When I was in grad school in Ireland, my friends and I made an agreement that if one of us should find ourselves with an unwanted pregnancy, we would rearrange our schedules for an immediate “girls’ holiday” to the UK—cocktails, spa visits, shopping, all that fun, female stuff. And an abortion.
It’s something that I had never had to think about in the United States. Roe v. Wade had been settled by the Supreme Court almost two decades before I was born, and while another Supreme Court ruling from my own home state, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, allowed for more restrictions and guidelines, abortion would have been generally accessible to me had I needed it.
Being a woman in a patriarchal society is hard, but it doesn’t make you a feminist.
Let me say it louder for the people in the back.
BEING A WOMAN IN A PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY IS HARD, BUT IT DOESN’T MAKE YOU A FEMINIST.
Feminism is about beliefs and actions aimed at dismantling the patriarchy, the systematic inequality that inhibits people of all genders. Feminism doesn’t mean that everything a woman does is good or feminist, that women can’t be called out (including by other women), that any criticism of a woman is an act of misogyny, that all women must lift up all other women all the time.
I would say it louder for the people in the back but I don’t want you to have to read a whole paragraph of capslock.
Corporations, despite continuing to not be people, have a lot of opinions. Usually that opinion is “buy our stuff,” but sometimes they try to sell us something deeper, something better. Gilette’s Super Bowl ad is the latest example of this, with a #MeToo era-themed comment on toxic masculinity and the harmful nature of the “boys will be boys” mindset.
The ad begins with men catcalling women, laughing at sexist jokes, and being forced to “toughen up” in response to bullying, while the actions, both those that harm others and those that cause them harm, are brushed off as “typical” male behaviour, locker room talk. Then the focus shifts, to strong fathers guiding their sons (and daughters) to resolve conflict, promote self-esteem, and learn how to “be a man,” in the best sense.
I haven’t written a journalistic-type article since… I was a journalism major? But I’m pretty proud of this one. In honour of Women’s Equality Day, a US holiday commemorating the (98th anniversary) of the Nineteenth Amendment, I spoke to four women in different countries (USA, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand) about women’s rights in their respective countries, and their hopes for the future. I’m hoping to do more with their words because they had such amazing things to say—maybe a series of some sort on my blog? But for now, I’m delighted to share this piece I wrote for Harsh Reality:
August 26 is Women’s Equality Day in the United States, commemorating the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. In the USA, women’s rights have seen huge strides forwards (as well as some big steps back). But how do women’s rights in the States compare to other countries around the world? Four women — from the United States, Ireland, New Zealand, and Canada — weigh in.
There aren’t many groups that recent news in the United Sates hasn’t upset, and women are no exception.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court ruled that so-called “crisis pregnancy centres” in California are not required to provide abortion information to patients. These often-unlicensed clinics usually pretend to be offering abortions or at least information on how to terminate a pregnancy, but when unsuspecting pregnant women visit, they are lied to, bullied and otherwise coerced into continuing their unwanted pregnancies. Sometimes they are given false information about the risks of abortion, the prevention of STDs, or the status of their pregnancy. Other times, they make it impossible to schedule the abortion that can allegedly be obtained from their clinic until it is too late for the women to terminate, or make the allegedly-available termination inaccessible to low-income women or those without reliable transport by requiring them to return again and again for assessments before signing off on the procedure. The law the Supreme Court struck down had required clinics to state if they were unlicensed, and had required clinics to make patients aware of options available from the state, including abortions.
Now comes the news that Supreme Court justice Anthony Kennedy will be retiring at the end of the month. Despite being a Reagan-appointed conservative justice, Kennedy was known as a swing-voter who was often a moderate voice in the Supreme Court thanks to key votes in cases regarding issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights. With his departure, Trump has an opportunity to nominate a far more conservative replacement, and naturally we can expect it to be the most awful choice possible. Women across the country are concerned, with good reason, that soon Roe v. Wade, the landmark case that struck down most restrictions on abortion, will be overturned or at least functionally dead.
After Trump’s election, many women feared that a combination of misogyny and pro-life zeal in office would form an attack on reproductive rights and make it more difficult for us to get not only abortions but also contraceptives. One of the major elements of Obama’s healthcare reform was to mandate that most forms of female birth control be covered by health insurance. Many feared (fear) that Trump will attempt to put and end to this, in line with the thinking of so many conservatives that the only purpose of birth control is to allow women to be promiscuous, ignoring the many who use it for health reasons and also the fact that there’s just nothing wrong with having sex. “Get an IUD,” became a common refrain, encouraging women to look into long-term contraception that wouldn’t be disrupted by the administration’s actions.
‘Get an IUD’ is more relevant advice than ever, and as someone who did just that almost a year ago, I thought I’d share a bit about my experience for anyone else who might be considering it.
I mostly try to avoid calling a celebrity a hero of mine. Being someone whose work I enjoy does not a hero make, and especially in recent years I am wary of heaping too much praise on (particularly a male) celebrity when I don’t know what they could have been doing behind the scenes on set or in the recording studio. But I have no hesitation in saying that Anthony Bourdain, who was found dead today of apparent suicide, is one of my heroes.
My three favourite things are travel, food, and writing, and Bourdain was an inspiration to me in all three. I’ve read several of his books, seen all of his shows (most episodes of No Reservations more than once), and any time I am going somewhere new one of the first things I do is check if Bourdain had done a segment there and what he had to say about it. He travelled the way I want to travel, and he ate the way I want to eat—not because of the variety and amount that he got to experience, but because of the way he honoured each place he went and each meal he ate.