Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

retreat in Connecticut

Jana and I just returned from out Exponent II retreat in Connecticut. I was struck by how beautiful CT was. The leaves on the trees were just about to turn, the homes were huge and gabled and set on acres of land. Even the gas stations had steeples on top of them!

I generally am pretty happy to be living in Southern California, but I have to admit that I had big house envy - as well as beautiful trees and huge front yard envy - as we drove to and from the camp.

The retreat was fun, a weekend of bonding with other liberal LDS feminists. We met and chatted with some of the founding mothers of Exponent II, women who will go down in the history books for their involvement in the LDS women's movement.

We also met other less well known women, many of whom have experienced, survived, and finally triumphed over horribly difficult experiences. I am always humbled and awed by such people as these, who have suffered so much but have emerged stronger and more compassionate.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Life is Precious

Recently, someone responded to my post on whether or not to eat meat and said, " I agree that life is precious. Can I take it then that you are pro-life, too?"

This is my response.

I do think life is precious. I am personally pro-life, but politically pro-choice.

While I dislike the idea of rampant abortions (who doesn't?) I just cannot support pro-life legislation. What if a woman is raped, or her life is endagered by the preganancy? I think she should have the choice to terminate. And of course, many pro-life politicians often say that rape, incest, etc. would be exceptions, but how could that be enforced? Only 10% of rapes are ever reported. And even if she did go to the police, with the backlog in the courts, by the time her case came to trial, it would be too late to get an abortion. And what if there just wasn't proof that a rape occurred? I just don't see how such legislation could be viable.

And even if rape, incest, or endangerment to the woman's health were not factors, I cannot in good conscience support a law that might result in desperate young girls sticking knitting needles up themselves and endangering their lives. I can't stand the thought of women getting back ally abortions and putting their lives at risk. Because ultimately, if a woman is determined to get an abortion, she'll get one - despite the law. And the results might be far more tragic than if she had had it done by medical professionals.

Ultimately, it's a question of compassion for me. I am not (and no one else is either) capable of understanding the desperation, fear and terror that would lead a woman to want an abortion. If a woman is so desperate enough as to want that, I don't want the law to stop her. I respect her knowledge of herself and what she can handle in her life. And if she knows she is not capable emotionally or physically to see that pregnancy through, I think the law and society need to respect that.

I also realize, however, that many women will abuse the opportunities to abort. And I understand that that is what most pro-lifers feel so strongly about. But rather than outlawing abortion, I think it would be better to educate more about birth control and teach women about options other than abortion.

So ultimately, I do believe life is precious. All life. Both the woman's life and the potential life of the unborn child. But if I had to pick the more important between the two, I would always pick the woman's.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Are the classics always timely?

(this mosaic is of Dionysus, the male god who - with his exoticism, passion, and dangerousness - was most closely associated with classical ideas of the feminine)

This week I start teaching Latin again. A year and a half ago, I resigned from my last Latin teaching position, thinking that I would probably never teach it again. I had come to question the relevance of learning this dead language. Sure, it's wonderful for preparing kids to ace the verbal section of the SAT, it's good background for doctors and lawyers, but is it really worth it? Isn't one huge point of learning a language to use it to cross cultural barriars, to communicate with people we consider "other"? Yet with Latin, one doesn't speak it or write it. One only translates.

And as a feminist, it bothered me that every Roman author I taught was a male. Even the stories in the first couple years of Latin were all heavily male oriented. I questioned then, and still do question, teaching a cannon that privileges males so completely. Not that we have much choice- there are simply no female authored literary texts in classical Latin that survived (with the exception of a couple of poems.)

I often wonder whether teaching a curriculum that is male authored, male focused, and often centered on war and politics alienates the girls in my classes. I wonder whether it teaches them that males' ideas and interests are more important, more weighty than females'. I wonder if on the rare occassions women do appear in the texts, filtered through the gaze of the male author, I am implicitly teaching them to be the object, not the subject of their lives. And I wonder if my girls ever even stop to question why they almost never see themselves in these texts.