The First Amendment, Feminists, and Our Christian Nation

I am one of those feminists who often finds herself at odds with other feminists. My mother was an old-school Andrea Dworkin-style lesbian separatist. I went to a women’s college, the same one that produced Betty Friedan (when I met her at a reunion she was a sharp-tongued, witty, and crotchety old woman) and Gloria Steinem, and, well, lets just say that the fact that I subscribed to Playboy raised more than a few eyebrows. For years I stopped self-identifying as a feminist because the young women around me demanded such conformity of opinions, particularly when it came to things like “pornography”. It always seemed to me that the distinction between healthy erotic objectification of women and exploitation of women was being missed, to the detriment of women, men, and families. On occasion I would quote Betty Freidan to my cohorts: “To suppress free speech in the name of protecting women is dangerous and wrong.” But most people don’t want to consider differing opinions. People cling to their own opinions like they do to their faith in their religions.

Even though my days at what called “Radical Feminist U” are far behind me, I keep up with what women are doing out there in the world to further the empowerment of women. Feminists for Free Expression has a great site that I visit periodically, and when I visited earlier today I noticed a call for essays on how the First Amendment impacts our lives, as well a note that a recent survey revealed that young people don’t consider the First Amendment to be an important factor in their lives.

I decided to respond for their call for submission with the following essay:

I find it ironic that young people, who constantly complain about being told what they can and cannot do or say, would think that the First Amendment is not vital to their lives. One could see that as an indictment of our educational system, if our educational system wasn’t a reflection of societal values. I don’t blame our educators, who are doing the best they can within the stifling framework we provide, but rather today’s intellectually lazy children and their parents, who, for the most part, don’t want their children educated so much as baby-sat. And certainly this apathy works for civic and religious leaders to whom freethinking is a threat, always a threat, to the status quo.

As a writer and narrator of erotica, the First Amendment and the Rights it protects are of great importance to me. There are people out there who would, without ever reading or listening to my work, determine that it is obscene and without merit, and would love to shut me up. Since the First Amendment protects my right to express myself and be published, they cannot stop me, however, they can try to censor me, to moderate how I express myself, and to reduce the venues for that self-expression under the guise of protecting others from my words. Despite the opposition I endure and the censure I receive, I continue to give voice to the sensual immediacy of life. Why? Because it seems wrong to me that people are so repressed and knotted-up about something as integral to their being as their sexuality.

The obsession with sexuality and sexual repression endemic in this country is engendered by the revealed religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. This is supposedly a Christian Nation and Christians seem to think that sex is dirty and the urge to copulate must be repressed, and therefore, anything that inflames the libido, intentionally or not, must be eradicated. What most forget is that the actual Founders of this country, the ones who declared Independence and wrote the Constitution, were Deists, not Christians, and in fact many of them were anti-Christian.

While the first European settlers of this land were indeed the fanatical religious rejects from Northern Europe, The Founders were children of the Age of Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, and their distrust of the centralized power of government and Christian fanaticism is addressed by the First Amendment’s guarantees. George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Ethan Allen were Deists. Thomas Paine, a prominent American Revolutionary, wrote an indictment of institutionalized religions and the political and financial power-grabbing of the Christian Churches in his book The Age of Reason. Thomas Jefferson, whose is name and image is known to every American, was anti-Christian. He despised the religion, and stated in his Notes on Virginia: “Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a common censor over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch toward uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one-half the world fools and the other half hypocrites.”

Fool I may be for insisting in the value and necessity of upholding the First Amendment, but a hypocrite I am not. Thank you, FFE, for your efforts to preserve our rights to produce and access the materials, media, and messages of our own choosing.