Listening to the morning news, I heard that the women of Chechnya are being oppressed by the form of Islam advocated by its current leader. Women and girls must wear head coverings in government offices and schools. “They think that women should stay at home. We are being forced back into the middle ages,” I heard the translator say, speaking for an anonymous woman in Chechnya.
At one time in my life, this would have raised my hackles. As an adolescent in the women’s lib movement of the early 70s, women’s rights became part of my internal system of beliefs. I believed that society should encourage its women as it does its men, to fulfill their potential and follow their dreams. I still believe society should allow both sexes choices of career and spouse and parenthood.
Yet what the idealists won’t tell you, is that when you make those choices, you cannot fathom their consequences down the line. The choice of career may put limits on where you can live. The choice of spouse may put limits on your leisure activities. The choice of parenthood may put limits on your body. And those limits are the “nice” ones.
Aren’t these limits bad? Don’t they stifle the potential of the woman? Aren’t they a violation of women’s rights?
No. These are choices the woman has made for herself. Not made by society. Not made by some government-sponsored religion. Not made by her parents. Choices of her own.
So my young female friends, stand up for your rights and the rights of your women counterparts in other countries. I will stand with you. But just remember: we’re fighting for the freedom to make same choices that men have. That’s all. You’re not fighting for the freedom from the consequences of the choices you will make. We’re fighting to be able to say in middle age, as the men do, “I made these choices myself.” And truly understand what their mid-life crises are all about.