Rosemary McLeod On Women’s Diminishing Freedoms

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28 January 2023

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Rosemary has some choice words about women’s diminishing freedoms, from Afghanistan to Texas.

Sometimes opposites look surprisingly alike, like the new Afghanistan and the latest version of Texas, united in great leaps backward for women.

The planet is turning scary and there’s less of a market for Western movies than there once was. It seems it’s important in both places to cut back on women’s freedom rather than, say, tackle a pandemic or admit climate change is happening. You’ve got to control something. Women are good for that.

The Taliban’s attitude is no surprise. It’s ever the case where testosterone politics rules that women’s freedoms are curtailed out of alleged gallantry, it being dangerous for them to make their own decisions – a belief depressingly current in large chunks of the world, even here.

Women mustn’t get educated or they’ll get uppity. Staying inside is best. Deferring to men is delightful.

Some women may agree but not many, surely, after 20 years of being encouraged by occupying forces to get university degrees, take part in politics, and generally contribute to the economy by working if they can.

Money of your own means independence. Twenty-first-century contraception means you can plan how many children to have. It was cruel and irresponsible to expose women to such choices only to abandon them in the certain knowledge that they’ll lose them.

Twenty years of relative freedom will soon seem like a collective delusion, which it was. It could only happen with an invading army backing it up. In Western democracies, women’s rights are only a century and a bit ahead of them. Gains for women can be tenuous anywhere.

Twenty years of relative freedom will soon seem like a collective delusion, which it was.

Afghan women already can’t play sport. It’s looking like they can only cook, breed and wash things. Best, too, if they’re illiterate.

Afghan men’s style of dress looks comfortable and practical, and is flattering to tubby ones. A long shirt, baggy trousers, a long gilet – what’s not to like? The burka is impractical and confining. Any man who recommends wearing it should wear it himself for a week and see how he likes it.

We feebly complain about having to wear masks, and sissies of both sexes in England, Australia, here and in America refuse to. This is about a different kind of freedom from the one Afghan women have lost. It’s the freedom to deny science and medical evidence and abandon social responsibility.

Meanwhile in Texas, women have been told they can’t have abortions unless it’s within six weeks of conceiving, when they don’t even know they’re pregnant. That applies even if they’re raped or victims of incest, and any random citizen can inform on them for financial gain.

The Texas governor assures women that rape won’t be a problem from now on because he’s going to stop it. He’ll be a busy man. I guess he’ll stop incest on his days off.

Texas women are free to have visible tattoos, dye their hair any rainbow colour, expose as much flesh as they like, and toddle the streets in stiletto heels without expecting to be attacked. But if they are and it’s usually by a man they know – they’re condemned to bearing a child if they’re too poor to travel for an abortion. That’s what the recent past was like everywhere.

The shakier America gets in its big-picture politics, the more it seems to focus on women’s legal right to end a pregnancy – a cause Republicans have taken up. It seems to me that the drive behind that is not hugely different from the way the Taliban demands women stay home and stop thinking. You could be otherwise free in a burka, but no woman is truly free who’s barred from making decisions about her own body.

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