The day after the 2017 Presidential Inauguration thousands of women have marched in Washington seeking to have their voices heard for women’s rights. The march has been promoted as an inclusive event attempting to bring together a diverse group of organizations:
“The marches’ many partners represent a range of causes, including the environment and criminal justice among them. Organizers represent all 50 states, and groups including the ACLU, Amnesty International, EMILY’s List, Muslim Women’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood, and United We Dream.” (1)
For a march that claims to support women’s concerns it is odd and a bit disturbing that 40% of American women have purposely been excluded. Women, who have moral objections to abortion were not included. This is unfortunate as these women share many of the same concerns as feminists do, even when they find the term “feminist” does not adequately describe them. With a president that is so blatantly sexist and abusive towards women, it seems counter-productive to weaken women’s causes by 40%.
“Though the pro-life New Wave Feminists still plan to attend, many women of faith were disappointed in the decision to remove their official designation. Christians spanning from Life Action founder Lila Rose to LGBT advocate Julie Rodgers spoke out on Twitter on behalf of pro-life feminists.” (2)
I suspect part of the problem is historical in nature. The 1970’s saw harsh criticism from Evangelical women such as Phyllis Schlafly against the women’s movement and feminism. Old wounds heal slowly. But things are different today. Conservative women of faith may be wary of their more secular sisters, but also feel a need to stand up against sexism, violence against women and inequality. Unlike their male counterparts, conservative women are much more likely to have empathy for women who choose to have abortions, and to see the issue as more complex and in need of compassionate solutions rather than punishing women such as the president has suggested.
Politically, the Left’s failure to encompass Evangelical and Catholic women was a disastrous decision that may have cost them an election. ““Progressives have a chance to build a broader coalition here, and they are blowing it,” tweeted author Rachel Held Evans.” (3) The “Painful irony of pro-choice stance of Women’s March is that abortion was likely THE issue to tip scales for evangelical women to vote Trump,” said Hannah Anderson, who writes and podcasts about gender and theology for Christ and Pop Culture. “If Dems could have entertained possibility of a pro-life women’s vote, they’d have won.” (4)
Unfortunately today’s feminist movement has taken a decidedly non-inclusive turn, largely due to the Pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America co-sponsoring events like this. While these groups do offer legitimate benefits for women, they have a underlying financial agenda, which raises concerns about a conflict of interest here. The end result is that the women’s movement has been largely co-opted by the abortion industry. “It further proves that this is what the abortion industry does,” said Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life. “They have taken over any talk of feminism in the country to point out that if you are antiabortion, you are accused of being anti-woman.” (5)
Indeed, the new voices within the feminist movement have decided that a Pro-life stance is inconsistent with the goals of the movement as it is now described: “Elizabeth Velez, a professor of women and gender studies at Georgetown University, said that feminism is a political term and that the idea that women should be able to choose what they do with their bodies is fundamental to feminism…Feminism is more than finding personal satisfactions in your life; it’s a political movement, and if you are not part of the political movement, you can’t be a feminist,” Velez said. “If you are pro-life, you are certainly not looking at the struggles across all of us.” (6)
So what the feminist movement is now doing is splitting up women rather than bring them together. It is weakening the cause and marginalizing women who have legitimate concerns, many of which mirror their own concerns. Rather than offer a voice of healing it further polarizes and divides women who, especially with this presidency, should be uniting.
5 & 6. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/social-issues/is-there-a-place-for-anti-abortion-women-at-the-womens-march-on-washington/2017/01/17/2e6a2da8-dcbd-11e6-acdf-14da832ae861_story.html?utm_term=.64765b4a28bb