" I want to stand for the rights of all people, not just women, but certainly I believe in rights for women everywhere. "
I bumped this up from comments, not to pick on anyone, but because as a feminist, I hear this line from Progressive men all the time. I understand that you want rights to apply to everyone - so do I. What men don't seem to get is that the state of women is the state of the species.
Women are 53% of the population. The primary care of children falls almost universally on the Mother. Most of the people who live in poverty are women, and therefore so do their children. 80% of the people hurt in a war are women and their children. This is not an exaggeration, not an accident and it is not inconsequential. Women do not start wars.
We don't represent a majority vote in the decision-making body of any major power on the planet. We have least access to power, and control least of the money, in spite of doing most of the grueling, repetitive and filthy work in the world for little or no pay. If there's shit or vomit to be cleaned, food to be raised or prepared, a child, an invalid or an elder to be cared for, 99% of the time, it is a woman that does it.
This image we have of Big Daddy going to work and bring home the bacon is bullshit in most of the world. Men in Africa lose weight when the crops need tending because they won't prepare food for themselves while the women are tending the fields 16 hours a day. That rice you had with your Chinese take-out was almost certainly farmed by a woman's hand, and she was probably paid little or nothing for doing it. Your clothes were likely sewn in a sweatshop where women are forced to have abortion, work as prostitutes, sew as slaves and their "masters" receive awards from the likes of Tom Delay. Go to a bar, or a gathering place in any town or village, and you will find men socializing while the women are at work.
Yes, women in America and Western Europe don't have it quite so bad. We deal with issues like equal pay for equal work, and being held back from success in our chosen fields in spite of ability and accomplishments solely because of our gender. We should be grateful that we are allowed to earn more than men in the two professions where it's permitted: Prostitution and Modeling. 2 out of every 3 of us will be sexually violated or beaten in our lives by men unlikely ever to face prosecution, and we aren't safe being out alone at night, and we'll have trouble even getting a job if we're old or fat or not very attractive, but that's better than being systematically raped by soldiers, our genitalia carved by broken glass and our virginity sold to the highest bidder before we've even reached puberty. Some great deal.
Patriarchy is a vile institution. Patriarchal, monotheistic religions support the brutalization of women around the globe. The wars being fought right now can ALL be traced to greed and patriarchy. The rights of men are assumed in all but a very few, tiny cultures. When a man says "I'm in favor of all human rights, not just the rights of women" I hear him saying that my rights still don't matter as much as his - that he won't for a second allow me to have an iota of attention or concern that does not include him. He thinks he's being "fair" - I think he's being egotistical and presumptuous.
I don't know most of the people who will read these words, but I know one thing about every one of you. You came from a woman's womb. You had a mother. These rights were are talking about are the rights she did or didn't have. They're the rights your lover, wife, sister, daughter will or will not have. Will it really diminish you NOT to be first, once in your life? Are you so dependent on your male privilege that I can't have a problem that doesn't touch YOU and still have it matter? Doesn't the phrase "if one of us is not free, then none of us is free" include me, too?
When we talk about Women's Rights, those rights are inclusive
. They include the welfare of children - YOUR children - and they directly impact the quality of your life. Men's privilege has traditionally not affected the lot of women. The wife of the richest, most powerful man may still be a raped, beaten, starved slave. A family with a free, well-paid, respected mother is a happy, strong family.
I know that some men work very hard. I know I will never know what it is like to be a man. I also know that women have experiences that will never touch men. A man may talk about abortion, but he will never be pried open and vacuumed or scraped, nor will he be ripped apart by an exiting baby. He has the option, most times, as to how involved he will be in the care of that child. Only the rarest of women has any choice in that matter, and she will be punished socially, professionally or financially in ways that will never affect a man, in spite of her lack of options.
There's nothing "fair" in this situation. The genders don't start from equal positions in any aspect of their lives. Don't expect me to bend over backward to be fair to you. Life already bends me to breaking. It may not be fair, but that's the way it is - fairness is just an idea to you. This is my body and my life we're talking about. Considering that you have all the advantage in the situation, I'd think you ought to be able to be a "man" about it, and understand that sometimes it just isn't about you, and that's o.k., too. The minute you try to put me "back in line", champion what's "fair" or consider the disposition of my uterus as a subject of barter, even in an election (are you listening, Kos?), you have joined the ranks of my oppressors.