What!? I know what you’re thinking, how could I even say something like this? As a flag waving feminist how could I even let those words out of my mouth knowing that this sentiment is the crux of the women’s liberation movement. That I’m trying to deny that this should be the case is like trying to deny that consciousness-raising is a good idea. Sacrilege! Blasphemy! Dishonor on my cow! I know, I get it, but just hear me out. I’m not saying that the “personal is political” is inherently a bad thing, I acknowledge that it’s instrumentation is what has provided so much change in the women’s liberation movement and has pushed our society forward. However, I am wondering what we have lost by making everything that is so personal a political issue.
I come about this because in one of my classes recently we were talking about social movements, one of them being abortion and the ways in which the messages have been disseminated over time. One of the questions that we were asked was, if we thought that women’s best interests were being thought about in the argument today. The class responded with an overwhelming no, we all thought that the human beings whose body we were actually talking about were pushed to the wayside in order to make a political argument. We all thought that we were forgetting about the person behind the issue who was actually having to deal with the decision to choose abortion or not. In essence, we seemed to have shifted to a point where we only seem to care about the political ignoring, or not caring, about the personal.
I feel that this isn’t the only issue in which we have created such a hurricane of political importance that people have an opinion about it to have an opinion because it’s a hot topic, not that we’ve actually thought about the individuals who are living the experience. How many politicians, and even regular citizens, do you know who speak on topics that they have no idea what they are about? Giving an almighty opinion on something they have never experienced, never dealt with, never survived. When candidates make a stand on an issue, not for the good or betterment of society, but for their own reelection choosing the side that they think will bring them the most constituents. Here is where we make the political too important.
While I completely understand how in order for change to occur, in order for protections and equality to be obtained there had to be a time when these personal issues became political. I know that realizing that what was happening to you was not a personal problem, but rather a societal issue gave millions of women hope. I feel, however, that we’ve carried it too far allowed too many personal issues to become so politicized that we can’t see how their personal problems at all anymore. We’ve lost sight of the personal, the person, ourselves.
Going back to the issue from class, abortion is a very personal issue that each woman has to decide on for herself when the time comes. We’ve made it so politically polarized that no matter where you stand someone is shaming you into feeling that you’re the spawn of Satan. How can progress ever come of this? How can the political machine we’ve created ever facilitate change anymore? We don’t care about the woman and what she is going through, the gut-wrenching decision to keep the child, fetus, zygote. We don’t care about how a mother is going to feed her children when working three jobs still doesn’t put food on the table. We don’t care about the family that can’t afford heat because of their medical bills. We don’t care about the two people who just want to tell the world that they love each other in peace. We don’t care about the people. We care about how they align with our own pre-determined moral compass that we all think points true north all the time.
By making the personal political we have gained so much, but we’ve also lost so much as well. Perhaps we should go back, just a little bit, to remind ourselves that we are still dealing with persons, individual human beings dealing with problems, not just vessels to which we fill with our politics.
So, what do you think? Have we gone too far with the personal being political? Or do we have to keep going to make progress? Let me know in the comments!