Are Strong Women Scary? Thoughts on Margaret Sanger’s Birthday

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I recently submitted a piece to a famous feminist women’s magazine and it got rejected. These things happen but in this case it wasn’t because it wasn’t good (honestly, it’s a solid story that will be in another publication) but because the publication said they don’t do “fertility” stories. Seriously? Are we still there, there being the place where feminists hold having a family hostage from being part of a feminist women’s realm of possible life choices. Really? Can’t we all now—mothers, working women, and those that do both—just get along?

I was honestly shocked at the reason for the rejection. The irony made me laugh out loud. A well respected women’s magazine not running a piece on a serious political story detailing how young women aren’t being told about useful medical options. Really? If they won’t run it, who will? Weren’t those publications invented to discuss such things? It’s 2009 and women can be feminist and have babies, right? Right?! Can’t we now have the pendulum swing back to a more normal stance. Slightly?  I mean I went to a super liberal college where the Womynist House spelled it with a “Y” because, “we aren’t from men.” But even these women are having babies now, at least some of them. Since when did the progress of women mean you still, generations later, could not chose to be a modern woman and have children? Progress is about choices, all choices. Right?!

I recalled this recent exchange as I read about Kristof’s new book Half the Sky, detailing about how women will harken the new dawn of our time. The full title is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The book puts forth that women will mark the full progress of our world. And yes, it is written by a man. A very mannish man actually in Nicholas Kristof. He was sharing a bit about a review of the book in his column (yes, he is an unabashed promoter but this book deserves it.)

He writes how Bill Gates Sr., in writing about the book, was drawn to think about all the amazing strong women in his life and to consider why men now are scared of strong women. Listen to the World’s Richest Man’s Dad men, he knows something.

On this anniversary of Margaret Sanger’s birthday, I think women’s mags and women and men should rethink how they think of and fear women.  Though I think women should especially do this. Because how can we expect others to give us the full scope of possibilities, if we don’t do the same.

From the New York Times:

Bill Gates Sr. has an interesting review on Huffington Post of Half the Sky in which he calls the book “stunning” but mostly ruminates on the strong women around him all his life. He suggests that too many men don’t appreciate the benefits of partnering with a strong woman. He writes:

When a man partners with a strong woman, everyone benefits … What I find remarkable is that more men around the globe don’t realize how much stronger they would be if partnered with a strong woman. Way too often and in too many corners of the globe, women are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential. It’s wrong and it’s backward, and of course, the irony is that by keeping women down, men lose out too.

That’s a fair point, and I’m surprised by how often these issues are seen as battles of the sexes. It’s true that initially a microfinance program that targets women, for example, may be seen as threatening to village men. But once the men see that their wives are bringing home more money, it usually dawns on them that emancipating women brings certain practical advantages. In truth, if a country like Pakistan educated girls and ushered women into the formal labor force, men would be huge beneficiaries as well.


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