DE Feb. 14 Women's Decision to Create

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While reading Margaret Sanger's passages, I had to remind myself that it was written in the 1920's. Sanger was extremely bold in her expression of beliefs of female oppression. I was a little confused when she was trying to link the birth control issue to slavery but I can see that her point she was trying to make is that females are somewhat slaves to their bodies until they choose to take control. Women's sexual freedom and expression is on the line because of birth control. All of Sanger's arguments still apply to us today because of the fact that men simply cannot give birth. Sanger's quote "it is her love life that dies first in the fear of undesired pregnancy" provoked thoughts that remind me that women don't have full sexual freedom. A man can go and sleep with whomever he pleases and never has to worry about becoming pregnant. Another issue tying to that is the issue of women being "sluts" if they "sleep around" when men have the acceptance to do so. A second issue at hand today is abortion which still keeps a woman from having control of her body and the decision to have children or not. I also think that Sanger marks on a feminist issue of motherhood by saying "within her is the wrapped up future of the race - it is hers to make or mar." It is a woman's choice as to whether or not a person may come into this world. Birth and motherhood is so easily taken for granted by many and women must challenge that. Sanger says "woman must not accept; she must challenge" and what I get is to challenge society and challenge everything they have because women have the power to create or not create. Without a woman's creation there would be no life, which is a huge burden to handle but us women should be able to make that decision.

4 Comments

I completely agree with this assessment. Women are the ones who have to worry about pregnancy and whether or not they are ready to become a mother, and this burden is inescapable. I love what Sanger says towards the end of her article: "She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born. As it is the right neither of man nor the state to coerce her into this ordeal, so it is her right to decide whether she will endure it." I think it's very easy for people to say that birth control/abortion is wrong, because it goes against "nature" and deprives a child of the right to live, but if the woman is the one who must house and nourish this child until its birth, then it should be her decision whether or not this is an "ordeal" (as Sanger puts it) is something she's willing to undergo. It's easy for a person to judge and police a woman's reproductive rights when that person is not the one who has to go through the act of pregnancy and childbirth.

You are right in saying Sanger's arguments are very bold, but they had to have been in order to be heard in the 1920's. Back then sex, not just birth control was a huge taboo and was definitely not something people discussed out in the open. That is why what Sanger did was revolutionary. She gave women more control and equality that they had ever seen before. I very much agree with your statement about this being very relevant and it being so for many years to come. Birth control is a very pressing and sensitive issue because it concerns human life. But a woman is the only one who has to carry and nourish the child for 9 months and then has to proceed with going through the anguishing process of labor. My favorite line of Sanger's is also the one towards the end, "She goes through the vale of death alone, each time a babe is born." A woman who has gone through this process is the only one who can understand this. It is almost mind-boggling for me to understand that a man or anyone who is not able to go through this process would try to tell a woman how to do it, or whether or not she should be able to. I also like that you mention the double standard women still carry with them today. As Sanger says, "The love life is the first to die in the fear of becoming pregnant", but it's still not okay for a woman to be on birth control because it is promiscuous. Women are expected to have sex, but not too much, and to bare a child every now and then. All of these standards do not fit together and they don't make much sense at all. Lastly, my favorite part about the article and message is that women must never accept, but keep challenging and keep fighting the fight until they get what they deserve. It's inspiring to see and read about such a subject and person that has affected me and so many other women today as well. If Sanger could do it at an elder age back in the 20's who knows what our young and able minds and bodies will accomplish for women today!

I think one of the key things that you pointed out was that Sanger's arguments are from the 1920's. It's amazing how much has changed and yet how much has stayed the same. Your entry got me thinking about how reproduction rights has changed over time.

In the grand scheme of time, men haven't really been a part of pregnancy for all that long. I realize that is a very odd way to phrase this. But what I mean to say is that, for the majority of history, men were pretty much kept in the dark about what happened during childbirth. It was seen as a woman's job hence midwives and all that fun stuff. It wasn't really until the High Renaissance that men became curious about what happened behind closed doors. This is a side note but there's a very interesting collection of books at the Wagenstein (don't quote that spelling) Library in Diehl Hall of prints illustrating the various ways men thought a baby should be delivered. Trust me on this some of tactics were obscene... I've included an image of a etching done by William Smellie-creator of the forceps.

Smellie was kind of the male pioneer in childbirth for a lack of a better word. Now, why do I mention this???? I wonder what role and interpretation men have on the idea of birth control. Until the invention of birth control, men pretty much held all the power in the case of pregnancy. It was their choice whether or not they wanted to protect against it. They also had the ability to disappear if they should realize they weren't cut out to be a father. Think about it. Today, if a parent tries to run away, it's relatively easy to track them down.

Don't worry, I'm now going to connect these two very odd and random thoughts of mine.

What I wonder is if on some subconscious type of level, men are afraid of losing their ground in the world of childbirth. Considering it's only been until relatively recently that they were even allowed to enter the chamber and it's been even more recently that women have taken their birth control by the bootstraps and with the growing popularity of natural/home childbirth, perhaps there's this sense of losing control over that general field.

Hopefully this makes sense, I realize that I'm going out on a limb because I can't put words into the mouths of the general male population but it's an interesting idea that men "fear" not being a part of this essential part of life.

So many interesting points have been made as far as birth control and right to reproduce concerning societal opinions, and many of it is societal opinions. It's fascinating to think about the change in opinions over the years concerning birth control. It's more acceptable today to talk about sex, abortions are a legal decision available to women, and sexual education is more readily taught in schools, however; girls still get pregnant even with all the resources to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I wonder sometimes why that is? I know many reasons have to do with religious choices, youthful ignorance etc. But I also wonder what can be done to remedy the problem? What about the man or boy who wants to take full responsibility for his child? To play the devils advocate , how does abortion affect men who have no choice when it comes to the birth/or not birth of their children? Especially in a time where it is so easy to track a parent who's left their child down, and keep them accountable.

My personal opinions on the issue of abortion is identical to bell hooks statement that a women cannot be pro-life and a feminist, but she can refuse to have an abortion herself but value the right of all women to make that choice themselves and still be a feminist. I think many issues that Sanger and other early feminists dealt with are similar today and incredibly sensitive, but we also have a very different world to navigate, so what's the best way?

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