Sarah Palin cheerfully trots out her affiliation
with the anti-choice organization Feminists for Life in order to back the claim that she’s pro-woman" — and
because I did so much in-depth
examining of this organization that I created a tag just for them at
Pandagon — I thought
I’d take a swing at FFL, specifically, how little there is for women in their supposed "pro-woman"
In the course of my research,
I learned that the definition of "feminism" that FFL works with
doesn’t resemble the kind of feminism that you or I know and love.
Their "feminism" doesn’t involve equal
rights for women.
Their "feminism" defines women as
uniquely incapable of handling freedom.
Their version of "feminism" is one where women don’t deserve real
health care, but a substandard version based on lies that could get
Theirs is even a "feminism" that belittles rape by
suggesting that it’s as bad or worse for women to have rights than to
Theirs is a "feminism" that rewrites feminist history
to deceive modern women.
Despite their claims
to be an organization that’s broadly opposed to abortion, they put
most of their efforts into convincing one specific demographic to take
one specific path. I took a screenshot
to give you an idea of what demographic they’d like to see take which path. A young, hip-looking (nose ring!) woman against language about reaching out to student leaders around the country. The sidebar–where the only outreach mentioned
is college outreach–and the ad campaign should clue you in, too. Still guessing?
When answering the question about what they do to make bringing pregnancy to term a more viable option for unintentionally pregnant women, Feminists For Life details its outreach
to college women. Low income women was something of an afterthought.
It doesn’t make sense, if
you take FFL at their word. They emphasize statistics suggesting that many women cite economic reasons for aborting as evidence
that abortion is always "coerced" and never actually wanted by women.
(FFL are "feminists" who think women are far too stupid to know
what they really want.) Since they profess so much concern for
low-income women aborting pregnancies they’d probably bring to term
if they had the means, why do they put most of their efforts
into convincing young women who have the privilege of college education
not to abort?
It doesn’t make sense.
If any group of women choosing abortion isn’t one to feel too sorry
for, it’s college age women choosing abortion. Compared to women in more socioeconomically stressful
circumstances, many college women who had an "oops" have it easy.
On average, they’re young and looking forward to a financially secure
future (if they stay in school), and they’ll be able to have their
babies down the road, under circumstances that are better for them,
their children, and their families. Lower-income women aborting
otherwise desired pregnancies under financial duress need a
lot more sympathy….and help.
Far be it for me to cast suspicion
on the motivations of FFL, but — hell, what am I saying? Of
course I want to cast suspicions on their motivations. Their actions
(trying to convince college women to have kids while they’re still
in school) don’t match their rhetoric (which exploits the trauma of
poverty to justify their anti-choice views). And considering that
Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter fits right into this demographic, the story becomes more interesting.
That she’s taking the choice FFL pushes — marry the father, have the baby, hope for the best — means that
we should look at the likelihood of that scenario working out as planned.
FFL paints, to their college-aged
audiences, a rosy picture of how great it can be to have a baby while
trying to get your undergraduate degree. They push for more married
student housing and more on-site day care. (There’s not really a need
for the former, but I agree that the latter would be nice, even if I
disagree with FFL’s motivations.) And with a handful of resources, the
ideal life for you at 18 will be downright easy, wouldn’t you know?
You can get married to your 19-year-old boyfriend (who will no doubt
be thrilled to give up single life so young), and start playing
house while all your other friends use their college years to experiment
and have fun. And sure, FFL will say, you can totally finish your
degree and have that great career that you planned before you got pregnant.
I’m not so certain.
Raising babies is expensive, and students don’t have much in the way
of money. And with financial aid being as meager as it is nowadays,
with ever-increasing amount of reliance on loans, dropping out of school
to get that job will be a lot more attractive that FFL lets on.
Marriage is no cure for that problem, either. Once you’ve set
up house and the baby is crying all the time and there’s not much
money, it’s going to seem harder and harder to justify taking out
loans for two college degrees, when one person could be working
to put the other through college. And the man’s degree is going
to seem a little more valuable for the same reason that men’s jobs
seem more valuable when it’s time for one parent to start staying
at home full time.
It’s extremely anti-woman
for FFL to mislead college women about the wisdom of the choice to have
children young. Sure, for some it works out. But the younger
you have kids and the younger you marry, the higher the risk
of dropping out, earning less, and divorcing.
What kind of "feminists" refuse to extend women the basic respect
required to be forthright with someone?
As an avid wingnut watcher,
I have to admit that I love FFL, or love to hate them, to be precise.
Their focus on the most privileged group of likely candidates for abortion
reflects the larger priorities of the anti-choice movement, which isn’t
to save "babies," but to remake America into their idealized version
of the fifties, with a pretty white submissive 19-year-old housewife in
every house. College education and career aspirations for women
directly threaten this ideal, so it’s no wonder that FFL tries to convince college women to make decisions that will cause
many of them to give up on their dreams of degrees and careers.
Under the banner of feminism, FFL tries to deceive women into letting
go of the very things feminists fought for women to have. If that’s
feminism, then "South Park" is a children’s show.
- Marcy Bloom, What Does "Feminists for Life" Tell Us About Palin?