Reactions to the recent attacks on women’s reproductive rights in the United States, from threats of the removal of birth control from health care to mandatory vaginal ultrasounds for abortion-seeking women, have been quite diverse. It seems an unfortunate trend that people don’t even need to satisfy the basic requirement of understanding the issue at hand before taking up a fervent opinion and letting as many people as possible hear it (See: Rush Limbaugh). On the other hand, there are a handful of elected officials who are making a statement regarding this issue by means of satirical appeal. Among others taking up a stance on the issue, Liberal Ladies Who Lunch, a group of American liberal women, have discussed this issue at length and have chosen to stage a protest. A sex protest, that is. An article about the protest explains, “To help make a change, the group is asking like-minded women to align with them for a sex strike starting on April 28th and extending a week later until May 5.”
Now, there are many questions that arise. The first one, I think, is if this is effective as a type of protest in general. The article mentions the similar strikes in Colombia and Kenya that were successful. So, the basic potential is there although an analysis of the systematic differences of the countries might give reason to think that it will be less effective in the U.S. I’m not going to dissect these differences here, but I think that it is important to note that this type of strike is only effective if widespread. This is a problem particularly for the prospect of success with this kind of protest in the United States, I would imagine. I don’t think that there is the same type of connection or solidarity between women in the United States as in other cultures. For instance, I feel more comradery towards a man socially or politically aligned with me than with a woman who has opposing views. And I think that across the board, that is how many Americans feel. Then again, when discussing issues like reproductive rights, I feel a sense of loyalty to women and an instinct to defend my gender. But there are plenty of women who are pro-life, there are women who support the mandatory vaginal ultrasounds and so on. Are these women who are pro-life, anti-woman? Is that a fair label? And even if just purely linguistically, can a woman knowingly be anti-woman? An even more pressing question is that when we, Women of the United States, cannot even agree on basic issues regarding reproductive rights, how can we expect to all come together based solely on our shared gender? This is not even considering all of the racial issues embedded in the feminist movement. (Like in The Color of Choice when Loretta Ross discusses the reproductive right injustices that ‘women of color’ endure while white women are privileged; for instance, ‘women of color’ are manipulated into getting abortions while white women are encouraged to procreate. These are social issues that divide women and keep them from connecting based purely on their womaness.) I wonder why gender, as compared to other shared traits, takes such a backseat from a United States perspective? It appears to be an anthropological question which I am certainly unqualified to answer with my limited knowledge on the subject, but interesting nonetheless, so I pose it.
Anyway, the major issue that I wanted to discuss during this blog is the negative and positive effects of using sex as the ”weapon” of choice. I find this so interesting because I can easily entertain both positions in my head. One might say that hell yes, using sex as protest is radical and provocative and a symbolic statement and most importantly, it has been proven effective. Another might say that the use of sex highlights the connection between sex and women in a negative way, considering historical stereotypes that deemed women as solely sexual objects whose only role was to have children and otherwise do as men advised. I don’t know which of these positions is right. But this dilemma reminds me a lot of the connection between women and Nature, and whether it is a beneficial connection or not. This debate is still ongoing; there are distinct stances on the matter. Some believe that women should embrace their natural connection with the environment as it is an essential part of their identity; others believe that the connection highlights the oppression endured by women and Nature and even provides excuse to subjugate women based on the position of female animals in Nature. Once again, I don’t know which of these positions is right. And perhaps the only answer is one regarding which position is right for you. That whole extreme subjectivity is a slippery-slope, though.
After reflecting on the idea of a sex strike in these circumstances, I am still undecided about its value. It is important to compare all the other types of protest and the ways in which they would be more/less effective in making a decision, I think. As fun as it is to blog about, the issue will be a lot more interesting to discuss with others. I’d like to hear what other people think about the LLWL’s plan and what effect it is likely to have. We can all actively take part in protest, whether through strike, sit-in, etc. or simply by staying informed about the issues and spreading awareness through discussion about them. No matter how one identifies, I think we can all agree that one ought to actively take part.