Friday, April 8, 2011

Just in case you were stupid enough to think that women are "equal" to men...

... I'm here to kick you in the teeth.

Not that I fault you. I'm 40-something years old, and during my lifetime I have witnessed plenty of advances for women. I remember when there was not a girls' recreational basketball league in my Rhode Island town. So, as a primary-grade student who loved basketball and sports in general, I was one of two girls to play in the boys' league. And I was a starter.

A year later, the girls had their own league.

I also remember the girls being marginalized in gym class in elementary school. We were "just girls," after all.

Luckily, my parents gave me the message that I could do anything I wanted. Growing up in the 70s, my mother added to the message something I would not dream of having to say to my daughter today. After "You can do anything you want with your life" she added "even though you're a girl."

It was the 70s--and Title 9 was relatively fresh. So was the pill. And Roe v. Wade. I was riding high on a wave of girl power.

In junior high, much of that came crashing down. The empowerment I experienced as a youngster was replaced by the insecurity of adolescence. Popularity was everything. The size of a girl's bosom was directly proportional to how popular she was. I did not have a name for it then, but I learned my first lessons in "objectification." Overnight, girls were transformed into things. No longer whole people, they were judged by capricious and often arbitrary criteria: bosoms, whether or not they "put out" (which could raise or lower your popularity, depending), their overall appearance including hairstyle and clothes. Many girls were afraid to be too smart, too athletic, or too “different.”

Male teachers in the junior high gave special privileges to the more "womanly" appearing girls. The message was clear: Unless you appealed to a male, you were beyond notice.

But back to the point, this rant is really about how things have not changed for women all that much. Yes, we are better represented in boardrooms and legislatures. Today, there are more female than male college undergraduates.
But …

Our bodies continue to be battlegrounds. We have lost, rather than gained, control over our bodies and medical decisions over the past twenty years. (To be fair, men have lost some control also.) But tonight, as we wait for word of a government shutdown, one thing is clear: This standoff is NOT about the U.S. budget. It is NOT about securing our country’s financial future.

This is a standoff all about control. Control over women.

The Tea-Party soused Republican Congress is holding the United States hostage. They have decided to attach several riders to a budget that should be about THE BUDGET. But these riders overwhelmingly target women’s access to health care. And no, I’m not using the term “health care” as a euphemism for “abortion.” Because de-funding Planned Parenthood *is* about women’s health. Yes, Planned Parenthood provides abortion services. But overwhelmingly, it provides routine annual check-ups for women who otherwise wouldn’t have easy access to health care.

I am lucky to be covered by health insurance. I can see a doctor about virtually anything I need. All women should be so lucky. All AMERICANS should be so lucky. But this is not the case.

So, I implore the Republican-led congress to stop using my body as a battleground. You have absolutely no right to restrict my--any woman’s--access to health care. I frankly don’t give a shit if you “don’t agree” with abortion or think “God prohibits it.” I don’t care if your God tells you to worship trees, or to not wear the color blue. If you truly believe God is speaking to you, you have every right to believe that and I do not begrudge you that.

But why shouldn’t someone *else* wear blue? Maybe they truly, honestly, believe God or their pet gerbil is telling them green is the color to stay away from.

You may have noticed we live on a pretty big planet. And that people the world over have a variety of norms and beliefs. Clearly, humanity is wired for diversity. By cramming your view of how women “should behave” through the legislature, you are RESTRICTING people’s rights. This is clearly un-American.

Take note: I will not let you use my body as a battleground. I will not stand by as you re-interpret history and re-write the meaning of the Constitution you claim to uphold. I will not let you marginalize me. I will not allow you to limit the choices my daughter will have when she is older. I will not have you remake this incredible, bewildering, ever-changing and occasionally frustrating country into YOUR twisted vision of a presumed God-given utopia.

You sit on a precipice, and history will judge you for your actions. Your ancestors will inherit what you sow today. I implore you to do the right thing.

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