My pussy hat is purple

In a sea of pink, I’m the one in the purple pussy hat.

I was going to wear pink — I’ve knitted eight pink hats so far — but as I was looking through my yarn stash and I found this skein of lavender wool, I thought of my grandmother.

Lavender was my grandmother’s favorite color. She used to dress one of us four girls for Easter every year, and you can tell by the Easter morning photos which one of us was the lucky one because she was dressed, head to toe, in lavender, with black patent leather shoes and white gloves.

My grandmother was born in 1888, and when she came of age in 1909, she didn’t have the right to vote.

It occurred to me as I held that lavender yarn in my hand that I could reach back and touch a time when women couldn’t even vote.

I said something in a Facebook post and a young woman answered that women’s rights were long established and not going anywhere.

Something snapped. Here’s this young woman with no sense of history, and I felt as though I had to say something.

I told her that women couldn’t sit on a jury until 1961 — within my lifetime and probably within her mother’s lifetime.

When I was in high school a girl who got pregnant had to quit school, but the boy who got her pregnant could stay.

When I was 18 in Massachusetts, it was illegal for a doctor to prescribe — or even discuss — contraception with a single woman. I had to wait until 60 days before my wedding to get a prescription, and the system was so paternalistic that I wasn’t the one who could get in trouble — the doctor was.

When I was married to my first husband (1972 to 1977), it was perfectly legal in many states for him to rape and hit me.

I couldn’t get a credit card in my own name, and my friend, who was a pharmaceutical sales rep with a master’s degree in nursing and an income of more than $50,000 a year (a fortune in 1975 and more than double what my then-husband made), couldn’t get a mortgage on a $35,000 condo.

We could be fired for getting married and often were fired when we got pregnant. If we were single parents, we still couldn’t get a decent job because men believed we should be home with our children and that we should stay with our husbands no matter what.

Women still aren’t guaranteed the same pay for the same work.

In fact, women have no equal protection in the US Constitution — the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said as much less than five years ago. What this means is that women have no grounds under the US Constitution to sue for discrimination (Read the 14th Amendment — it specifies men and does not include women).

In this culture, rape is seen as a woman’s fault. Where were you? What were you wearing? Why did you get in a car with him? Why did you invite him in?

Where was I? I was on a date.

What was I wearing? Dress and heels as is appropriate for a nice restaurant.

Why did I get in a car with him? As I said, we were on a date.

Why did I invite him in? I had a nice time at dinner and we were in the middle of an interesting conversation, so I asked if he would like a cup of coffee.

But all this, apparently, gives a man permission to “lose control,” and the blame is on the woman for being such a slut that she went out on a date.

When William Kennedy Smith was accused of rape in 1991, the victim was criticized for taking off her pantyhose. My question was: If you’re going to walk barefoot on the beach, are you going to wear your socks?

But he got off because she was such a slut that she took off her socks to walk barefoot on the beach.

I was just 3 years old the first time I was violated. Go ahead, try to make that my fault. I must have had a hell of a come-hither look, huh?

We have come a ways, true, but we do not have full equality.

We need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s still out there and it is finding new life. It has been re-introduced in North Carolina, Virginia and Nevada, among other states.

We have demanded that other nations include gender equality in their laws, but we have yet to do it ourselves.

We need to guarantee women the same pay for the same work, and we need to give women equal access to high-paying jobs.

We need to re-examine our attitudes about sexual violence.

We need to ensure than women have access to safe and effective contraception and that your boss’s religion can’t affect your access to it.

Just 25 years ago, I handed a prescription for birth control pills to a pharmacist, who told me I needed a note from my doctor because the insurance company didn’t cover contraception for women, and they needed to know it was for therapeutic purposes (which it was).

I told him the prescription WAS a letter from my doctor, and that he would fill it or he and the insurance company would face a lawsuit. It was none of their business what I was taking the pills for, only that my doctor had prescribed them for me.

I’m not sure my threat would have been effective except for a young man I knew casually was standing nearby. He was using testosterone patches following testicular cancer surgery, and no one was asking why, he said.

“If I can fill a prescription for hormone therapy and she can’t, that’s discrimination and I would be very happy to testify on her behalf,” he said.

The pharmacist called the insurance company and told them he no longer would ask the purpose of birth control pills, but would fill doctors’ prescriptions, and if they wanted to object, he would join my lawsuit.

I got my pills.

But I’m tired of fighting for equal treatment when I am as capable and smart as any man.

And young women need to know that a lot of these rights we enjoy are not guaranteed and can be rolled back.

My Facebook friend was quite taken aback when I told her just how tenuous our rights are. My advice to her was to find and join a chapter of NOW and start fighting.

It’s your turn, Millennials. Come join us. We want your input because the way we’ve always done things has yet to get us full equal rights. We welcome you to the fight with open arms.

 

No, we won’t go back!

This is what the extreme right wing wants for women.

On the last day of the legislative session, the Missouri legislature passed a bill allowing employers and health plan providers to opt out of covering contraception or abortion in health plans if such health services violate their religious convictions. The bill also gives the state Attorney General the authority to sue any government official or agency that overrules the state law. The legislation,  modeled after the failed Blunt Amendment in the US Senate, passed the state Senate 28-6 and the House 105-33.

There’s no word yet on whether the governor will sign the bill into law, but things are getting worse and worse for women as state legislatures pass increasingly insane bills to limit women’s access to birth control, abortion — even basic health care services like annual exams.

What they want, apparently is to re-enslave women. No birth control, no abortions — they’ll just keep us so busy with pregnancy and child-rearing that we won’t have time or energy to challenge their authority. And we’ll be worn out before we’re 40 and dead before we’re 50 because they want to keep cutting our access to health care too.

There’s this in Missouri, the closing of women’s health clinics in Texas, the attempts at “personhood” laws, the bill in Tennessee that would make women prove their miscarriages weren’t abortions.

Next up? Employers will be able to ask you whether you’re using birth control and fire you for it.

These decisions are intensely personal and I don’t think anyone but the person who might get pregnant and the potential father of her child should have a say in them. My employer has no business in that decision, nor does my pastor or any state or federal lawmaker.

In a nation that is supposed to offer me freedom from your religious edicts, this is just nuts.

But here’s the thing. I grew up in a church that held many of these beliefs. Women were not equal to men, we were not allowed to teach men, meaning we couldn’t hold any position of authority in the church, we were to submit to the authority of men in all things.

We were supposed to welcome as many children as God would bless us with and vote the way we were told by our husbands. We went from our fathers’ authority to our husbands’ and then if we outlived our husbands, our sons or sons-in-law could take over telling us what to do.

This didn’t appeal to me, so I left that church. But now, state legislators are trying to impose those same religious views on women across the country.

The Establishment Clause in the Bill of Rights exists to keep this from happening. We aren’t supposed to be governed by the religious views of anyone, least of all a bunch of creepy old white men who want to re-enslave us.

We can fight this. All we have to do is get out and vote against these clowns. It’s time for them to go because their time is long gone.

We no longer live in Victorian times, we don’t need to be put on a pedestal. We need to be treated as equals, capable of making our own decisions about our own bodies. We, alone, own ourselves. Anything less is enslavement.

It is an issue

Recently, several people have told me that women’s rights aren’t really being attacked and that the whole birth control thing is a diversion, not a real issue.

Actually, it is an issue, and a very real one at that.

A lot of people have misrepresented Sandra Fluke’s testimony. She was not asking for taxpayers to pay for her contraception; she was only saying it needs to be covered by insurance so low-income women like students can have access. She did not testify before Darryl Issa’s committee; she spoke before an informal committee of Democrats after she was refused permission to testify before Issa’s committee.

In Texas, women’s clinics are closing because funding has been cut. This means fewer women will have access to care and to contraception. They will have more babies and become even more mired in poverty.

Across the country, Planned Parenthood and other organizations that offer affordable health care to women are being attacked under the guise of being “abortion clinics.”  Just because I sit in my office and occasionally print something out doesn’t make me a printer. Women’s health clinics offer contraception, breast cancer screening and sometimes well-baby clinics. They address issues such as domestic violence. They often are a woman’s only access to care, and they save lives.

Yes, this is an attack on women.

I’ll turn 60 this year, and as a child I had a direct connection to women’s suffrage: my grandmother couldn’t vote as a young woman. She was born in 1888 and was married with a child before women had the vote. Her father controlled her every move until she was married. When skirts went above the ankle and she cut all hers off and hemmed them, her father made her sew ruffles onto the bottom of every skirt because he thought men were staring at her ankles.

I came of age in the 1960s and my grandmother and I talked a lot about how far women had come — and how far we still needed to go to gain equality.

My mother’s generation could vote, but women still could be fired when they got married or got pregnant. My mother actually advised me to take typing in 1966 because I should have something to fall back on if my husband should die. I refused. I wasn’t going to make my living fetching coffee, taking notes and typing someone else’s crap.

My mother was a brilliant woman, but she couldn’t share that brilliance beyond her home because women’s place was in the home. She was depressed and frustrated, but she stayed home until I was in high school. She became a self-taught marine biologist who lectured PhDs on the effects of PCBs on fish eggs in the Chesapeake Bay.

My generation was the one that was able to make headway because we didn’t have to become pregnant unless we planned it — as long as we were married. Even into the 1970s in Massachusetts, women weren’t allowed to make their own decisions about their bodies. Doctors weren’t allowed to offer contraception — or even information about it — to unmarried women. They, not we, could be arrested because we weren’t trusted with our own bodies.

We fought those laws and we fought for equality in the workplace. We had to work twice as hard as men to get half the recognition. I was paid less than a man who did my same job at my first newspaper. I complained to the publisher and got a raise, but then the man who was doing the job comparable to mine got a raise, too. I was, after all, only a woman. I was just working for spending money in their eyes. It didn’t matter that I was supporting two children and this man lived with his mother; he was a man and I was a woman. This was in the 1980s.

The attacks on our access to contraceptives are very real. Women are losing the gains we made in the 20th century because too few of us remember what it was like to not have options. If a husband was abusive, we could leave because we could get work. If a husband lost his job, the woman’s income still was there in most families.

If women hadn’t entered the workplace beginning in the 1960s, our national economy would be about one-third of what it is now.

This is not a distraction; this is a real issue. Those five aging white men on Darryl Issa’s birth control panel want us back in the early 1900s, make no mistake about it. Rick Santorum’s supporter who joked that women could use an aspirin held firmly between the knees is among those who want to set back the clock.

I won’t even go into what Rush Limbaugh said because too much has been said already. But he is dangerous because some people do take him seriously.

We need to recognize all this for what it is:  a coordinated attack from the right on all the gains women have made.

 

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