Editor’s Note: Articles published by us do not necessarily represent an “RH Reality Check” position. We publish a wide range of articles by colleagues in the field who have very different positions on issues such as pornography, which is a heavily debated issue in the field. We welcome vigorous feminist, pro-choice, pro-rights debates on this issue across the spectrum and we certainly encourage your comments on the issue.
It is no longer deniable by anyone paying attention, that we are living through an all out war on women’s lives, women’s rights, and women’s futures. This is not a minor matter; women are half of humanity. Defeating this war is everybody’s responsibility.
This is why this Saturday at noon I will be out in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City with a rowdy band of others screaming at the top of my lungs. This is the home of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who spearheaded the recent attacks on birth control. These attacks come on top of decades of attacks on abortion, and now nearly 90 percent of counties lack an abortion provider.
From there, we will march to the porn stores in Times Square and once again scream at the tops of our lungs. We will protest these stores because pornography has become more violent, more humiliating, and more cruel towards women – even as it has become more mainstream.
In reality, there is no meaningful difference between the Bible’s view of women and pornography’s view of women. Both reduce women to “things” to be controlled by men. The church reduces women to breeders. Porn reduces women to sex objects to be brutalized and degraded. We are neither. Women are human beings. On Saturday, we are shaking off any remnants of our own passivity and launching a new movement that will not stop until the full humanity of all women is recognized throughout society and throughout the world.
By taking to the streets in protest, we are not appealing to those in power, neither to the politicians who are either outright attacking women’s lives nor with those who are “just” seeking “common ground” with and conciliating to those attacks. We are calling out the millions of people who are horrified by this relentlessness but who are sitting paralyzed on the sidelines. We are also calling out to those who have become so acclimated to the unceasing violence and disrespect of women that they aren’t even angry.
Our message: IF WE WANT THINGS TO CHANGE – WE MUST ACT! We must rely on ourselves. We must do more than click an online petition or send money to some politician, we must get out in the streets, we must make our voices heard, we must confront the woman-haters and we must create through this protest a taste of the future we want.
For too long, those who attack women have felt free to do so at the tops of their lungs and with the backing of the state. Rush Limbaugh can call a thirty year old woman who uses birth control a “slut” and monopolize headlines for days. Timothy Dolan can revolt against birth control and get a personal phone call trying to appease him from President Obama. Porn producers can speak openly, as Bill Margold does here, about their desire to portray violence against women, “I’d like to really show what I believe the men want to see: violence against women… The most violent we can get is the cum shot in the face. Men get off behind that because they get even with the women they can’t have.”
Meanwhile, women tell us the stories of their rapes, the obstacles and shame they’ve encountered seeking abortions, the humiliation they’ve experienced from boyfriends who take their cues from pornography in whispers and through tears.
Why should a woman feel she has to whisper to us about birth control and then add, “I hope no one hearing this gets offended”? Why should a woman be embarrassed to tell us how humiliated she has been because, “Every guy I have ever dated has begged me to let him ejaculate in my face”? Why should a woman break down in tears not because she feels guilty about having had an abortion but because she had gone her whole life without anyone ever saying to her that it is okay to feel good about her abortion?
It is time for women to stop choking on their anger and pain, to stop turning it inward. And it’s time for the men who want no part of this to stop going along.
We know that the body count of battered women – three to four women killed every day – never makes the front page. We know it’s easier not to consider the crushed spirits and ravaged bodies of the trafficked women who are locked inside the “massage parlors” we walk past. We know it’s degrading to consider how many of the men we interact with get off on depictions of women being “throat-fucked” til they gag. We know its a lot of energy to respond every time a religious fascist insists women “keep their legs closed” and be forced to bear children against their will. We know it is painful to confront that most people—including most progressive people —have learned to accept and to live with this escalating hatred of women.
But we also know that this is not the only way the world can be. We know there is a reservoir of people, women and men, young and old, who hate this relentless assault on women’s lives, rights and futures. We know that there are millions more who can be won to see that all this is intolerable. We know that not all men hate women. We know that women are not innately weak and passive and destined to lay down for this shit. We know – and we have already seen in our work building up for this protest – that, when people come together to confront the woman-haters and speak up defiantly in an uncompromising voice, tears and whispers can transform into righteous anger and defiant political action.
By standing up together, by confronting the institutions that concentrate the war against women, we can shake off our own passivity. We can plant a pole that challenges and changes what other people feel they just have to accept. We can create a situation where the anger that is simmering, often stuffed very deep down in women everywhere, can be brought to the surface and unleashed to fuel powerful thinking and action. We can give inspiration and backing to people of all genders who everywhere who want to be part of bringing a better future into being. We can forge a vehicle, a new movement, that changes the terms throughout society and gives people a meaningful way to act.
On Saturday, our protest is not symbolic. It is a beginning. It is a declaration. From now, until we win the full liberation of women, this war on women will be resisted with conscience, anger, imagination, massive mobilization, and relentless determination to turn the tide.
End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women!
Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!
Fight for the Emancipation of Women All Over the World!
Saturday, March 10th
ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL:
Fifth Ave. btw 50-51st. Streets