Column: Feminism is still necessary





“Feminism.” It’s an injustice that I even have to explain it, but I do. Feminism is simple for me: it means graduating from college. There are systems in place to distract me. These systems also affect men, but being a woman exacerbates the distraction. Poverty and environmental influences only make the cancer grow; it consumes.

I was introduced to sexual-based violence at age four. My kidnapper informed me that I was his “bitch,” that he knew where I lived, and could kill me whenever he wanted. I grew up waiting. Nothing happened. Then I started having sex at thirteen, despite an abstinence-only education, because that’s what kids in my community did. And you know that one-in-four rape statistic? The number gets higher the further you go down the social strata. It certainly felt higher in the public schools I attended and among my own friends. For a woman without resources, the effects of sexual-abuse are only more devastating. For a woman without health insurance, seeking necessary medical treatment can feel like getting raped all over again.

Anti-abortion laws similarly impact poor women. It’s not necessary that an abortion should take two days – one day for counseling/ultrasound and another for the procedure. There’s no reason it should cost upwards of five hundred dollars. Yet the government says such laws enable women to take the decision seriously. In practice, what they actually do is disadvantage the poor. For women with adequate resources, two days is no big loss. It’s inconvenient, yes, but for a woman with nothing? Two days off work can mean unemployment. Then the check clears, and there goes your savings.

The extra measures put in place to make me “really think about my decision” almost cost me my livelihood. You could say that I “deserve” it, because I’m immoral. But the truth remains that these measures hurt poor women significantly more than they hurt the rich. $500 is everything to me. For others, it’s a hiccup. Are you saying that we deserve to be punished – nearly ruined – and they don’t? Whatever the reasons behind anti-abortion legislation, the end result is a war on poor women. Do we really need one more thing stacked against us?

The women I met in that clinic waiting room were more beautiful and real to me than any protestor chasing us to the door. Behind that door, we felt safe together. We were all ages. We’d all taken off work that day or called up a babysitter. We all had our reasons, and they were good. Too often we’ve felt like we’re stuck in a cycle, little more than products of our environments, and no matter how far away we run from the trash we are expected to become, we somehow end up here. We close our ears and eyes to it, and we keep moving, never losing momentum, because we have goals that should come naturally but not to us.

The South is stuck in its own cycle, and old values are difficult to change. Folks look us in the eye and say we’re wrong. We hold our tongues even if we’re just as smart as they are – or smarter – and that’s why we’re frustrated. We may not have the money or the power. We may lack healthy communities or family structures, but we’re just as smart as anybody. That’s what’s going to break it. That’s why I’m graduating from college, and that’s why I’m staying in The South.

When I say The South will rise, I’m not talking about the confederacy. I’m talking about something we never thought was possible. I’m talking about more women from rough backgrounds earning degrees, obtaining fulfilling employment and receiving the resources necessary to support families.

This means government help, because you cannot condemn abortion and simultaneously shame single mothers. I believe in a pro-choice America where we can choose abortion freely or else receive support when we choose otherwise – never shamed as “welfare moms.” I’m talking about fewer babies crying, fewer kids born into a broken foster system. I’m talking about graduating by the skin of my teeth because I haven’t given myself any other choice. Because growing up I had teachers who believed in me, no matter how much I acted up. They believed I’d make it. That’s what I intend to do, and that is what feminism means to me.

Chacha Murdick can be reached at [email protected]

In My Opinion is a regular column open to all Loyola students. Those interested can contact [email protected]