But it was when the professor told us that, one day, when sexism is over, the government could make abortion illegal again, that I truly lost it — both my patience and, as it turns out, the A that I’d been biting my tongue to earn. She presented this nugget of information not as an idiosyncratic view of her feelings about abortion, but as a tenet of feminist thinking about abortion, and it was one that stood in opposition to everything I understood about abortion and its importance to the feminist movement
I asked questions. Who would get to decide that sexism is over — a majority vote of the still mostly-white and mostly-male Congress? A national plebiscite? Does the end of sexism mean that no one is ever raped again, even by the emotionally disturbed? Do feminists really concede that abortion is wrong-but-necessary, and isn’t that just feeding into the stigma attached to it? It’s hard to ignore a raised hand in a room of 12 students, and harder when the student isn’t going to be ignored — and the sheer stupidity of the idea that abortion policy should be based on a political decree that sexism is “over” was just too much for me to bear.
For my professor, the challenge seemed to be more than she was willing to take. There was no Socratic give-and-take that I’d come to love about my other classes; I was supposed to accept that she was right, I was wrong and that what she said was feminist gospel.
Shutting up was a lesson that my parents hadn’t quite managed to instill in me, but if my professor’s word was Feminist Gospel, then I wasn’t sure where I belonged any longer. I was just sure that, if she was the Perfect Feminist, then I wasn’t willing to sacrifice what I thought about women’s equality to be one.
It was a disheartening experience. I supported pro-choice politicians with my votes and my voice, but it never crossed my mind to support women’s groups with my (admittedly limited) money. I eventually became a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., and lived the dreaded gender wage gap and had the joyful experience of informing no less than two bosses about the sexual harassment I was experiencing from politicians, it never occurred to me that this is part of what galvanized a generation of feminists before me.