That’s right! It is really not! Mutuality—a union of equals remains elusive between the sexes. There are practical actions that can and must be taken! Education and financing directed toward women in undeveloped countries are certainly essential. Political representation by and for women in every country is indispensable. Birth control, reproductive choice, maternal and prenatal care as well as basic necessities of food and shelter must be available to all. But the modifications and improvement will shift and change with the cultural and political climate unless we address the formidable forces that drive the human male to own and control women’s sexuality. That particular need has shaped law and religion, war and peace, art and philosophy—virtually all of the underpinnings of culture since time began. Women must take up the call to tell the story and weave it into a world view—one that acknowledges in public ways the horrors of rape and sexual exploitation, the joy and sorrow that is childbirth and the gift to civilization that mothering represents.
History tells us that when any oppressed group is fighting for freedom they must, if they want to succeed, have help from the members of the ruling class. Women cannot win this fight alone. In the US battle against slavery the abolitionists were of the ruling class and yet they cared and empathized with the plight of the slaves and lent enormous political and financial support on behalf of the cause. In women’s battle for real freedom men, many men will be required to take up the campaign of full equality, again beginning with reproductive autonomy. It will require the support of men like Charlie—“nice” men who say that they respect women but who carry in their rucksack of secrets a place in which women are “things”, objects to be exploited in order to shore up their own self-esteem. It will mean that they identify with women and what they are experiencing when they are raped or abused or denied access to appropriate health care. It will not be enough for them to be horrified at what other men do but to search within themselves to evaluate whether they could or would do it as well.
Eve Ensler (1998) in her ground-breaking book The Vagina Monologues, creates a marvelous image that I believe captures the magnitude of the change that will be required for women to be truly free. She states: “We have not cracked the tectonic plate at the center of the human psyche that is more terrifying to love than to kill….It is the culture that has to change—the beliefs, the underlying story and the behavior of the culture.” Patriarchal culture is based on a need for conquest, power and aggression. It depends upon a bond, either spoken or unspoken, between the rulers and the oppressed. Equality among all persons, and in particular between the sexes, demands mutuality and the possibility of love. For women to participate they must become agents and arbiters of their sexual and reproductive lives.