Margaret Atwood’s novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, shows us a world where women’s roles can change overnight as might soon be the case in Turkey. Tayyip Erdogan, his power rooted in the conservative Islamist AK Party, has recently managed constitutional changes that make him a near-dictator. (Click) Like Atwood’s tale, his sudden rise to absolute power could spell disaster for Turkish women with secular sympathies.
English women face setbacks, too, as the country prepares to leave the European Union (EU). Prime Minister Theresa May is pushing her exit agenda and using the excuse of “little time” to bypass Parliament as she drafts regulations intended to paper over gaps that will be left once England has withdrawn from the common market. (“How Brixit Could Hurt Women,” by Sophie Walker, excerpted from The Guardian, The Week, April 28, 2017, pg. 16.) Some of these substitutions, as journalist Sophie Walker points out, will rob women of the rights they now enjoy under the EU, rights May’s conservative party opposed in the past. Among these are access to maternity leave and safeguards for part-time workers, largely women. Already, says Walker, May, “who talks a lot about violence against women,” has slashed the budget for survivor services that support victims of assault and rape. (Ibid pg. 16.)
On our side of the pond, Laura Kipnis, has published a new book on sexual politics, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus. In it, she advises women to toughen up, claiming that casting themselves as victims is a “retrograde view.” Poor males, she opines, “… no one dares speak up in a man’s defense for fear of being labeled an apologist for a sexual predator.” (Ibid pg. 24) Her attack on her sex comes at a time when Fox News is making headlines for sexual scandals within the corporation. Still, Michael Reagan, president Ronald Reagan’s son, feels empowered enough to blame the way women dress for the aggression they suffer. Men should sue women, he insists, for sexual arousal. (Click)
Reagan’s comment might be tongue-in-cheek, but is rape ever a laughing matter? Sexism like his, at the very least, is retrograde in itself.
Over the past few decades, women have obtained a modicum of freedom. But by no means does that progress negate centuries of having to live as chattel, without legal standing Sexual discrimination isn’t dead because Title IX exists, no more than eliminating Jim Crow laws (Click) means racism is dead. Our criminal justice system speaks volumes about abuses in the latter case.
Women, like Kipnis, who declare victory for women’s rights too early, wittingly or unwittingly, stand with those who would destroy them. Yes, a woman might falsify a complaint for dubious reasons, but anecdotal examples fail to support the argument that the Women’s Movement has gone too far. Open your eyes, you daughters of Phyllis Schlafly. (Click) Observe that the battle for equality is far from won and, in these perilous times, it could be lost.