It was like any normal day in my feminist classroom.
Translation: we were “problematizing” and “nuancing” concepts that had already been problematized and nuanced to the nth degree.
On this particular day, we were discussing the importance of language and the power of words. For the first time in what seemed like forever, I found myself feeling relaxed.
The importance of language, I thought to myself. Now this is a topic that is genuinely fascinating.
Admittedly, I should have known better than to let my guard down. While feminism is by no means inherently hostile, the path that radical feminists have been on over the last couple of decades has caused even simple, uncomplicated subjects like the importance of language to become war zones.
It didn’t take long for my professor to snap me out of my calm reverie. As she was discussing the various aspects of language that she wanted to highlight as part of the class, my professor decided to provide an example to illustrate her point. She explained that the power of words could be clearly seen in the abortion debate.
I sat up, instantly on high alert. Forgive my cynicism, but I have yet to attend a feminist lecture (and believe me, I’ve attended many, many feminist lectures) where the topic of abortion was discussed from any perspective other than the pro-abortion worldview.
My professor continued: « This is why I am always careful to refer to those who oppose abortion as ‘anti-choice’, since they stand in opposition to a woman’s right to choose.”
She went on to explain that she also intentionally uses the word “fetus” when referring to the unborn child, no matter what the stage or the scenario. My professor stated that, even at baby showers, she congratulates the mother-to-be on the health of her fetus and asks questions pertaining to the fetus, not the baby.
Setting aside the massively insensitive and dehumanizing nature of this obsession with the word “fetus” (which, as a side note, references a stage of development, not a state of being – this is why there are dog fetuses, cat fetuses, and yes, human fetuses), there is something incredibly problematic about labeling the majority of the population “anti-choice”.
(I say “majority of the population” because most individuals in society do not agree with the abortion-on-demand rhetoric, which, in the opinion of my professor, means that they support restricting women’s choice, hence the “anti-choice” label.)
After debating with myself for a number of minutes as to whether I should say something, I raised my hand and made eye contact with the professor. She nodded, and I tried not to let my voice waver as I explained in kind yet firm tones that those who opposed abortion were actually very supportive of choice. They are not “anti-choice”, I explained calmly, but rather they oppose a specific choice that harms the life of another human being. Trying to reason with the class, I explained that we would never say that everyone who was against murder or rape was “anti-choice” simply because they opposed the so-called right of a murderer or rapist to do what he/she wants with his/her body. In the same way, I argued, those who oppose abortion are not “anti-choice”, since they support most choices, so long as the choice doesn’t interfere with the rights of another human being.
I was not surprised when other students began throwing their hands forcefully into the air halfway through my explanation. I was also not surprised when every single student who spoke after me vehemently argued that every person who opposed abortion was discriminatory towards women and sought to enslave women’s bodies by restricting their reproductive choices.
I was, however, shocked at the open hostility that I received from one of the students. I knew that she stood firmly in the pro-abortion camp: she had made a number of posts on our class’ Facebook group, one of which boldly declared that anyone who had the audacity to call themselves a “pro-life feminist” was not truly a feminist. As she had written and was now repeating in class:
“Saying you’re a pro-life feminist is an oxymoron.”
The rest of the class went downhill from there. A number of things were said, most of which were targeted not-so-discreetly at me, and the whole situation culminated into a two week long series of events that ended with me being eliminated from the class’ Facebook page due to the fact that my comments made other students “uncomfortable”. After I was eliminated from the Facebook group, I was then asked to apologize to the classroom, and, upon issuing an apology for any feelings of offense or judgment that might have been taken from my comments, my apology was criticized, dissected, and subsequently deemed insensitive and insincere.
Let’s focus in for a moment on two specific issues with this situation that unfolded:
Firstly, there is the disturbing fact that I was told, directly and indirectly, that it was my responsibility to censor myself so as to avoid making other people uncomfortable. If this was not possible, as one student so tolerantly suggested, I should remain silent and keep my “offensive, discriminatory beliefs” to myself.
Allow me to make myself perfectly clear: it is not my responsibility to make other people comfortable. If my opinions make other people uncomfortable, while I undoubtedly should try to be sensitive to their feelings, it is their choice to stay and listen to what I have to say. It is one thing if someone is saying something sexual or otherwise inappropriate. It is something completely different if someone is calmly disagreeing with a point that was made previously.
I cannot help but think that radical feminists have truly become so fragile that the very expression of dissention threatens their existence. This is why they use such ridiculous, intolerant methods of silencing the opinions of those who disagree; for example: eliminating me from a Facebook group.
This leads me to the second specific issues with this situation. I admit that I find it profoundly disturbing that the radical feminists in my classroom who were unable to handle the existence of a differing opinion used eliminating my existence from a social community to cope with their worldview being challenged. What does it say about the state of our world that we consider it acceptable to literally remove someone with surgical precision from an entire community, online or otherwise? How fragile have we become in our beliefs that we cannot tolerate the existence of an alternate perspective?
Even more concerning, what implications does this have in the real world? Being eliminated from a Facebook group is not a big thing. I did not spend the next few days crying incessantly into the phone, begging my parents to shelter me from the existence of differing opinions. However, the facts remain: I was eliminated from an online community specifically because of my pro-life stance. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is discrimination.
The problem is, where is the line drawn? And who draws the line? What happens when disagreements become more heated? What happens when it is no longer an online community? What happens when a dominant group is having their worldview challenged? Will we accept a response that involves widespread murder or genocide in order to eliminate the differing perspective? If, as I desperately hope, we wouldn’t condone the physical elimination of an individual who stands in disagreement to popular opinion, why then do we condone the virtual elimination of an individual who stands in disagreement to popular opinion?
What frightens me most is that eliminating dissention is exactly what Hitler did during the Holocaust. He silenced the voices of anyone who dared speak out against him and the Nazi regime. It is a simple way to live, really: there is one worldview, and whoever disagrees, dies. The issue is that it flies in the face of everything we as a society hold near and dear: human rights, freedom of speech, tolerance, and the list goes on. And, amusingly enough, it is precisely these concepts that radical feminists claim to be fighting for.
Oh, the irony.
However, that student’s statement still remains:
“Saying you’re a pro-life feminist is an oxymoron.”
It is an interesting statement, to be sure. This argument is part of a much larger question, one that I will explore in the second part of this two-part series. Until then, I leave the question with you.
Is it possible to be a pro-life feminist?
Lia Mills first stepped onto the stage of activism at the age of twelve, when a video of her presenting a speech about abortion went viral on YouTube. Now nineteen-years-old, Lia is undeterred in her goal to make abortion both unnecessary and unthinkable. Her autobiography will be released in later this year. For more information, visit her website.