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Posted in: Feminism

Published on Dec 02, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for NewsRealBlog

Did Second Wave Feminism Destroy Women? Nonsense.


Words fail me. Well—not really.

Megan Fox should think twice before dishonoring an entire movement because she disagrees with its position on reproductive rights and its analysis of marriage. My Second Wave generation of feminists bravely exposed the pre-existing epidemic of rape, woman-battering, and incest within families and we exposed the sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women at work and on the streets. We lobbied, demonstrated, counseled the victims of violence, and passed legislation to prosecute these formerly "secret" crimes—as crimes.

Where were the pro-family and pro-life forces? They certainly were not the ones who exposed abuse within the family nor did they work on the violence against women issues. They did not counsel girls who had been raped by their fathers, older brothers, male cousins—a far more common phenomenon than by strangers.

In addition, Second Wave feminists were the ones who first challenged the pornography industry and that of prostitution. We led the way. Many of us were "abolitionists" where prostitution and trafficking were concerned. We took these billion dollar industries on and despite great effort, even genius, we failed. Fox is right: Some feminists believed that pornography was a personal matter or a First Amendment right—but so did everybody else except for a handful of dedicated Christians with whom we worked.

My generation of feminists discovered that women were faking orgasms; that many men did not know how to please women—and that included their wives, mistresses, and paid sexual companions. We were interested in fairness in the bedroom as well as fairness in the marketplace. More important: We also pioneered the work against drug companies and the medication of both menstruating and menopausal women, which medication caused women to die from cancer. We did not embrace birth control; there was a very important argument that the late, great Barbara Seaman and the National Women's Health Network (I am a co-founder) made against birth control.

Where were the pro-lifers and pro-family forces on this burning issue?

Women have always been unpaid, underpaid, and overworked; they have also been kept out of higher paid, male-only professions. Women have always feared growing old because that often meant extreme poverty and sometimes homelessness. That is still true, alas—but not for all those women who, courtesy of Second Wave feminist lawsuits and consciousness-raising became physicians, scientists, business executives, professional athletes, academics, lawyers, judges, social workers, etc.

Where were the pro-family, pro-lifers when it came to women's economic dignity? And to fairness, justice for the working woman?

The family that Fox extols, romanticizes? When it works, it's wonderful. When it fails—what then? Fifty percent of marriages in America end in divorce. Does Fox really understand that men have been abandoning both wives and children forever, long before Second Wave feminists were even born? Does she understand that men rarely paid child support, that good mothers have, historically, always been deprived of custody of their children? Does she know that it is only recently, that good mothers (good fathers too) are being paid a poverty-level of child and spousal support —but only courtesy of the work of Second Wave feminists?

More important: Does Fox realize that good fathers and good husbands lose their jobs, become ill, even die, and that a second income is often essential? Perhaps for most people that second income has always been essential—but if women are uneducated or unskilled, (even when they are highly skilled) women still cannot earn a "male" income? And that children go hungry and become homeless for this reason?

It is telling that in her open letter to Second Wave feminists, Fox seems to blame all social evils only on women and on feminists in particular. She allows men an absolutely free pass in terms of their entrapping girls and women into unmarried sex and into unwed motherhood. Men both produce and purchase pornography; men are the pimps and the Johns who buy women's bodies. Men traffic girls and women into sexual slavery. Why are these purveyors of filth and these whore-mongers absent from her commentary? Does she understand that it is men who have infected women with AIDS, not the other way around?

For example, all over Africa, children are increasingly orphaned, women are forced into being caregivers to dying relatives until they, too, die. Why do I mention this? Because most African governments have denied that male lust was behind the AIDS epidemic and absolutely refused to do anything to stop male lust and therefore they refused to stop the epidemic from spreading.

Now, even the Pope has grappled with the issue of condom use in order to protect women from this deadly disease.

Before the Second Wave began making waves, women were silent in church, synagogue, mosque, and temple. We created the consciousness that led people to envision women as religious authorities, counselors—not only as followers and volunteers but as leaders. Since then, women have been ordained as ministers and as rabbis and, in a real sense, God has been further liberated from human misogyny.

Oh, there is so much more to say but I must save it for another day. Fox only seems to care about two issues. The world is wide and deep and surely there are more than two issues that matter.


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