Feminism and Freedom

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Feminism is a set of beliefs predicated on the perception that women have not achieved full equality in all areas of life. Feminist principles state that women should have the same freedoms that men have–and that when women do, men will also be free. Many men laugh at that concept: they’re already free to do as they please. Yes, and that is partly the point: they want to keep it that way at the expense of the freedom of others.

It’s human nature to want to be free. It’s also human nature to put others down in order to keep ourselves on top. We equate power with freedom: it is only those with the most power who are the most free. In addition, we are told that if everyone did what they wanted the result would be anarchy. But freedom doesn’t mean being able to do anything you want. Freedom has to go along with compassion and wisdom if it is to be true freedom.

If our leaders “ruled” because they were deemed to be compassionate and wise, that would lead to a different kind of freedom for others. But because they often come to power through having more money and connections, their only concern is keeping things the way they are. They’re not about to share for fear of losing what makes them powerful. Compassion and wisdom can be shared without diminishing either.

Let’s look at the most explosive issue about freedom in our society. Abortion is such a stalemate in discussions about personal freedom because of the question of whose freedom we’re talking about: the pregnant woman’s or the fetus.’ Notice I used the terms pregnant woman and fetus rather than mother and baby. That’s because I’m pro-choice: until a baby is born, a woman is not a mother. This presumes that the yardstick I’m using is the woman’s. She, after all, is the one with the power to make the choices, and hopefully the wisdom and compassion to make the right ones.

The pro-choice position is exactly what it says: it is for a woman’s right to exercise freedom over her own body. Men are threatened by this because it takes away some of their freedom: to be or not to be fathers. But let’s look at it a different way: suppose a man were prohibited from using any birth control himself; he just had to take his chances. Or suppose he were forced to use birth control when he really wanted to make a baby.

Abortion and birth control -are both part of what is at stake: reproductive rights. There are already indications that pro-lifers are beginning to target birth control. Do we really want to go back to the days when families were huge and women were dead by the age of forty from having so many babies?

The point is that as a society we shouldn’t want to limit anyone’s freedom. So, what about the baby’s? The parent-to-be is just going to have to be the one to make the decision guided by his or her compassion and wisdom. If we can prevent women from having abortions because they infringe on the baby’s life, then what else are we going to prevent women from doing to their children? Getting divorced? Being single mothers? Not introducing their children to religion? Not making sure that they live in only the best school districts? Are we going to end up taking children away from women–and even men–because we don’t think they’re making the right choices?

That’s a scary scenario. I might not agree with all of my neighbor’s choices, but I don’t have the right to take them away from him. If a society is to be truly free, it has to protect each individual citizen’s right to make his or her decisions according to what she or he sees as best. To do anything less is run the risk of living under totalitarianism. Is that really what we want?

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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