What are some men so afraid of? I mean, why else would so many male politicians have declared War on Women if they weren’t afraid of something?
I’m not the first to say this. But we need to keep saying it. Because unless she chooses to party like it’s 1949, no woman should be forced to live a life from the last century. If she wants to stay at home and have six kids: excellent. If she wants to run a global corporation and have no kids: excellent. But the choice must be hers.
Limit a woman’s ability to choose and you limit her ability to succeed. You limit her ability to lead.
This is not entirely an issue of misogyny. Many of the weapons in this war are being launched by Republicans, but it’s not all them, either. It’s not even just men. A few women have joined the ranks, too. It makes no sense to me, but there are women who would apparently like to see all of us barefoot, pregnant and submissive. Just ask Michele Bachmann about that last part.
I’m not writing this to place blame on anyone. That’s wasted time, anyway. I’m writing this because, sadly, I have to. We have to keep talking about the War on Women until it stops.
This post has been in my head for a while. The attacks on women’s rights just keep coming, as do daily disrespect and sexism everywhere from the workplace to Twitter. So I had two choices: Write about where we are today or wait until something big changes. I’m not waiting. (Credit where due: Sarah Burris shared a speech by Joss Whedon that helped sharpen my focus on the point I want to make here. This is a huge topic.)
Here’s my point: I want the day to come when we no longer have to talk about women’s equality because it simply won’t be in question anymore. There will be no need to discuss the War on Women because it will be over. Until then, we have to keep talking about it.
When you take away a woman’s rights, you limit her ability to succeed.
When you take away her liberty to make her own decisions, or to have access to the same jobs and healthcare options and freedoms a man has, you limit her ability to succeed. You limit her ability to lead.
Let’s just rip off the Band-Aid and start with abortion. I am not pro-abortion. I am pro-choice. I don’t believe in abortion as a form of birth control, but I believe that forcing a woman to have a baby she can’t afford or doesn’t want — or could die in the process of having — holds back both that woman and that baby. Yes, adoption is an option and many women choose it. But it’s not an easy path to take. And it’s expensive if you don’t have healthcare coverage. Whatever decision a woman makes when she learns she’s pregnant, it’s going to change the course of her life. She ought to be able to choose the direction she takes.
That ability to choose is why women need the option of birth control. But I can’t keep up with the number of groups trying to outlaw birth control altogether. They’ve already made it harder for women to access birth control with moves like trying to do away with Planned Parenthood. Making birth control unavailable isn’t going to stop people from having sex. So a woman gets pregnant and then what? I respect that some women choose not to use birth control or have abortions. But that doesn’t mean every woman should have to make those same choices. One group’s beliefs should never be forced on everyone.
Then there are the personhood amendments. The first, thankfully, failed to get the support of voters but there are many more in the pipeline. Under these laws, life would begin at conception. So theoretically, a woman who tripped and fell, or got beat up by her husband, and had a subsequent miscarriage could be tried for murder of that embryo. Theoretically.
Taking away a woman’s right to choose — and her access to the tools she needs to make informed, intelligent choices, such as birth control or education about sexuality and reproduction — is a form of oppression.
And it’s not just the laws some people are trying to pass. Those are bad enough, and we have to fight to preserve women’s rights and freedoms. More than ever, I stand with Planned Parenthood, Emily’s List, the National Women’s Law Center and many other organizations and individuals, women and men, who are on the side of women.
But the War on Women is also evident in the things people say, every day. The way women are critiqued on their appearance more often than men. I don’t mean compliments, which are just fine. I’m talking about judging a woman on how she looks instead of what she thinks. Or the way men make overtly sexual comments in social media. A little flirtation and innuendo is fun and I do it, too, but explicit comments go too far. (Take it offline or you look like a creepy idiot.) The way people demean women with diminutive nicknames and Twitter hashtags like #WomenWhoCantCook — and that one is tame compared to the one a while back about reasons it was okay for a man to hit a woman. The way women must sometimes be anonymous online, for fear of being victimized verbally or, in some horrible cases, physically, after someone they angered tracked them down. If you want to see misogyny in all its hateful glory, check the #MenCallMeThings hashtag.
Even the women running for President in the Republican party are, in a way, an insult. Don’t get me wrong. I like seeing a woman running for President. Any woman. But is this the best the GOP could do? Michele Bachmann can’t be bothered to vote as a Congresswoman but she’s being paraded as a Presidential hopeful? Please. She doesn’t stand a chance and the GOP knows it. Sorry, but: token woman. Sarah Palin is smarter than I thought, to stay out of the race, but not by much. She’s still a quitter and an opportunist. So, again, not a woman fit to lead.
Sometimes the condescension and gender bias is so subtle — or so ingrained, so insidious — it’s easy to miss it. But it’s there.
We have to stay on the watch for it. We need to keep doing whatever we can to protect and strengthen women’s rights.
Again, I’m not the first person to say this. But why do we have to keep saying it?
Why do we have to keep saying it’s not okay to blame victims of rape for the violent crimes committed against them?
Why do we have to pass laws (grateful as I am for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) that say it’s not okay to pay a woman less than a man to do the same job?
Why do we need an International Day Against Violence Against Women?
Why do we have to keep saying it’s not okay for men to behave as Herman Cain did when he called Nancy Pelosi “Princess”?
Why isn’t women’s equality, and their right to make their own decisions, an unequivocal right?
There are so many questions. And I don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Look, I’m a lucky woman. I have a job where I’m respected and given the opportunity to excel if I work hard. I’m in a great relationship with a man (yes, a Republican man) who treats me as an equal and values the fact that I’m a smart, strong, independent-minded woman. So many women don’t have these things.
Limiting women’s rights limits their ability to succeed. It limits their ability to lead. And some people don’t like the idea of women in leadership very much.
I think the people who want to hold women back are intimidated. Women are strong, we’re not afraid to stand up for what we believe in. We can endure more pain than many men. We can often multi-task better. We have the potential to be just as smart and hard-working as any man. We’re compassionate and tend to take human beings into consideration when we make decisions. We generally play well with others. Pretty good leadership qualities if you ask me. There’s science to back me up on this, too.
If anyone can explain to me why there’s such a huge push for laws that limit the rights of women — effectively holding us back by not letting us make decisions about things like what we’ll do with our bodies over the course of nine months and a lifetime of motherhood — I’d like to hear it. Really, I would.
I’ll listen, but I doubt I can be convinced that restricting a woman’s right to choose how she wants to live her life will ever be okay. Telling her to compromise her dreams because she has to choose what someone else is forcing on her will never be okay.
Limiting a woman’s right to choose how she wants to live her life limits her ability to succeed. No matter what it is she might want to do.
I’m not going to sit quietly and wait. Following the lead of many outstanding organizations and individuals, I’m going to keep talking about this. Until there’s a day when we no longer need to.
I, too, find it incredibly frustrating and utterly beyond belief that we are still fighting these battles, but here we are, and your point is right on target: we must remain vigilant. I really don’t want to become an angry feminist chanting “that’s not funny” all day long, but dammit, rape isn’t funny, and neither is ridiculing women for not having movie-star bodies. And as for the attempts to declare personhood at conception, um…what? So, no birth control pills, either?
I’m also pro-choice, though not pro-abortion. I understand that some people feel that it’s murder, and I don’t know what to do about that, because the people who don’t make a distinction between a zygote and a baby don’t generally seem interested in facts or science–it’s a black and white issue for them. I believe that no one should enter into it lightly, but neither should they give birth to a child they can’t care for or whose birth might kill them just because some people don’t understand biology. Abortion must remain an option–women must retain control over their bodies and their lives.
Thanks for this intelligent, important post.
Thank you, Marti, for your insightful and honest comments. I hope others will share their thoughts so we can learn from each other. I’m so with you about never wanting to be an “angry feminist” — and I don’t think most feminists are militant. We’re as much humanists as anything. We can laugh about sex and relationships and ourselves. We just know there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Proud to be with you among those who are protecting that line.
Just a brief reply, as I am dealing with a male board member who has tried backing me into a corner every chance he gets, since I am a FEMALE president of the board.:
If someone tries to put you down, keep in mind it is because YOU are ABOVE them
Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts – and for the inspiration!