[16days_discussion] Tebow, Obfuscation & Women's Rights

KATHLEEN SLOAN kathleen.sloan at sbcglobal.net
Fri Feb 12 12:37:28 EST 2010

The recent brouhaha over Focus on the Family’s anti-abortion ad during the Super Bowl that indicts women’s rights organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) for demanding that CBS pull this blatant piece of political advocacy, especially when CBS rejected an ad for a gay men’s dating site, misses the much larger issue of sexism and its consequences.  An editorial in The Boston Globe by Joan Vennochi engaged in the familiar practice of blaming the victim and went off on a tangent attacking NOW’s President, Terry O’Neill, for her comment about the “celebration of violence against women in it” (the ad).  Far too often when women’s rights supporters speak out against sexism and misogyny, they are branded “strident” and “alienating.”  
The kind of response/debate instigated by Ms. Vennochi is so beside the point.  The message of the Tebow ad was purely anti-abortion and I hate to admit it but strictly from a marketing perspective, Focus on the Family's ad was brilliant and no doubt swelled their coffers and membership.  However, it is not only abject manipulation of emotion; more importantly, it ignores the much larger issue of what happens to women when the state controls their choices, their lives and their very bodies.  
I would love to see a counter ad where great numbers of women from completely diverse backgrounds, ages, etc., provide personal testimony about how abortion and accessible birth control "saved" their lives; i.e., the woman who was able to pursue and complete her education because she was not forced to carry out a pregnancy and give birth to a child she didn't want; the woman who was able to achieve a fulfilling career because she was able to access safe, legal abortion; the woman who escaped a life of poverty because she was not forced to bear and raise a child or children that she had no means of supporting; the survivor of domestic violence whose abusive partner attempted to force her to become pregnant and have a child to increase her dependency on him but access to abortion and information from a domestic violence organization instead enabled her to prevent this tragedy and leave her abuser.  I would be happy to have the opportunity to provide my
 own personal testimony about how abortion "saved" my life.  This patriarchal culture has shamed/brainwashed women into believing that abortion is immoral and always wrong.  I'd like to see women have the courage to stand up and say "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."  Let's tell it like it is - forced pregnancy and child birth against their wishes have been oppressing women for millennia, ensuring their economic dependence and resulting in the feminization of poverty.  Who are the vast majority of the poor in this world?  Women and children.  Even when women desire to have a child, if the father chooses to walk away from his responsibility, he is generally able to do so with impunity (as the mother of a 17 year-old son who has never received a penny in child support, I speak from personal experience on this as well).   
Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor expressed the reality precisely:  it has only been the ability of women to control their reproductive lives (meaning access to contraception and abortion) over the last four decades, first with Griswold v. Connecticut (the right to contraceptive use, 1965) and then with Roe v. Wade (the right to abortion, 1973), that women could pursue education, employment and careers and some measure of economic independence.  This is what is to be celebrated and focused upon.  
Is it "strident" to believe that males and females should have equal rights and opportunities?  Is it "alienating" to demand that women and girls be free from sexual assault and other forms of violence?  Is it "strident" to demand that women be paid the same as men and have the same opportunities to obtain an education?  Is it "alienating" to demand that the media stop its ceaseless sexual objectification of women and girls which results in the tragedies of eating disorders, invasive plastic surgeries and tattered self-esteem?  Is it "strident" to expose the gender bias that is pervasive in family law courts which results in the awarding of custody to battering fathers and taken from protective mothers?  Is it "alienating" to insist that women be free from discrimination in all areas of life and not targeted for injustice and unequal treatment simply because of their gender?  If so, then I am pleased and proud to be "strident" and "alienating"
 and to be a member and passionate supporter of an organization that has championed these rights for 44 years.  Feminist is no "f word" to me; it is as natural to me as the air I breathe and I give thanks every day for the enlightenment that feminists have brought to my life and consciousness.
Kathy Sloan, NOW Global Strategies & Issues Committee
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