Wednesday, February 9, 2011

20th Century 20 - 15

How to start this?

I've been so thoroughly integrated into a particular world view that stepping out is almost monstrous to me. You might as well ask me to try and get inside the head of a Roman spectator gleefully shrieking at the gladiatorial games. I don't get it.

A world before birth control. A whole society of women who did not get to choose their sexual activities. Condoned rape in the home?

It is as barbaric a thought, to me, as the trident slicing open a captive in the Italian sun.

Margaret Sanger helped educate women about family planning, and went on to found Planned Parenthood. She was also instrumental in the development of the contraceptive pill.

Sanger's battles were often legal. It wasn't until the early 1970s that partners not married to each other could legally use contraceptives. How ridiculous is that? Besides the legal issues there were deep-rooted moral, and of course religious, controversies.

She also tackled the issue of abortion, which was a horrific practice before she, and many like her, started to campaign to make it legal and regulated.

It's a testament to her work that nowadays none of the young men I know have any doubts as to who calls the shots in sex. The umpteen-thousand years of male sexual supremacy and female subjugation are finally reversing and stabilizing. Death due to childbirth is all but gone, and is receding in the poorer countries.

Planned Parenthood is now in 189 countries, and not a moment too soon. With HIV/AIDS destroying many countries there's never been a greater need for intelligent sexual education and contraceptive use. Those places that still resist and make women's bodies property, not surprisingly, are precisely those that deny their citizens many other rights. So it has become the world norm that women's sexual freedom is seen as fundamental as freedom of religion, or speech. Who'd have thought a century ago such a revolution would occur?

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