Haiti: Girls, Can We Talk?

haitianScandalouswomen.com has always been about sexy, flirty female empowerment.  We’ve always presented the message that if men and women can’t be equal in all things sexual, then women have to be superior.  We’ve attempted to some degree of success to reclaim the word ‘bitch’ as a woman who knows what is best for herself and goes after it.  We’ve attempted to reclaim the word “slut” as a badge of sex-positive girl power.  But all too often we take our freedom to control our own destiny – in and out of the bedroom – for granted.  We forget there are places in this world where women are still subjugated and treated like possessions by the men in their lives.  One such place is impoverished and earthquake-ravaged Haiti.  This point was driven home to me in an article by Chris Jepson titled “When Men Are In Control.”

Ladies, remember – we didn’t always have the social and sexual freedoms we have now.  We couldn’t always control our own bodies.  We’re just one or two generations removed from being second class citizens ourselves – owned, even bartered – by men.

Jepson writes, “What transfixes me about so many of the tragedies in the Third World are the scenes of impoverished children. Hundreds of them, thousands. Carried on their mother’s hips. Dragged around by their hands. Standing, crying, abandoned. Protruding bellies, flies circling their forlorn, crusted eyes. Or dead, stacked like so much cordwood. Dumped into mass graves because their culture cannot afford to bury them let alone educate them. Or house them. Or feed them.

And I rage at such images. How can “these” women be having babies in such poverty? What is the logic or sense in that? Why? Why bring child, after child, after child, after child into arguably the poorest place on the entire planet? What woman consciously says, “Oh, I’m not quite impoverished enough. My life is not sufficiently tragic with the four children I already cannot sustain, I’ll have yet another. And if that doesn’t quite do the trick, I’ll squeeze out more. Until my body is spent, my teeth have fallen out and my rickets-plagued children are dying like dogs in the streets. That’s the life I aspire to.” Tragic, yet fulfilling. Motherhood unleashed, damn the results.

If you are a woman reading this essay, ask yourself the following, “How many children did you have while you were living in acute poverty, incapable of adequately taking care of your existing children?” Oh, you say, “I was never in poverty.” Fine. I am asking my intelligent female readers to project, that being the woman you are, exactly how many babies would you bring into the world if you lived in the bone-crushing poverty of Haiti? Or, the Ninth Ward of New Orleans for that matter? How many?

My father had an expression when I would assume “more” than what was called for that went, “Who died and made you Pope?” We’d laugh. Hah! Hah! In this particular discussion, being the Catholic Pope is a handicap; I’ll be emperor for the day.

If I were emperor for the day with unquestioned power, I’d empower all the women of the world to be in control of their own fate, in control of their own bodies. Exclusively. No woman, but herself, would decide what is “good” for her. No government, no religion, no man (as in male) would ever tell a woman what to do. Unless such acquiescence was a freely given prerogative.

If I were emperor for the day, I would make birth control safe, accessible and free. I’d educate all (men and women) to its use starting before the age of fertility.

If I were emperor for the day, I’d give all women of the world the complete and unequivocal right to determine for herself if and when she becomes pregnant and if and when she takes any pregnancy to term.

If I were emperor for the day I’d instill in women the moral imperative to not have children unless the circumstances are advantageous to their actually flourishing. That having children in impoverished circumstances is unwise, unsafe and it is a burden to the family and society and harms the welfare of any existing children because it dilutes parental resources and attention.

So why do women all over the planet have babies they cannot sustain? Because they are ignorant, oppressed and impoverished. They are the Lethal Three that plagues the status of women worldwide.

But basically, it is men. Men in goofy clerical robes spouting scripture that is so out of touch with reality on planet Earth that it would be comical, but that it is so tragic. Goofy, allegedly celibate men who claim to speak for women and families when they are so utterly clueless as to what it means to be pregnant or to adequately sustain a family. Men who declare, “Do as I say,” as the tragedy of profound poverty traps her family and kills her children. Priests who say they speak for God, but who pronounce in religious corporate-speak (absurd dogma), 10th century gibberish for 21st century challenges. Men who claim infallibility but who are an anachronism, a wretched accident of history. Must they forever plague the planet with their anti-female rhetoric. Be they Christian, Hindu or Muslim. Or, Jewish for that matter.

It’s men, everyday men all over the planet who feel/think/consider women are secondary to them. Who tie their masculinity (their worth) to how many children they produce. Who do not insist that their cultures make accessible free, safe and effective birth control. We require men who take pride in what the women of their culture become, in addition to being mothers. Men who are confident enough in themselves to want women of equal confidence and accomplishment in their lives. Men intelligent enough to know that equality is not just a word but an integral part of what it means to be human.

Nothing will change in Haiti until the women of that nation are educated and empowered and are in complete control of their sexuality. For the impoverished to continue to have child after child, well, those babies just become fodder, so much grist for the next tragedy whether it be an earthquake, tsunami, famine or whatever horror mankind inflicts (war, etc.).

When again we will look up, perplexed, from our books or knitting and go, “Tch, tch, such sorrow. What are we going to do now? Such poverty. Look at those poor children? Where do they come from?”

Not where, but why?

For religion or government or “a” man, any man to restrict any woman’s right worldwide to reproductive choice, well, how moral is that? And you might as well consign the results (the impoverished babies) to the dung heap of history. See: modern day burial practices in Haiti.

Any redevelopment money invested in Haiti must include educating and empowering the women of that island and in making birth control safe, accessible and its use, a moral imperative. Anything less, “Well, Tch, tch, such sorrow. What are we going to do …?” “

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With political activists as parents, Stephanie learned gender politics at an early age and embraced stiletto feminism in high school. As a marketing professional, she’s written for a variety of publications. She founded www.scandalouswomen.com to be a voice for the sex-positive alpha female.