When being progressive is regressive

The irony was almost unbearable. Amidst the swaying crowd of protestors placards were heaved up from the ground and held high overhead. Slowly, steadily, 1000 humans began to move along Queen Street.

And as they did so, smiling grandly beneath the words they had scrawled upon bits of wood or cardboard, they were filled with a sense of jubilation.

They were here, under the shining sun, and they were going to make a difference.

It’s just that it was all so confusing.

The signs didn’t help matters. There was one proclaiming “my body my rights”. It didn’t mention any responsibilities, which usually precede rights, but that wasn’t the confusing part. Apparently the slogan is one of those commonly used arguments that prove abortion is ok. Of course, if it was our body being aborted, we wouldn’t be alive, so I’m going to assume someone missed a word out and the sign should have read “my baby’s body, my rights”.

That made me feel a little edgy, I’ll admit. After all, demanding the right to kill the little body inside your own body didn’t quite fit with the dignified air of moral superiority and compassion with which the demand was made. It was a bit too incongruous for me.

I felt the same about a sign that read “Sex is beautiful, reproduction is optional”. It didn’t sound so nice when I put thought about what it really meant: “Sex is beautiful, babies are optional”. I didn’t particularly want the right to kill my baby.

Another sign popped into view and this one read “I won’t tolerate intolerance”. I couldn’t quite figure out what to make of it. Was this woman saying she couldn’t tolerate herself? How does one not tolerate oneself? Ought we all be following her example to be good, liberal, feminist progressives? And most puzzlingly, how were we to create a society free of intolerance if we were all desperately busy not tolerating?

Yet another sign read “Our strength is in diversity”. “Excuse me,” I asked the woman, “does that mean I’m allowed to have a different opinion on abortion because the signs are doing a wonderful job of convincing me it’s not a good idea?” She said diversity of opinion was fine so long as we all had the same opinion.

I had rather a tough time trying to work that out, and in the end I gave up. I turned my mind to wondering whether it was possible to have diversity without diversity of thought, and decided that it wasn’t.

What baffled me most of all was that the Women’s March on Washington didn’t actually end up in Washington. It ended in Myers Park.

Not a police officer was in sight, according to the MC, “because women are perceived to be safe”. I felt again the strong pangs of uncertainty. Was that a compliment or a horrid, sexist remark by our men and women in blue? Should the crowd react by proving the stereotype, or by smashing things and hitting people to prove such sexism wrong?

I must confess I missed most of the speeches from then on. I was too busy thinking that there was no use trying, it was quite evident I would never make a good feminist, liberal, progressive.

I tuned back in as the crowd was being told that “today gives us an opportunity to just begin”. And then everyone went home.

Actually, I thought to myself, I’m not sure that I want to fit in.

This article was first published on Stuff.co.nz

4 thoughts on “When being progressive is regressive

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