Sunday, May 29, 2005

Keep Your Hands Off My Ovaries!

What the hell happened to the women's movement? Jesus, every time I turn around, there's a white male telling me what to do with my body OR making sure I stay in my place. What is this? 1959? I swear, the 21st century is starting to sound like the "end of days" for womens' rights: appointment of right wing judges, erosion of abortion rights, denial of prescriptions for birth control, women voting for George Bush. Who needs to see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse coming over the hill when you hear the President of Harvard questioning women's aptitude for math and science? Where have you gone, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem?

The male heirarchy that told us women belonged at home have been replaced by demogogues calling themselves "Pharmacists for Life" who refuse to dispense birth control (it took a lawsuit in Washington state for contraceptives to be covered by medical insurance plans -- years after Viagra had been allowed). Or they take the form of a Bush appointee to the FDA who, while repeatedly denying approval of the Plan B pill which would prevent unwanted pregnancies the morning after sex, says God told him to sodomize his wife for years without her consent. And the rogue's gallery of legislators who proudly posed together at the signing of the bill to ban "partial birth abortion" looked like a KKK lynch mob out of uniform. I have a hard and fast rule about creating public policy regarding women's bodies: unless you have a uterus, you don't have a goddamned thing to say about mine.

Decades after Margaret Sanger smuggled diaphragms to America from England in empty whiskey bottles, I wonder what she would say if she knew that in my hometown in Eastern Washington, women who need an abortion must travel at least 200 miles. Abortion may not be illegal but without access (bus fare, a car), what's the difference? Isn't justice delayed the same as justice denied, especially when it comes to terminating a pregnancy? Sanger devoted her life to educating women about their bodies and increasing their access to medical care. A woman's right to plan her own family was a fundamental one for Sanger, but the same male-dominated institutions who fought Sanger are still trying to control the lives of women -- in and out of the bedroom.

And where's the outrage? In the early 1960s, when women discovered that the high levels of hormone in the Pill could cause strokes, they stormed congressional hearings, walking directly up to the podiums and microphones of legislators and demanding respect and answers. Where are today's activist women who would unapologetically go nose to nose with a Congressional committee to demand full access to birth control and abortion on demand? The mean and polarizing debate over these issues has convinced us we should apologize for wanting to control our own bodies. My, how times have changed. In the early 1970s, when Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun (God rest his soul) wrote the majority opinion legalizing abortion, his brief included research from the medical establishment that said legal abortion was good public health policy. Those reasonable voices have been replaced by wackos who murder doctors or who bomb clinics and hide for years in the woods with the support of the nearby community. My comic book fan friends would say this sounds like "Bizarro World" where the code states "us do opposite of all earthly things. Us hate beauty. Us love ugliness."

Even the language of the women's movement has been tainted. Women are likely to say they believe in women's equality but they won't use the term "feminist." Idiots like Rush Limbaugh have made us ashamed of using the term that empowered women for so long while twisting it into something evil: "feminazi." Such hateful rhetoric speaks more to a white male sense of impotence than genuine debate. Rather than run from such lunacy, women must reclaim their feminist label as a term to be proud of, now and throughout our history. I AM A PROUD FEMINIST. Make a sticker. Use a sharpie. A big fat one.

Maybe one of the reasons more women don't speak up for themselves is that their voices are muffled by the mainstream media. Someone who should know better -- Michael Kinsley, the editorial page editor of the L.A. Times and former editor of Slate magazine -- is shortchanging women's voices in his op-ed pages, featuring them only 20 percent of the time. And he's not alone. It's even worse at The Washington Post where only 10 percent of op-ed pieces are authored by women. And the only regular female voice in The New York Times is Maureen Dowd. She calls the NYT editorial writers "Murderer's Row." Considering the many points of view that are either stillborn or silenced before they can enter the pages of The Gray Lady, the title seems apt.

In her novel, "The Handmaid's Tale," author Margaret Atwood warned us that women's rights can only be maintained if we are vigilant about protecting them. We have to become our own Gloria Steinems and Betty Friedans. Generations of women have come of age without knowing what it's like to live without birth control, Title IX, and the Office of Civil Rights. I once interviewed a local community leader who fought the attempt to shut down abortion services in my hometown. She told me she was done working on this issue. "It's a young woman's fight now," she said. If there are plenty more where she came from, those of us 40-somethings and the youngsters following close behind better get busy. White males are lining up to return to a "good old days" that never really existed and, unless we raise our voices and our consciousnesses, we might get dragged down with them.


At 11:54 AM, Blogger WHS Cheer Girl said...

I couldn't agree with you more. I listen to the girls in my class talk about equality for men and women and dismiss the fight like it's over. I don't think any of them can even comprehend a world where they don't have control over their destinies. The increasing polarization of our society in a variety of ways seems to be distancing women from each other. We are either Christian or atheist, red or blue, city or country. It seems that women as a group are letting themselves be divided (I used the passive voice on purpose in this case.).

The young women of today need to know that they can have a voice and that they should have a voice, otherwise the gains granted by our patriarchal society will be stolen right back.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger ram said...

I am making your site as a favorite. And I am not a woman

At 9:33 PM, Blogger TC Byrd said...

I also want to point out how much of our energy and money contiunes to be poured into our outward appearance. Your post above about weight is a good example. I will be damned before I spend any of my 68 cents on the dollar compared to what men earn on makeup, high heels (with the bonus of harming your feet and posture), etc.

No, I am not a rabid feminist, just a person with more interesting and useful things to put my money toward, and fortunate enough to have a support system that doesn't care too much about that.

Women are still focused on getting a man for financial support rather than supporting themselves despite all of our gains. It saddens and frustrates me, and I usually console myself by believing that I and a big-mouthed broad living in the deep South, and that things are different elsewhere. Apparently not.


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