This has nothing to do with saving babies’ lives

Don’t kid yourself. The abortion debate isn’t about saving babies’ lives.

The attempt to criminalize abortions, even in cases of rape or incest, is about enslaving women.

It’s about taking control of our lives away from us.

It’s about keeping us in poverty and forcing our children to fight the endless wars of the uber-wealthy.

The policies of the people who call themselves “pro-life” are as anti-life as it gets.

The irony of their position is that they’re thrilled when I decide to continue with a pregnancy that could result in a child with serious birth defects, but once that child is here, they refuse to treat his medical condition, refuse to insure him, turn him away when he’s sick and refuse to even see him until they can make a profit from his chemotherapy. But before they’ll allow him access to treatment, he has to leave his wife because she has a newer model car and some tuition money in the bank. When he applies for disability because he’s now too sick to work, we make him wait 37 months and he’s  dead nine days before his first check comes.

Then these same “pro-life” people want to know whether he was working when he got sick, as though he somehow didn’t deserve saving if he’d been unemployed, as though he were morally inferior and didn’t deserve for anyone to fight for his life.

Sure, you’ll stop me in the parking lot of Planned Parenthood and scream insults at me, no matter the reason for my visit there, and accuse me of murder, and in the next breath trash the life of my son because he’s somehow not deserving of that life.

If you think it’s a life worth saving before birth but you don’t care about it after it’s born, you are the worst kind of hypocrite.

You want to insist I bear a child whose life ends with three years of unspeakable suffering because your “pro-life” policies care nothing for him or his plight? That’s not going to happen. I’m going to fight for women’s right to control our own bodies, plan our own families, make our own choices.

Now I get men telling me how precious that life is while it’s still in the womb, as though it were their lives at stake during pregnancy and delivery, as though they’re going to help raise it, pay me a decent wage so I can feed, clothe and shelter it, make sure it gets a decent education, stays safe from harm …

They want to be able to walk away if a woman gets pregnant because it’s her fault, as though their sperm had nothing to do with the pregnancy.

Or, they want to be able to rape me and then take over my life because the child deserves a father in its life, even if that father is a violent criminal. They want to force me to share parenting with a person who already has demonstrated that he’s not fit to raise a child.

They want my 11-year-old daughter to bear the child of a rapist and then have him in her life forever.

And then they romanticize it by finding a woman who had her rapist’s child and loves that baby. Awwww. Aren’t the rest of us craven murderers if we disagree?

Well, I loved my son. I tried everything I knew to get him the care he needed, but since he was born already, nobody cared.

Where were you “pro-life” people then? Where was your loving concern as my precious son lay dying? Where is your advocacy for the 45,000 people who die the same way every damn year? We’re closing on a half million deaths from lack of access to health care in the 11 years since my son died. Why do I hear nothing but crickets from you on this pro-life issue?

I’ll tell you why: You don’t care about human life, you only care about control of women’s bodies, that’s why.

And if this isn’t about controlling women, why are these same people attacking access to contraception?

The “Christian” patriarchy wants us to believe sex is a sin for women, but not for men. We women are seductresses and nothing more, they think. They have to control us because we can’t control our urges and we cause them to lose control of their own.

I know this to be true because I was raised among these people. I was taught very deliberately that I was less than a man, that my abuse at the hands of my grandfather — which began when I was just 3 — was my own fault, that I somehow seduced that poor man. They are hate-filled and despicable.

If you want me to believe you’re pro-life, then show up on the front lines of the fight for health care, a living wage, voting rights, mitigating climate change … Get arrested with me while trying to talk to a legislator about the importance of people’s lives after they’ve exited the birth canal.

Otherwise, perhaps you should just admit that you are not pro-life, you’re simply pro-fetus and pro-control of women.

But remember this: Women will rise up. We will not go back to enslavement or forced childbirth. We will learn ways to induce our own abortions, just as we always have.

Some of us will die because of your backward, amoral policies, just as we always have. But you’ve proven already that our lives mean nothing to you, so I don’t expect you to care about that.

 

 

 

#MeToo meets Uncle Joe

 

I’m not calling on Joe Biden to leave public life over his creepy way of getting in a little too close to women, but we we try to have a conversation in light of #MeToo, we need to understand that we’re just trying to figure out where we draw the new line of what’s proper and what isn’t.

 

I’ve spent much of the morning replying to comments from men about how “snowlfakes” are over-reacting to a woman’s complaint that Joe Biden invaded her personal space.

I have asked each man why they think a man has a right to invade my personal space and hug me, rub my shoulders or smell my hair without getting permission.

I also have asked when they were raped or had other sexual violence perpetrated against them — something that would give them the right to lead this conversation.

The #MeToo Movement has opened doors to a redefining of what’s proper behavior and what crosses the line, and we’re still pretty early in that discussion.

Women have been second-class citizens for millennia, and we’re finally seeing cracks in the wall of toxic patriarchy. What we need now is a new definition of that line men shouldn’t cross in dealing with women, and we won’t get that without an adult conversation about women’s very real trauma.

While it’s easy to say we shouldn’t criticize Uncle Joe while the pussy-grabber is still squatting in the White House, my point is that this is an urgent and necessary discussion. In fact, we must talk about it if #MeToo is going to lead to meaningful and permanent change.

What’s more, this is a discussion that must be led by women. Men need to listen, even though that may be hard.

My husband has never raped me or treated me with disrespect, but this is not a discussion where he’s going to take the lead (fortunately, he respects me enough to know that), because he’s not the one who has suffered from the patriarchy, I am.

Women are the ones who have been harmed in so many horrible, cruel and humiliating ways. We have been blamed for the violence perpetrated against us and punished every moment of our lives, just for being female. We have been denied the vote, denied credit, denied jobs, denied equal pay, denied autonomy, had our children taken from us when we left their fathers in fear for our very lives, denied sanctuary from violent men.

The list goes on, but you get he gist here. Men have been the oppressors and still carry a great deal of privilege. Men speak over me and minimize the trauma I have suffered at the hands of men. They told me my menstrual periods weren’t that bad when I was doubled over with a pain they’d never experience. They told me I was lying about what I was eating when I started gaining weight for no apparent reason, and then told me I was doing great when I was so depressed I lost my appetite and lost a whole lot of weight.

These things don’t just happen, they are deeply embedded in society, and we need to dislodge these behaviors. #MeToo is about we women using our voices to seek justice and societal change in attitudes toward women.

Men want to know what’s appropriate, and when we hold up Joe Biden and say, this is a little over the line, men (and some women) scramble to defend him.

The conversation here needs to be about where we’re going to draw that line. It has little to do with Biden’s qualifications to be president and everything to do with whether his behavior will continue to be seen as acceptable.

I love a good hug. There are few things more calming and reassuring. When my son was sick and after he died, I sometimes needed hugs just to stay upright. But I gave permission for those hugs, or I asked for them.

Before my son got sick, I wrote a huge piece for the paper here about how the state was neglecting children with disabilities that changed state policy and then won a big award. I e-mailed the notice of that award to my editor, who then came running out of his office, stopped a few feet from me and said, “Can I give you a hug? This is so huge, I just don’t know how else to respond!”

He got his hug, along with my undying respect.

All we’re asking here is that before you touch us, show us the basic respect of getting permission first. It is not too much to ask. I don’t care if you’ve never raped a woman and never will. Please, just give us the basic respect of asking permission before getting all over us, no matter what the circumstances.

A lot of us are creeped out by overly close men because men have hurt us. No, I don’t blame every man for the deeds of a few of them, but you have to understand that men have caused my trauma, and if you’re a man, you need to be aware of that.

If you stand a foot away from me and I take a step back, that probably means you’re too close and I want to have my space. If you take that step closer to insist that you control the rules of engagement, I will walk away.

The conversation about the new rules of engagement needs to happen, and it needs to happen in a civilized manner.

If you’ve never had sexual violence perpetrated against you, you probably won’t fully understand the necessity of this conversation. That means you probably shouldn’t try to lead the conversation.

Joe Biden seems like a good guy, but he is also a perfect example of a man who needs to step back a little. And those who defend him, and those who criticize women who are trying to talk about this, need to sit down and listen.

I understand that the rules have been one way for millennia, and that they’re changing rather abruptly, but that’s not an excuse to condone behavior that makes women uncomfortable — or worse.

We’re working on new rules. You can join the conversation or not, but this will happen either way.

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.

 

Happy Equal Pay Day

equal pay

Equal pay for equal work. Is that really too much to ask?

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day women’s earnings since Jan. 1, 2013, catch up with men’s earnings for 2013.

I fought this back in the early 1980s, when I discovered a man with the same experience I had, who was doing the same job I was, made 30 percent more than I did. He lived at home with his mom and I was raising two kids.

I went to the publisher to complain about the inequity, and he gave me a raise to equal what my male colleague was making. Then he called my male colleague into his office and gave him a raise, too. I wasn’t supposed to know about it, but I decided to be happy with my raise and not risk getting fired because I needed the job.

Once, when I interviewed for a job, I was told I wouldn’t be hired because I had children and this boss wanted to be my top priority. Again, I could have pressed it, but I didn’t want to work for someone like that.

When I was a child, a woman still could be fired for getting married or for having a baby. Women were passed over for promotions because they might get pregnant or because they had children, plus everyone knew they would be useless at least one or two days a month because of “female problems.”

Women could be bank tellers but not bank presidents; we could be nurses but not doctors; secretaries but not lawyers. If we chose to pursue a career, it was understood that we would sacrifice having children.

It took a lot of fighting to get past that crap, and we still haven’t achieved equality. We earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren calls that not an accident, but discrimination, and she’s right.

I have a bumper sticker on my car that says, “I can’t believe I’m still protesting this crap!” People often snap pictures of it in parking lots.

But I have been protesting for women’s equality since the 1960s. As early as 1958, I was thinking I was as smart as any of the boys in my class — and smarter than most of them, but I was being told my possibilities were limited. I find it appalling that it’s still true on so many levels.

My granddaughters are coming of age in a time when women are still paid only about three-quarters of what men make; I can only hope my great-granddaughter’s reality is a little better.

 

Too crazy

Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia, says he believes people existed with dinosaurs. He is on the Science Committee in Congress.

A generation ago, someone who doesn’t believe in evolution wouldn’t have been on the Science Committee in Congress, and someone who espouses the death penalty for sassy children would have been laughed out of the public eye.

A generation ago, the media might have called Mitt Romney out on his lies during the debate instead of declaring him the winner. And a candidate who was caught in the number of flat-out lies and scope of deception of the Romney campaign would have been shamed out of the campaign long before the convention.

We used to have something called common sense that helped us weed out the crazies; now we seem to welcome them with open arms.

The guys who claim women can’t get pregnant from “real” rape get to stay in the race and maybe even win the election.

We who fought for women’s rights in the 1960s thought we had won some of these battles — like the right to access to contraception and safe abortions, and the right to keep our jobs regardless of whether we’re on the Pill and not married.

I can actually remember when a woman could be forced to quit her job if she got pregnant because she belonged at home with her baby. It wasn’t her decision to make; her boss could make it for her.

Blatant lies like the ones put out there about the Affordable Care Act — the death panels, the $716 billion “theft” from Medicare — used to be dispelled by the media, which now repeats them over and over as “the other side of the story.”

Our previous president lied us into war, tortured prisoners and suffered no consequences for his war crimes. Our current president kills innocent people with unmanned drones on a regular basis and it doesn’t even make headlines.

Instead, we get to hear all about which celebrity is looking at jail time for drug abuse, who is divorcing whom, who wore the lowest-cut dress to whatever awards ceremony last week, cute fuzzy-puppy stories from Middle America and sports, sports, sports.

We are obsessed with Honey Boo-Boo and America’s Got Talent, but we can’t be bothered with the real issues long enough to demand that the corporate media explain the real ramifications of public policy instead of giving equal weight to the truth and the lies.

Instead of a media that searches for truth, we get a lying sack of crap declared the winner of a debate because he looked “sharper.”

I worry about this country’s future as people lose access to real information about real issues. Even the president is out there talking about Big Bird. Drop it already and talk about how we lower our military spending, make huge corporations behave and pay their share of the public load, regulate their greed-induced ill behavior and invest in education and other things that ensure a stable future for our children and families, not to mention our nation.

 

Boobs and boors

Do you really think these guys are here to celebrate women’s rights?

Let me start by saying I’m not a prude.

But c’mon, women, why all the fuss about being able to go topless when it’s already legal in North Carolina?

The idea for the rally came from a man who bills himself as Sparkles the Clown. He’s from Alabama and his wife doesn’t even approve.

It seems to me this clown and a lot of “participants” are nothing more than goons with boob fetishes.

What’s happening here is that the clown from Alabama has convinced a group of women that they need the right to parade around half-naked — a right they already possess.

Meanwhile, a women’s equality rally a couple blocks away went almost unattended.

Crap like this rally takes away from the serious problems ultra-conservatives are causing women. We’re on the fast track to losing our right to contraception. I mean, they’ve gone beyond attempts to remove access to abortion; they want to make us beg for contraception.

My generation fought this fight 40 years ago and now we’re having to do it again.

Meanwhile, women are parading topless around downtown, allowing drooling mouth-breathers to take pictures of their boobs as though it was some kind of serious issue.

The real issue here is whether we’re willing to go back to the days when men could make us stay home and have to rely on them for everything. They could treat us as they pleased and we had no recourse. Trust me, I remember those days. I lived that life for a few short years, having to ask for money to buy underwear.

Never again. I will control my body and my destiny. My husband is there to share the journey with me, not drag me along on his joy ride.

So, those of you who bared your boobs so boors could gawk, please try to see how you’re being manipulated and tell the boys to find their prurient pleasures somewhere else.

 

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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