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Monday, January 23, 2017

Waking Up: Intellectual Freedom, Librarianship, Feminism, and the Marches

Well, hello, there. It's been awhile. I shut this sucker down because I didn't know that I had anything interesting to say anymore. But it appears I do. And folks have asked me to put it in a place where it doesn't fade as quickly as a Facebook post. And suddenly the world of information, which I was merrily floating along in, has developed some serious tidal waves. Slapped me awake a bit.

Sit. Have a coffee. Let's chat. Let's chat about this weekend. The marches! Come now, we can't pretend libraries are not, at their heart, places of political activism. Heck, in our Code of Ethics it flat-out says that we "uphold the principles of intellectual freedom..."

For those who are rusty, the American Library Association defines "intellectual freedom" as "the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause, or movement may be explored."

So, we as librarians are ethically bound to uphold principles of intellectual freedom.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a political statement. A big one. Upholding the principles of intellectual freedom, no matter who sits in the White House, or in Congress, or in your State Assembly, or in your County Seat, or on your library's board.

Let's take the most politically painful example: family planning resources. Information on abortion. Information on adoption. Information on methods of birth control.

My commitment to this as a librarian reflects and informs my commitment as a feminist.

This is an administration that plans to push to cut Planned Parenthood funding, and did cut funding for family planning resources that the U.S. contributed to throughout the world, and particularly in the developing world (reinstating the Reagan gag-Rule by executive order). No federal funds may be used for abortion, either domestically or abroad, so what we are really talking about is restricting non-abortion services and information.

Restricting information is infringing upon intellectual freedom. By the ALA definition, at least.

And that is one of the reasons why I'm paying extra close to this administration, in terms of information (more on that in a later post).

So, I'm outed as a feminist, which is fine. (Hell, I go by warmaiden on social networks, it shouldn't be a surprise, really). But I do want to say something to the women who do not identify as feminists, who were all over my newsfeed proudly declaring that they don't want feminism, that they don't need the marches, that they are just fine and dandy on their own, that they feel heartily equal and are not interested in sisterhood with the marching masses. I have two responses to this, which I'm including below. They are inadequate responses. There are others who have written more eloquent responses. I'd like to develop better ones. But my initial gut-reactions first:

1. You don't need to be a feminist to accept other peoples' experience as valid, even if it contrasts with your own experience. You just need to be human.

2. There has been a Facebook post going around shared by women who don't agree with the women's marches that happened this past weekend. Susan Speer posted her own response here, but I posted mine on Facebook prior to having read hers. I'm too lazy to fool with the formatting resulting from a copy/paste, but it should be readable:

For the folks sharing that privileged "I'm not a disgrace because I don't agree with the women's march" post (I'll put it in comments)--I don't think you're a disgrace for not joining the march. I think the reasoning in that little diatribe is a bit shameful, though:
I'm glad you don't feel you don't have control over your body choices as a woman, not all women feel that way, especially in states that deny them access to certain health services, or order invasive medically unnecessary tests. And that isn't imposed by their own will, but by government. That's what the march is against.
I'm glad you don't feel like a second class citizen. But until I am paid the same salary as a man for doing the exact same job, with no other difference than my gender, then yes, I feel like a second class citizen. That's what the march is against.
There's nothing stopping you in this world but yourself, then you live quite the life of privilege, even here in the privileged US. There's quite a lot stopping others. Consider Flint's poisoned drinking water, for instance, and how that has poisoned children and the water, two years later, is still not clean. Not everybody has the economic means to just up and move after the government has wrecked their environment. That's what the march is against.
I'm glad you can vote, and weren't impacted by the voter suppression of our Black citizens in largely Southern territory because the oversight mandated by the Voting Rights Act was put down. But that suppression is what the march is against.
The march is about taking responsibility --for each other, and especially the marginalized.
The march isn't to ignore women in foreign countries, it's to point out that even here there are problems, and how dare we tell the rest of the world that we are an example for them when we treat our own women poorly.
There was an AIDS epidemic in Indiana, when Mike Pence changed policies about condoms and treatment and sex ed. AIDS is just as deadly to our people. That is what the march is against.
These are real injustices and tragedies to the women who face them here. It doesn't lessen the burden of the American woman to tell her about the Saudi woman. But preventing the kind of dictatorial government that out the Saudi woman in that position - that is what the march is for.
Personally I don't consider you a disgrace to women for not supporting the march, though I probably do think you're wildly privileged to have never known a transgender student who was killed for no more reason than her self-expression; never known a person to get cancer and be in debt for the rest of their lives if they were un or underinsured. I hope you never develop an autoimmune disease that counts as a pre-existing condition (although being a woman is also a pre-existing condition, especially if you have borne children). I hope your personal circumstances never change so that when you are dependent on Planned Parenthood for your Pap smears and mammograms and they are closed by government officials, your cervical cancer goes unnoticed and untreated.
And you've only had the option to have your own credit card separate from your husband's account since the late 1970s, so I wouldn't push too hard on the pedal of 'women are equal' just yet.
You don't have to agree with or join the march. We believe you deserve all do the rights and privileges above, and to keep them instead of having them rolled back. You don't have to march. We're doing it for you, so that you'll benefit anyway.