It has been only 48 years since women were granted the right to determine for themselves when they would start families, freeing them to pursue their own interests including education and careers. Suddenly, the subject of our independence and choice has reached epic proportions; we are in the eye of the storm, fodder for every politician and evangelical minister with a pulpit from which to scream their wrath at our defiance.
Should we have seen this coming?
I wonder what brought us to this cultural impasse. How have we reached a place where social values, mores and even women’s standing in the community seem to be the battleground of the day and not just of the political season? The battle lines were drawn years ago; they have just not been the deeply divisive trenches they are today.
Our history as a nation saw women working toward suffrage for nearly a century before we gained any true recognition that we might own our humanity, our intellect and even our bodies. Since women won the right to vote and then our right to determine our reproductive health 45 years later it has been uphill, now it seems we are careening downhill on a cultural collision course.
|11/5/1872||Susan B. Anthony, women’s suffragette, illegally casts a ballot at Rochester, New York in the presidential election to publicize the cause of a woman’s right to vote.|
|11/7/1893||Women in Colorado are granted the right to vote|
|8/2/1924||Women are given the right to vote when the 19th Amendment to the United States constitution grants universal women’s suffrage.|
|6/7/1965||Griswold-v-Conneticut decided the fate of married couples and their right to determine when they would add children, meaning their right to privacy and access to hormonal birth control|
|3/22/1972||Eisenstadt-v-Baird, extended the right to access of hormonal birth control to unmarried women. Broadening the right of privacy and obviously the right to bodily control.|
|1/22/1973||Roe-v-Wade, finally the critical decision extending the rights of women to determine their needs, responsibilities and establishes privacy across even abortion.|
|2/2/2009||Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed|
We have fought each step of the way, not just to prove our worth and value but to retain those rights and privileges our mothers and grandmothers won for us. A fight to prove our value as independent voices in our communities, our workplaces and sometimes even our own families has demoralized many of us already. For every step forward it seems there are those who would rather throw us down in humiliation, Slut Walk the brightest of us and define us all as ‘less than’.
The demagogues of radio and television are feeding our young women to the populace in a frenzy of public shaming for no cause other than they dare to stand up and disagree. Elected officials stand before their peers and compare women to barnyard animals as they fight to reduce access to safe abortion in their states (Georgia Legislature Rep. Terry England). The archaic views of presidential nominees on sex and birth control are in the forefront of the national debate, these are now considered vital to our economic and national security, I can only wonder how or why. The religious values and in some cases hypocritical standards of paternalistic agitators fly in the face of our Constitution (1st Amendment & Article VI), their statements against women and their right to be fully enfranchised members of society with equal opportunity for education and work, even to plan for our future diminish our human value and our past and future contributions.
I have struggled in writing this, fought for words and to keep my emotions in check. I have walked away more than once as I found my normal pragmatism lost, my ability to step back had vanished entirely. My normal ability to see issues from both sides and walk the middle line had flown the coop along with my calm certainty that we, that is women were 100% a part of the American cultural and social experiment, that we had gained our right to participate and could not be, would not be consigned to the backroom or required to don the veil. I was wrong, clearly I was wrong.
What does this mean for our daughters?
If we don’t fight back, it means our daughters will have less opportunity than we had. It means everything our foremothers fought for and we took for granted will be lost. What does it mean? It means we will revert to a society where women are simply a commodity, a convenience and nothing more. Our voices will be silenced as we struggle to avoid too many pregnancies, for lack of access to safe birth control. The redefinition from victim to accuser in the case of rape will lower our standing in the courts and in the eyes of society. Should we wonder what is next? Marital abuse cases will change, no longer will be able to seek intervention from the courts as no longer will we have standing.
Is the above simply the worst-case scenario? Perhaps it is, however I lived in the time when the police were called to stop my husband from beating me (1973). They took me to the hospital, they did not arrest him. I have lived through having to hide from a husband who said he was going to kill me if I left; the police did nothing because I was married to him. I have seen that version of the world. I have seen the world that says rape isn’t rape (1968), it is just young boys having fun; even my mother thought it was my fault. I lived with the aftermath of those actions taken against my eleven-year-old body and soul for most of my life, I paid the price.
I have seen the world that says women and young girls have no value, that we are nothing more than –
SLUTS – PROSTITUTES – BITCHES
Where is the outrage?