Women at War: Against Politicians and Themselves

elizabeth debold

In the lead up to the United States Presidential Elections in November, one term that has been heard everywhere is the ‘war on women’, a term used to describe the many proposed reforms that will affect women’s rights. Women are at war elsewhere as well though – at war with themselves.

The “War on Women” came about due to the various initiatives Republicans have put forward in federal and state legislatures. The initiatives proposed range from placing restrictions on reproductive rights to the defunding of services such as Planned Parenthood centres and the Head Start program which provides educational and other social services to low-income children and their families. These initiatives have been hotly debated, being described by those opposed to them as an affront to women’s rights.

While the term was initially coined as an election tactic by the Democrats, the movement now associated with it has gained momentum as more and more women are joining the fight on both sides of the battlefield. The question some are asking now though, is how can women win this war when they are still at war with themselves?

The War Within

Elizabeth Debold, a senior editor of EnlightenNext magazine and author of the bestselling book, Mother Daughter Revolution: From Good Girls to Great Women, theorises that perhaps the reason that the battle for women’s rights is on-going, is because of the conflicting desires women experience.

According to Debold, women in the past were defined by traditionalism and their only viable choice was to fulfil their traditional biological roles, however women now are faced with a plethora of choices on how to think, what to think, what motivates them and what is expected of them. These choices bring with them competing desires and can make it difficult for a woman to choose what life has to offer.

Laura Kipnis, author of The Female Thing, also writes about this inner conflict that women seem to be experiencing. As she states in her book, there is a constant push and pull in a women between the desire for independence and assertiveness, or the idea of “feminism”; and the desire for being taken care of and being adored, or as she calls it, “femininity”.

So what can women do to fight this war within? Debold says they should be increasingly “self-responsible and self-actualising”. She states that by doing so, women can find clarity in their life’s purpose and learn what their real priorities are, making it possible for women to create the world that they want and thus, win the war on women.

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