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.

 

It’s time to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment

The ;logo for the documentary film. "Equal Means Equal."

The logo for the documentary film. “Equal Means Equal.”

 

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

–The Equal Rights Amendment

Did you know that women have no protections guaranteed to them by the US Constitution?

It’s true.

In fact, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia explained it very simply:

Interviewer: In 1868, when the 39th Congress was debating and ultimately proposing the 14th Amendment, I don’t think anybody would have thought that equal protection applied to sex discrimination, or certainly not to sexual orientation. So does that mean that we’ve gone off in error by applying the 14th Amendment to both?

Justice Scalia: Yes, yes. Sorry, to tell you that. … But, you know, if indeed the current society has come to different views, that’s fine. You do not need the Constitution to reflect the wishes of the current society. Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t. Nobody ever thought that that’s what it meant. Nobody ever voted for that. If the current society wants to outlaw discrimination by sex, hey we have things called legislatures, and they enact things called laws. You don’t need a constitution to keep things up-to-date. All you need is a legislature and a ballot box.

That means discrimination based on race is held to a different, higher standard than discrimination against women. In a case involving sex discrimination, a woman has to prove not just harm, but also deliberate intent.

In our society, women are not valued as highly as men. We are paid less for the same work, promoted less often, even when we are as competent — or even more so — as any man we compete with.

We are prosecuted unequally — women who kill their abusive intimate partners are far, far more likely to be sentenced to life in prison than abusive partners are when they kill the women in their lives.

Studies show that orders of protection against intimate partners are either ignored by many local law enforcement agencies, or complaints of violations are responded to more slowly than are other calls. So, if you are a woman whose ex-boyfriend is banging down your door, call 9-1-1 and tell them someone is using drugs in your front yard. You’ll get a better response in many cases.

In cases of rape, the successful conviction rate is just 2 percent. Do you really believe 98 percent of women are lying? I don’t. But crimes against women are held to a higher standard of proof.

Instead of seeing the criminal as being at fault, women are grilled about what they were wearing, where they were walking, why they went on a date with someone who they didn’t know would rape them …

I have been very open in recent weeks about the abuse that has happened to me. But last night, following a screening of the new film, “Equal Means Equal,” I stood and asked the 75 or so people in attendance how many of them had been molested, raped, sexually assaulted or abused by an intimate partner. Almost every woman there raised her hand.

Think about that for a moment. In a room full of women gathered to see a documentary about the Equal Rights Amendment, almost every one of them has suffered a form of physical abuse at the hands of a man (or men).

And I didn’t ask about harassment at work, unequal pay, lack of access to reproductive health services or other forms of discrimination against women.

I didn’t ask about women who want to breast feed their babies being told they’re somehow dirty and should take the baby into a bathroom stall. I responded to that once by inviting the person making the suggestion to bring her lunch in and eat it while sitting on the toilet. She thought that sounded absurd, and she was right. It is.

I didn’t ask about women who can’t afford to take unpaid family leave when their children are born, or about how they manage to afford the average $1,700 a month in child care costs.

More women live in poverty than men. More women are single head of household than men.

Women are not equal to men in this society, and it’s time we stood up and demanded that equality be put into the Constitution.

Only three more states are needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. We almost got it done in the 1970s, but we fell short because of arguments against men and women being “forced” to use the same bathrooms.

In 1974, when my then-husband railed against the ERA and used the bathroom argument, I reminded him that we were living in a one-bathroom apartment and that didn’t seem to bother him. He retorted, “That’s different!”

Right now, it looks like our best chances for ratification are in North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia. If you live one one of these states, you need to start talking to legislators about getting it done.

Giving women equal rights as human beings is not some left-wing, radical, militant feminist idea; it is something we should have done long, long ago.

Let’s get it done.

To learn more about the documentary, “Equal Means Equal,” visit www.equalmeansequal.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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