If you haven’t been able to tell from blogs past–such as my #HeforShe post or my Guiding Star review– you may be surprised to know that I do, in fact, identify as a feminist. A (deep-breath) pro-life, pro-human rights, pro-Catholic, anti-artificial birth control, anti-objectification of women, pro-mom, pro-women in politics…feminist (exhale). So, luckily, I need not deal with the dark side of pro-choice feminism’s founding.
Do you know what I mean? Have you heard the word? Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and a huge proponent for the eugenics movement, was also the figurehead of developing and distributing the pill.
Perhaps this comes as no surprise to you. But for many mainstream liberal feminist this is a massive stumbling block. How can you praise the choice of the women to hold or destroy life, while knowing that the cornerstone of Sanger’s methodology was that not all babies–and in turn adult women and men–are created equal.
It is ironic to the heights, and yet also makes sense to the depths in a world wherein we praise individualization, but condemn those that don’t individualize themselves in a tiny, elitist westernized box. I digress.
What we see now is enough keen pro-lifers have written, spoken, and have acted against Sanger’s founding principles in public. Especially with the advent of Twitter and other wildfire social media bases we see these challenges go unanswered or attempts to address the critque. So, in an attempt to answer this question we have Dr. Marcie Bianco, self-proclaimed feminist and frequent writer for Feministing, The Feminist Wire, as well as Huffington Post, writing on mic.com in attempts to sooth the rightful concerns that many questioning liberal feminists ought to have.
She admits that the beginnings of the pill ought not bring about “hero-worship” and were primarily based in “eugenics, sexism and racism.” These are true, these are convictions that Margaret Sanger held deeply and acted upon. Not only that, but under the flag of eugenics we see that there were deliberate and ill-found ‘experiments’ conducted against certain race that “effectively sterilized hundreds of women, from non-consenting psychiatric patients at the Worcester State Hospital to destitute Puerto Rican women living in the housing projects of Rio Piedras, by testing variations of the pill on them.”
I applaud Dr. Bianco for addressing this issue, but yet I struggle to see how someone can stand behind such an institutionally racist product and yet turn around and say that all are created equal and deserve a chance at self-determination. Perhaps it is because this oppression is interior and deeply hidden, and we cannot ignore Sanger’s efforts to eliminate choice among specific races of people in hopes of removing them from civil and political society.
For the sake of counter argument, although I see little to no merit in such a view, we see supporters of the pill and other forms of contraceptives boil down their argument to population control for the “common good” of humanity. To this, I laugh, sigh, yell and cry. For an individual to be all up in arms over dignifying EVERY choice an individual makes, they sure don’t mind making choices for billions of others in such a way that they can’t enjoy having a family.
It is just too bad that Margaret Sanger is allowed to join the ranks of Civil Rights activism heroes such as Ida B. Wells, MLK, Susan B. Anthony, and Harriet Tubman. Because, trust me, they were not on the same side of history.
Check out this article from Vox on the same topic.
Cover photo by Marlo.