reposting another older piece I believe is very relevant, especially in light of the Hobby Lobby decision. This is from February 2012
can be seen clearly in a piece at Alternet by trained futurist and good friend Sara Robinson. It is titled Why Patriarchal Men Are Utterly Petrified of Birth Control -- And Why We'll Still Be Fighting About it 100 Years From Now, and it's subtitle makes the thrust of the piece clear:
Conservative bishops and Congressmen are fighting a rear-guard action against one of the most revolutionary changes in human history.Robinson suggests 500 years from now looking back, the three great achievements of the 20th Century are likely to be the invention of the integrated circuit (without which the internet does not exist), the Moon landing (which she thinks will carry the same impact as Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe), and
the mass availability of nearly 100% effective contraception. Far from being a mere 500-year event, we may have to go back to the invention of the wheel or the discovery of fire to find something that’s so completely disruptive to the way humans have lived for the entire duration of our remembered history.To convince you of the importance of her piece, I will offer a few more selections and then close with a personal commentary.
Robinson argues that biology condemned women to a role organized around childbearing, which allowed men to benefit, including establishing dominance in many areas. As she writes
They got full economic and social control over our bodies, our labor, our affections, and our futures. They got to make the rules, name the gods we would worship, and dictate the terms we would live under. In most cultures, they had the right to sex on demand within the marriage, and also to break their marriage vows with impunity — a luxury that would get women banished or killed. As long as pregnancy remained the defining fact of our lives, they got to run the whole show. The world was their party, and they had a fabulous time.As I read these words I thought of three Ks - not as applied to American culture, but to the latter part of the first half of the last century in Germany: for the Nazis, the role of women was defined as Kinder, Kirche, Kuche - kids, church and kitchen. For too many patriarchal males today, that phraseology still seems to represent their thinking.
Safe and effective contraception - the IUD as well as the pill, for example - meant that women were no longer defined by their biology:
We could choose to delay childbearing and limit the number of children we raise; and that, in turn, freed up time and energy to explore the world beyond the home. We could refuse to marry or have babies at all, and pursue our other passions instead. Contraception was the single necessary key that opened the door to the whole new universe of activities that had always been zealously monopolized by the men — education, the trades, the arts, government, travel, spiritual and cultural leadership, and even (eventually) war making.Thus the age-old social contracts between men and women become somewhat obsolete, and new ones needed to be negotiated. Some men clearly understand that this empowers them as well, but for others?
And, frankly, while some men have embraced this new order— perhaps seeing in it the potential to open up some interesting new choices for them, too — a global majority is increasingly confused, enraged, and terrified by it. They never wanted to be at this table in the first place, and they’re furious to even find themselves being forced to have this conversation at all.That includes the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church:
they understand, better than most of us, just how unprecedented this development is in the grand sweep of history, and the serious threat it poses to everything their church has stood for going back to antiquity. (Including, very much, the more recent doctrine of papal infallability.)It is similar in the rise of fundamentalism around the world - fundamental Christianity in this country, strand of Islam including things like the Taliban, some strands of Orthodox Judaism, etc. As Robinson puts it cogently:
Drill down to the very deepest center of any of these movements, and you'll find men who are experiencing this change as a kind of personal annihilation, a loss of masculine identity so deep that they are literally interpreting it as the end of the world. (The first rule of understanding apocalyptic movements is this: If someone tells you the world is ending, believe them. Because for them, it probably is.)Some may not stop to realize it, but consider:
Male privilege has been with us for — how long? Ten thousand years? A hundred thousand? Contraception, in the mere blink of an eye in historical terms, toppled the core rationale that justified that entire system. And now, every aspect of human society is frantically racing to catch up with that stunning fact. Everything will have to change in response to this — families, business, religion, politics, economics…everything.Some men are desperately battling to restore male dominance. I might note we see it in language that criticizes the increasing advantage women have in some elite educational institutions, or in language that argues males are being discriminated against, or excluded in some fashion.
The retrograde male chauvinists and their female aliies (and there are some, who somehow do not see the visibility they are allowed to have as contrary to the positions they argue) are
marshaling their vast resources to get every last one of Pandora’s frolicking contraception-fueled demons back into the box.Let me offer some personal observations.
I will be 66 in abou 3 months.
I lived through the sexual revolution.
The entire singles scene in the bars of the Upper East Side of Manhattan would not have been possible without access to dependable contraception.
The sexual revolution which enabled men and women to explore the beauties of sexual expression for its own sake, or as an expression of love or passion, would be far less a part of our existence without contraception.
The enrichment of our society by the contributions of women - in science, law, medicine, education, athletics, business, even religion - would be far less absent contraception and how women were thereby empowered.
Sex cannot be only for the purposes of procreation - otherwise why have we not banned it once women are past childbearing age?
Why does the Roman Catholic Church not condemn vasectomies if no artificial method of birth control is acceptable?
Why do they allow marriages between septuagenarians to be consecrated in the Church?
My life has been greatly enriched by the contributions of women. I am one of two children of a woman who graduated from law school at the age of 21. I grew up believing women could and should be equal to men. I was surprised that the mothers of my friends did not have careers.
I have coached both boys and girls soccer. I actually enjoyed the latter more - they were discovering and experiencing uses of their bodies beyond the procreational, and some actually discovered their physical vitality was in no way in conflict with their being attractive to men. My girls' team had GPAs significantly higher than my boys' teams. Despite my long feminism, that was a real eye-opener for me.
I have a spouse with a distinguished career of her own. We have a marriage of more than 25 years. We made a choice, as have some of our friends, that we could love children who were not biologically our own, and did not have to procreate. That did not mean that our marriage was going to be sexless, let me assure you.
My self-image and accomplishments (if I have any), my role in society, is in no way diminished by the accomplishments of women, any more than our marriage is threatened by the same-sex unions of others we know. Love is love, and should be allowed expression beyond the legal definition of marriage (although that legal definition should not be discriminatory). I have worked for and with women, have supervised women employees. My student teachers have been both women and men.
I have seen society change enough that one of my fellow teachers is now pregnant with her third (of what will be four) children, but has been able to keep her job as an effective math teacher (and an important role model for our female students).
Sara Robinson warns us about what is happening right now,
much of the history of this century, when it’s finally written, will be the story of our children’s ongoing struggles against the organized powers that intend to seize back the means of our liberation, and turn back the clock to the way things used to be.We are seeing that battle play out right now in Washington and around this nation.
This is not just about religion.
This is not just about women's health.
This is not just about contraception.
This is about what kind of society we will be.
This is about whether a few will be allowed to impose their beliefs - religious or political or whatever - on the vast majority of the rest of us.
This is about Bishops who cannot get their own followers to follow their dictates - after all, 98% of Catholics do not follow the rules promulgated under Humanae Vitae - to attempt to impose them through the legal structures of our secular society.
This is but a step on a path that would not only overturn Roe v Wade, but also Griswold v Connecticut.
This is a battle that is already joined.
This is a war that is ongoing, and we cannot let the other side be the only ones fighting it.
This is about all of us.
Thanks, Sara, for your powerful piece.