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The following originally appeared in a longer form on QIdeas. Read the full version at www.qideas.org.
"The Most dangerous place for African-Americans is in the Womb" is the slogan that appeared for a few days on a billboard hanging in New York City's SoHo neighborhood. The billboard was part of a campaign funded byLife Always, a Texas group whose Board of Directors includes pastors Stephen Broden and Derek McCoy (both successful, black men), Abby Johnson (former director of Planned Parenthood who resigned in 2009), and Brian Follet (founder of Life Foundation).
Easy access to abortion makes it easier for men and women to have sex without the natural consequences and responsibilities: babies, families, relationships. But easy access to legal contraceptives and abortions in the United States has led to easier access to women's bodies.
How is it that what once cost men flowers, dinner, and a verbal pledge to a lifetime commitment now only requires a look and a nod to the bathroom at the back of the airplane? Along our quest for freedom and equality, sex has lost its sacredness and women have lost their esteem and value.
These past hundred years have done a lot for us as women. Newly enfranchised, we've risen to the top of every profession and academic field available. We receive more diplomas than our male counterparts and outperform them at work. We don't need help lifting boxes, opening doors, or starting world-changing organizations. As women, it seems we've reached the heights of equality.
But by competing with men on their own turf, we've conceded our unique gifts and have lost our own sense of being. Our prisons were simply relocated. Chained no longer to husbands and children, we are slaves to sexuality.
As twenty-first century women, we are oversexed and under-dressed from the time we are strong enough to walk (toddler bikinis or MTV's Skins). We're taught that abstinence and modest attire oppress and the girls who choose that lifestyle must hide their purity or accept being social school outcasts. We see that only skimpy, sexy, and skinny get noticed-and there is nothing worse than going unnoticed.
Our culture's ideas of personal sexual rights have created an environment where illicit sexuality is standardized and fringe practices become the norm. In this type of culture, the idea of a woman is now hardly more than a sexual object of satisfaction. Instead of broadening our horizons with our own careers, our own 401(k)s, and our own pursuits of income equality, we have accepted our prison bedrooms, trading sex for mere attention.
Some contend that casual sex is freedom from restraint since casual sex consummates our freedom from oppressive husbands and forced motherhood. Thanks to the pill, we now have the freedom and the legal right to choose our own destinies.
But are we really free?
On some level we are. Our identity and value in our families and society used to be tied intrinsically to our production and rearing of multiple (male) children. In this last century, however, the feminist movement unlocked the front door of husbands' homes allowing us to venture on career paths and to carve out respectable identities based on our own achievements. For the first time in history, a woman can be more than her ability to produce children and to iron pants.
Our great-great-grandmothers dreamed of seeing their daughters and granddaughters stand side by side with men: equal in dignity, respect, and achievement. Our culture tells us that the women's rights movement, the feminist movement, and the sexual revolution unlocked our cages and set us free to be man's equal. But have we really achieved equality?
Historically, women have been the moral gatekeepers of society. Now, many of us are endlessly harassed and sexually abused. Our fractured beings are unable to keep society's moral gate shut, so it is a sexual free-for-all whether we want it to be or not. We no longer know what holy sexuality is.
I once heard sexy described as simply being comfortable in your own skin-we must be sexy like that, but we must not stop doing our hair and fixing our makeup and caring about our appearances. We must not stop pursing careers and the passions of our hearts, raising our children, encouraging our men, and being highly successful in everything we do. Those are the things we must continue.
We must stop judging ourselves by our girlfriends and movie stars. We must not try to be skinny or trade our bodies for attention. We must stop seeking to beat men and instead engage them respectfully as peers. Our right to choose must come when we look in the mirror and remember that we are more than our sexuality, our bodies, and our achievements. We must remember to base our identity on the love of God who says we are loved, and not in our culture.
Image: Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror (Modern Museum of Art)