It's time for Bowdoin feminists to be political
There currently exist no political feminist groups on campus. To be sure, there are women’s groups that engage with feminism—namely, the Women’s Resource Center and all of the groups that fall under its umbrella. But what none of these groups do is actually get in the political ring. Second-wave feminism demonstrated not just the power of calling attention to sexism, but also—and more importantly—the need for collective action. While many groups on campus fall into the sphere of consciousness-raising, recognizing that the problem exists is only half the battle. Where’s the fight?
We’re told to discuss our body images and our sex lives. We’re told to love our vaginas. We’re told to be unashamed in all of our sexual choices. But how can we do this if we don’t have the power to make our own reproductive decisions? It’s impossible for women to have good or healthy sex if we are constantly afraid of becoming pregnant. For many women on campus in Maine, and across the country, this fear is dangerously, palpably real. As Bowdoin students, we have access to resources like a health center that pays for our Plan B and condoms, and a Planned Parenthood across the Topsham bridge. We cannot take these resources for granted; they are essential, and they are systematically being taken away from American women.
When we were trying to find a campus group to help sponsor a lecture by pro-choice activist and author Katha Pollitt, we spoke with a group that works to promote healthy and informed sex lives. They were wary of sponsoring the talk for fear of appearing political. The irony here is that healthy sex requires bodily autonomy and access to reproductive resources that politicians are threatening everyday. You can’t advocate healthy sex under the guise of being apolitical. It is not useful to understand how to use birth control if you cannot access it.
In the quest to make sure that comfort is the ultimate goal, the current forums to discuss women’s issues quiet their political implications. As a result, feminism at Bowdoin often fails to move beyond intimate conversations and sipping tea. Even when it does, it takes the form of empowerment events like The Vagina Monologues and Take Back the Night. There’s a limit to the effect of these events. Fundamentally, they encourage us to find an oasis within a hostile climate instead of fighting against the climate itself.
After graduation, we, as Bowdoin women, will get paid less than our male classmates for the same job. We will be edged out of our careers because we choose to have children. We will watch our right to terminate a pregnancy fade away. This is ridiculous. It’s 2015. Why are we losing ground on advances made in the ’70s? Discussion without action will not make change. Calling legislators, knocking on doors and protesting: these are actions that make change. We need to take serious and swift political action. The boat needs rocking.
We are starting a chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America on Bowdoin’s campus. NARAL is a national organization that fights for the full range of reproductive rights. We encourage Bowdoin students of all genders to join and support our group. But regardless of your stance on this issue, we advocate that political action is not being annoying, it is fundamental to the College’s mission of the common good. We can keep talking about these issues, but it’s time to put our money where our mouth is.
Rachel Baron and Uma Blanchard are leaders of NARAL at Bowdoin.