The Voice of the Matriarch
Gloria Steinem, one of the matriarchs of modern feminism, has given us insight into radical feminism. In an interview on PBS’s “Tavis Smiley” on November 2nd, Steinem criticized the “attacks” on Planned Parenthood. Those “attacks” she was referring to are the criticisms of Planned Parenthood in light of the recent exposure of its gruesome practices. Steinem said:
The attack on [Planned Parenthood] is . . . part of an ultra right-wing attempt to restore the basis of patriarchy or a male-dominant system and the necessity of a long-term racist system which is controlling reproduction. And to control reproduction, you have to control the bodies of women. Women now are doing nothing less than seizing control of the means of reproduction. It even sounds radical, right, and it is. It’s deep. It’s very deep.
Demonizing the Opposition
Opposition to abortion and to government subsidies to an organization that provides abortions is not merely the conservative position on a debate with which Steinem disagrees. Anyone who holds that position is part of the “ultra right-wing,” she says. It’s a standard demonizing tactic, to label the opposition as extreme, thereby positioning oneself as the reasonable moderate.
Another is to label the opposition “racist.” Arguing that opposition to Planned Parenthood is part of “racist” systematic male domination is a bit rich, given that the death toll for aborted black babies is way out of proportion, on the high side, to that of whites. If there is racism, it would have to be in the abortion industry, including Planned Parenthood, not among those who oppose it.
What we’re talking about here is abortion. Ms. Steinem of course supports it, and Planned Parenthood provides it. But look at why she’s saying it’s so important to defend it. For her, it’s about “patriarchy,” and the “male-dominant system.” She is saying that abortion is necessary to the feminist project of equal rights for women. Let’s pause here, for once, and question why that would be.
Apparently Steinem is saying that to continue the male-dominated system, it is necessary that the patriarchy control reproduction. Controlling reproduction would seem to mean having decision-making power about having children. How do men (and the “system” she maintains is dominated by them) appropriate and keep that power? Steinem isn’t suggesting that the “system” sponsors rape, presumably. That would be the one way in which women would have no control over reproduction. Steinem is obviously not advancing abortion rights only for situations in which women had no control over the act which led to the pregnancy, however.
When Steinem speaks of control over reproduction, she means the right to abort. Abortion is not reproduction. Abortion is not the act that results in reproduction. Abortion is not at all necessary to one’s decision whether to reproduce or not. Only in the case of rape which results in pregnancy does a woman lack control over reproduction. Even then, abortion does not restore what was taken from her, to say nothing of the child.
“Means of Reproduction”
Here’s where the radical feminist disconnect between sex and abortion is on full display: “Women now are doing nothing less than seizing control of the means of reproduction. It even sounds radical, right, and it is.” There’s an element of alliteration here. The “means of production” gets talked about a lot in Marxist theory. Presumably that’s a reason she suggests that it “sounds radical.” There’s much more to it than that, however.
There is no spin on Steinem’s statement that could place it within a sane conversation about women and their rights. Abortion does not, by any imaginative use of words, refer to “means of reproduction.” In fact, abortion terminates the reproduction. The “means of reproduction” are egg and sperm. Both men and women are involved. Women already control their own part in the means of reproduction, so there’s no need to “seize” those means. So according to Steinem women now are doing nothing less than seizing men’s “means of reproduction.” Probably she doesn’t mean harvesting male sexual parts. So what could she possibly mean? It would have to be that women alone, unilaterally, and with no vote on the part of a participating male, decide whether to produce a child.
Having a child should require two “yes” votes: the man’s and the woman’s, both exercised by engaging in consensual sex. Ms. Steinem is telling us that the vote is exercised by abortion, not sex. And she is saying that only women should have a vote.
Can we just say that this kind of feminism has nothing to do with equality?