual rights. Lysistrata complains that while the men are off waging war, young women are languishing at home, only getting older. It's not fair, because while old men can still marry and have children, women have a definite window of opportunity. The men at war are depriving the women of their right to marriage and children.

There's a rich Biblical tradition of sexual protest as well: Genesis 19 recounts how Lot's daughters, cut off from civilization, get their father drunk and have sex with him so that they may bear children by hook or by crook. Genesis 38 tells the story of Tamar, whose first two husbands refuse to give her children through primitive forms of birth control. And since her father-in-law Judah (the ancestor of Jesus) won't marry her to his third son and give her the right of having children, she disguises herself as a prostitute, has sex with Judah himself, and conceives that way. Ruth demands her right of marriage (and children) from Boaz by making herself attractive and laying down near him as he sleeps, and then making her request when he startles awake. (Ruth is praised for her initiative by the elders of the city, who compare her to Tamar in her audacity.)

So, two thousand years later, women are still protesting and demanding their sexual rights, wearing pink pussy hats in lieu of rich robes and perfumes of Araby, and those rights are still centered around children. In this particular culture, however, women aren't demanding that men stop withholding children from them. The explicit demand, the entire official purpose of this modern protest is the right to kill the child. Sex is not connected with the stability and the relative immortality of bearing children to perpetuate a name and a family, but with immediate gratification, with expressing oneself, with reducing the richness of womanhood to nothing more than a vagina.

Two thousand years from now, who will be making history? What will sexual protest be about in 4017? Probably something as inconceivable to modern women as abortion on demand would have been to the ancients. We're constantly lectured by bumper stickers that "Well Behaved Women Don't Make History" -- because only women who make noise, who make love, who dare to wear pussy hats have any chance of carpe diem-ing, while the meek inherit the housework. And yet, what woman has had a more outsized impact on history than the Blessed Virgin Mary? Her sexual protest involved questioning even an angel itself: "How can this be, since I do not know man?" She stands -- alone, not amidst a supportive mob of you-go girls -- and asserts her virginity against God Himself offering her the gift of being the mother of the Messiah. And God honors her courage, granting her both the child and the virginity.

Throughout her life, Mary stands not amidst, but against the crowd. She stands at the foot of Jesus's cross, quiet against the howling of the mob. (Every mob demanding its own will ends, in effect, by shouting, "Crucify him!" -- a good reason why the assembly at Mass faces the image of the crucified Christ, to remind them that they come to serve his will, not their own.) Her protest is silent and internal, unless she is addressing God Himself. There she is not shy about making demands: "Son, why have you done this to us? Don't you know your father and I have been looking for you?" "They have no wine." She makes no waves. She makes no splashy headlines. She makes no strategic alliances with evil. And yet she has changed the lot of more women for the better, has garnered more sexual respect and rights for women, than any other woman in history. Perhaps the key is in the only recorded bit of advice she utters: "Do whatever he tells you." In that is contained the key to sexual freedom, and every freedom.


Kelly said...

I don't feel this is an accurate account of the motivation for the march. I know that abortion was a main factor for many but I had quite a few friends participate, none of them strident Planned Parenthood supporters. They marched because they feel they are still discriminated against in the workplace, seen in Trump's almost entirely male cabinet picks. Because they would like longer maternal leave and paid maternal leave but know it is more likely that they will lose what they have under Trump. They especially marched because they feel he embodies the rape culture of things like the Stanford rape case. Treating women as objects for male enjoyment has now been inaugurated into the highest office in the land and they are angry about it.

mrsdarwin said...

No two people ever do anything for exactly the same reason, and yet official reasons for gatherings matter. In this case, the official platform of a march sponsored by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, etc. was explicitly pro-abortion. New Wave Feminists, who share all the concerns you mention above and are specifically pro-life, were disinvited to be partners of the march for no other reason than because they are pro-life.

The reason celebrities boycotted the Trump inauguration was because they didn't want to be seen as even remotely supporting something they considered evil. When the numbers are counted up and entered, there's not going to be a reckoning of "This many for/this many against". People who turned out will be assimilated into the Planned Parenthood/NARAL/Official Partnership tally, regardless of personal conviction. Protesting Trump and his policies? I'm all for it. Making common cause with Planned Parenthood, under their explicitly pro-abortion rubric? No, thanks.

Cminor said...

The reason I read this blog. I tip my non-pink, cat-ear-free, tasseled-and-ear flapped-with-llama-design, Inca cap to you, Mrs. D.

mandamum said...

I understand people's desire to make common cause around equal pay, no harassment, etc. But these things are numbers/headline sorts of things. Either no one gets mentioned, or everyone does, or it's a PP/NARAL event. And since it's the 3rd option, well - then they are just "using" pro-life women who show up to try to march as pro-women. I felt like saying to the friends who would march, "They're just using you - they want your body (count) and really really don't want to hear what you think/care about your mind, or the rest of you." And that's not pro-woman.

It's a crying shame we can't all agree that grabbing other people by places we teach our children should always be respected, never touched by others except in these very specific, well-delineated situations... that this behavior is just wrong. Can't we all agree on this no-brainer? I would even consider a pink kitten hat to support such a stand, if the women's march(es) were actually taking it, (despite the vulgarity involved) but no. No, we must protect PP first, instead. Not even just abortion generally, but PP and its public funding.

mandamum said...

"these things" being marches, not the equal pay and harassment issues.

sarah said...
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sarah said...

I live in a different country and I can assure you that here the march had nothing to do with abortion or Planned Parenthood, and was entirely about women's rights. Actually, I believe for most people around the world it was about protesting the new American president.

I am actually pro-life in general, and still would have marched on Washington because I am pro-life. Only in a culture which does not normalise rape, which does not disenfranchise and denigrate women, which supports mothers with paid leave and other assistance, which has more than a scant few women in positions of political authority, which provides free birth control ... only in such a culture can we *truly* work for long-term solutions to abortion and help women to make less traumatic decisions.

mrsdarwin said...

I think when the "exclusive premiere sponsor" of the March is Planned Parenthood, and when the only group actively and publicly revoked partnership status is New Wave Feminists (and that partnership is revoked explicitly because New Wave Feminists are pro-life), when the second platform of the march is Reproductive Rights, when Cecile Richards is a featured speaker: the march is proudly, loudly pro-choice. When the "social justice partners" are Emily's List and NARAL, the march is explicitly pro-choice. The sponsors do not define what it means to be a woman, obviously, but they do define what this particular event called "Women's March" is -- and that platform is centered around abortion.

This kind of leadership is no way to create a culture that is dedicated to finding long-term solutions to abortion, or to help women make less traumatic decisions, any more that Trump's appalling personal example is.