On The ERA

Oct. 1st, 2011 06:12 pm
[personal profile] teleen_fiction
I've been hearing about the Equal Rights Amendment for most of my life.  My dad was (and I assume, is, though the subject hasn't come up recently) very anti-ERA (big shock to all of you, I know).  From the semi-coherent ramblings he gave me on the subject, I assumed it was a plot to turn women into men (or something equally stupid).  I'd never actually read the text of it until last week and I have to say, it utterly stunned me:

bulletSection 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
bulletSection 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
bulletSection 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.
That's it.

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. 

It's mind-boggling, stunning, sickening - I really can't put into words how horrified I am that this has been impossible to pass.  

The thing is, I've always thought I was a person.  When the Daily Show is running bits about how women in Saudi Arabia can get ten lashes for driving and we're still literally holding hands with them, I can think - well, that's Saudi Arabia.  I live in the "freest country in the world".  

A country that has "personhood" bills on ballots in several states (including my own, I believe, though the last one I officially heard of was the "heartbeat bill").  A country where 87% of counties don't have access to abortion providers and where abortion doctors are shot in the head for daring to treat women as autonomous human beings.

A place where I have to argue about the "personhood" of the unborn (hell, of the barely formed - I was arguing about fertilized eggs, for Christ's sake) with an idiot who's a decent guy in person, but just happens to not support my basic rights as a fellow human being the moment I start playing host to another, POTENTIAL human being.

The ERA isn't just about abortion, but I think that abortion is one of the fundamental reasons it hasn't passed.  Because if I weren't allowed to be discriminated against for my gender, there would be no question of me not being used as a broodmare.  

The thing is, as all of you should know, I'd actually like to be a mother.  At this point, I'm not sure that pregnancy is the route I want to go because of my older eggs and possible complications, but it's certainly the easiest route to motherhood there is.  Adoption is expensive and horribly difficult, something that also boggles my mind, but that's a whole other rant. 

However.

I want to be pregnant on my terms.  If there is a problem with the pregnancy, I want to know that my life will be prioritized, that I won't be forced to continue a pregnancy when the fetus is not viable, that I won't be forced to continue the pregnancy regardless of the viability of said fetus. 

I want to know that I'm a human being.  I want to know that I'm person.  I want to be considered a person by the rest of society, to be given the same pay if I do the same work as someone who has genitals different to mine.  I want my rights to be the same as my male counterparts, to know that my body is mine and only mine, regardless of what I wear, what I do for a living or where I walk late at night. 

The more I read about feminism, about those who call us "femi-[n-word that has no place here because the only ones who should be called that word are the ones who supported and continue to support that horrible human being who started WWII], the more I just want to cry. 

Oh, I rage and rant and scream into the wind too, but lately for the most part I've been feeling an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair.  Why am I not a person?  Why is my humanity fundamentally less because I have a uterus?  Our species is in no danger of dying out (if anything, we're overpopulated, which is why I'm leaning more and more towards adoption). 

Why, at work, do men think it's acceptable to try and grab my crouch within a minute of meeting me?  Or smack my ass and then look abashed when I turn around and spank their hands for it like naughty children?  And why, when I write things like that do I automatically have to worry about other, well-meaning feminists saying that shit like that is why my place of employment should be legislated out of existence "for the greater good"? 

Here's the thing, fellow feminists - if it's really my body and my choice, I should be allowed to CHOOSE to allow men to objectify me for money WITHOUT having to also put up with them degrading me for it.  It's a fine line, but one I believe can be reached if everyone just stops and thinks rationally for a moment.

Men like to look at women.  Men like the company of women.  Some men (like the horribly disabled, wheelchair-bound man who's been coming in for the last few weeks or the gentleman with Asperger's whom I've known for 12 years) have no options for female companionship or sexual interaction other than places like where I work.  We provide a release valve and companionship.  And we get hazard pay for it.  

A lot of people have asked me over the years why I do what I do when I'm so smart.  Because my brain wasn't paying my bills (or at least not as well as my body happened to).  And I genuinely enjoy the work.  It's not for everyone and I'm 100% in favor of anti-slavery legislation that keeps women from being forced into it, but I should have a right to CHOOSE to do it without being judged by either society as a whole or women who call me anti-feminist for allowing myself to be objectified.  Or worse yet, take every complaint I have about my job as further "proof" that I'm just a poor exploited girl who doesn't know what's best for her, instead of a grown WOMAN who's capable of making her own choices.

Please don't misunderstand me here, either - I hear far, FAR more from men about how I'm "too smart to be doing this" or how they want to "save" me from this life.   Their motives are a bit more sinister, however.  They want to "save" me so that I can be their personal property instead of (supposedly) "community property".  They literally can't conceive of me doing this with a boyfriend/husband/significant other because I'm property.  That's how society sees me.  I'm either the property of one person (my SO, male or female) or I'm community property.  There's no third option, where my body is just mine and I can do whatever the fuck I want with it so long as I'm not causing injury to another person.  (Person, as always, being defined as someone who is not inside of a woman and who has taken a breath after being detached from her body). 

That, finally, is what feminism and the ERA are about for me - giving me a choice.  Telling me that I have a right to do as I wish with my body.  If I want to rub on 99 strangers but tell the 100th that I won't dance for him or allow him to touch me, it's my right.  If I don't wish to remain pregnant, it's between me and my doctor (and even then, my doctor may only advise me on options; NEVER tell me what I should or should not do).  If I get a job, I should be paid the same as another person who has the same qualifications and is doing the same work. 

Why is all of this so difficult?

Why can't I just be a person? 

Date: 2011-10-01 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darth-eldritch.livejournal.com
Some men (like the horribly disabled, wheelchair-bound man who's been coming in for the last few weeks or the gentleman with Asperger's whom I've known for 12 years) have no options for female companionship or sexual interaction other than places like where I work. We provide a release valve and companionship.

THIS. Why are these people so invisible to the world that they never count in any discussions involving the rights of different groups?

Date: 2011-10-02 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teleens-journal.livejournal.com
they never count in any discussions involving the rights of different groups?

I had to think long and hard about this before answering this, but here are my gut feelings on the subject:

Honestly? Because they are separate issues. As I believe I've mentioned before, I've had some truly awful incidents with disabled persons, the most memorable being the gentleman in the wheelchair who touched my legs on a table dance and when I told him it wasn't allowed, he replied, "Yeah, but I get all the best parking spaces too."

Their right to the release valve of which I spoke ends where my bodily autonomy begins. They don't have a "right" to see or touch me - I CHOOSE to provide that service because I believe it's a good thing, but their suck doesn't make my suck not suck, if that makes sense?

I feel for anyone who doesn't have the same freedom of movement as I do and will fight to make sure that they are treated as equal members of society, but (and there is a "but"), their rights have nothing to do with my rights. Rather, while I might say that me stripping is providing a public service to those who might not otherwise be able to have regular human contact, they are not OWED that service. I still have the right to CHOOSE to provide it to them. Or to tell them "no" if I don't wish to dance for them.

This is a case where the normal rules of "discrimination" don't apply. No one has a right to my body and as a result, I have a right to refuse service to anyone if they cross set lines I've set in my head.

And every dancer's lines are different. There are some women who refuse to dance for African American or Indian men and while I might feel that their motivations have racist origins because they're stereotyping an entire group based upon the bad actions of a few in that group, it's still their body and their choice.

Myself, I generally don't approach women who are there with men - it's a tremendous hassle that (usually) doesn't pay off. If they approach me, well - I rarely turn down money. But I have a right to avoid couples because I don't want to risk the (possible) drama that I've seen happen.

I walk away from customers all the time, but the difference is that I try to do it based upon individual behavior, rather than how I *think* they're going to behave based upon outside surface characteristics.

tl, dr: The only thing at issue with my job is why the women who do it are doing it. If they are doing it out of choice, they should be respected for that choice without anyone trying to "save" them, victim-blaming them for being assaulted or trying to legislate their jobs out of existence. However, if they are being forced into it, all resources possible should be made available to get them away from it.

Date: 2011-10-02 10:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darth-eldritch.livejournal.com
What I meant is that no one stops to think about cases like these disabled persons when they argue that women should never be sex workers in the best interest of all women. They never stop to think "hey, wait a minute, this is one outlet for someone who doesn't have a sexual or companionship outlet and who are we to say anything against a woman who is willing to provide that service?" Key word is willing because I do not by any means imply that a disabled person has a right to touch or presume upon a woman, or any sex worker, just because they are sex workers.

Date: 2011-10-03 12:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teleens-journal.livejournal.com
I didn't think you meant it that way, but I had to be sure, :). And the reason it doesn't come up is pretty much the same reason that the ERA has yet to pass - unless one is white, cis-male, rich (this one's the most important) & able-bodied, one is not considered fully human in our society, :(.

Date: 2011-10-03 12:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] darth-eldritch.livejournal.com
Oh, okay :)
I may have misunderstood you in the first place.

So true, so true. Especially about the rich.

Date: 2011-10-01 11:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] las.livejournal.com
Yeah. It's boggled me, too, that this really simple, intuitive bill has been so damn threatening and so impossible to pass :(

Date: 2011-10-02 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teleens-journal.livejournal.com
Again, we're not considered people because of our gender and any public recognition of us as EQUAL people would undo thousands of years of social programming, :(.

Date: 2011-10-02 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparkindarkness.livejournal.com
It's one of the most depressing things that conversations like this still have to be had - that basic humanity still has to eb argued for, that basic personhood (for actual people, not cells) has to be fought for

Date: 2011-10-02 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teleens-journal.livejournal.com
Exactly this. Rights are rights and I will never understand the motivations of those who wish to limit the basic rights of others.

Life should be a choice

Date: 2011-10-02 08:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nightchild78.livejournal.com
I totally agree with you that our job, our partner, our opinions... should be the result of our choice and not the result of the society's pressure.
Personally, I'm catholic and practicing, but I think that women should have the choice to have babies or not. I wanted and I choose to have a child. I don't see the point to force women to have children against their will. My personal convictions are personal and people shouldn't try to do their personal case a generality.
I also think that an exotic dancer deserve as much respect as a surgeon. I take my hat off to you, because I wouldn't do your job : firstly, I'm not enough beautiful and secondly I'm too fearful. You are right to be proud of yourself.
One last thing : in France abortion is allowed since 1975, but there is an awful lack of staff and facilities. I don't know what is the worst : anti-abortion gangs or governmental apathy.
I hope I didn't make too many spelling mistakes and this comment is comprehensible.
In four words : I'm with you.

Re: Life should be a choice

Date: 2011-10-02 10:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teleens-journal.livejournal.com
It's depressing to me to hear that France is that bad about it - I'd always heard that it was one of the more progressive countries when it came to individual rights, :(.

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