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.


The anti-life brigade


I went to a rally last night in support of women’s health, reproductive and otherwise.

Let’s just remember first of all, that abortion is legal, and it needs to remain so.

When I was advised to have an abortion, I chose not to, with the operative word here being chose. But then his heart was stopped by a system that refused to give him the medical care he needed. When we fix that, we can start to talk about abortion.

After promising he wouldn’t sign any new restrictions on women’s right to choose, Gov. McCrory signed new restrictions into law, and now more restrictions are about to hit his desk. We’ll see if he breaks his promise again.

Of course, as soon as the anti-abortion folks heard about the demonstration, they showed up with their signs and intimidation tactics (they stood nearby, taking photos of us, I guess for their web sites). We responded by taking photos of them.

I decided to engage. I asked whether they supported the right of every human being to have access to health care. At first they didn’t want to talk because a television reporter was interviewing one of them.

I repeated my question.

“Well, that’s a matter of opinion,” one of them said.

“So’s your cause,” I said. “What’s your opinion?”

“But it’s about babies’ lives,” another man said.

“My son was a baby once,” I said. “He died at 33 because he couldn’t get care. He did nothing wrong. What about his life? What about the lives of the five to seven people who die in North Carolina every day because we won’t expand Medicaid?”

“It’s about the babies,” the man said.

Mothers’ lives don’t matter. The already-born can drop dead for all they care.

“Then stop calling yourself pro-life,” I said. “Life continues after birth, and if you don’t support it, you’re not pro-life.”

This isn’t just about babies. It’s about the lives of mothers and about the lives of grinding poverty many of these babies face after they’re born because their parents can’t find decent jobs.

These anti-lifers want nothing more than to force women to pump out babies. Many of them are also against contraception and support allowing a boss to fire an employee for using it. Some of them want to force women to carry non-viable fetuses to term; some also want to criminalize miscarriage.They say rape is wrong, but many support a rapist’s parental rights after they have forced a woman to have his child, keeping him — and the trauma of the crime he committed — in her life forever.

These are not reasonable people, but their out-of-the-mainstream views are becoming law in states across the country.

Many media people are trying to make them sound reasonable. In fact, last night the media paid more attention to them than to the demonstration.

When women’s clinics close, they’re labeled “abortion clinics,” even when abortion is only about 10 percent of what they do. I write a letter to the editor every time I see that, but the letters are’t always published, and I’m sure they’re not read in numbers as great as the original story.

Planned Parenthood was my health care provider for several years when I didn’t have health insurance. I don’t know what I would have done without that clinic. I had to walk through some screaming meanies to get to my checkups and cancer screenings because the media perpetuate the myth that everyone walking into a women’s health clinic is there for an abortion. Planned Parenthood helped me avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

I know some who oppose abortion also support helping poor families cope, feeding children, paying their parents a living wage, are anti-war and against the death penalty. Those people are in the minority of a movement that wants to subjugate women more than it wants to protect babies.

Unless you are willing to support life after it emerges from the birth canal, you are not pro-life and I will call you out.

It’s part of my mission to educate people.




In the name of “God,” I abuse thee

Here she is, apple in hand, listening to the snake. That's Eve, the cause of all women's problems.

Here she is, apple in hand, listening to the snake. That’s Eve, the cause of all women’s problems.

I grew up as a “daughter of Eve,” in a fundamentalist church.

Daughters of Eve (all women in the church’s view) are unclean because they share Eve’s “sin.” Because of their propensity to sin, girls and women must be closely guided, lest they fall prey to the lure of sin.

None of that made sense to me, especially since my parents weren’t fundamentalist Christians. On the one hand, my father was telling me I could be anything I wanted.

My mother was telling me I should learn to type “In case anything happens to your husband, you’ll have a skill to fall back on.”

The church was telling me I existed to be a “helpmate” to a man and a mother to his children.

Women held no power in the church. We couldn’t be ministers; we couldn’t be deacons; we couldn’t serve communion; we couldn’t even teach Sunday school to children older than 12 because the Apostle Paul said so.

I rejected all of that as I grew up, although I married an “old-fashioned” man the first time out. Once I realized I didn’t want or need a boss, or an owner, I moved on to healthier relationships.

I kept my sons away from church because I didn’t want them to become the kind of men who would treat women without respect.

I finally discovered that there are churches where women are equal; churches where even the men were feminist. In my childhood church, these were called “Dens of Satan.”

The people in fundamentalist churches feel persecuted because they can’t make everyone believe God is a punishing father figure, and they can’t force all of society to live according to their Medieval tenets.

They are the driving force behind laws that withhold health care from poor women by closing women’s health clinics. They are the people who filed the Hobby Lobby suit that exempts “Christians” from covering women’s contraception.

They’re also the ones behind that proposed laws that would allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples or fire someone on the basis of sexual preference or gender identity.

They are pulling us all backward with their so-called values, as though women’s lives are less consequential than men’s.

Now comes a bill in Georgia that would exempt these good “Christians” from domestic abuse laws because they believe the man is the head of the household and should be allowed to administer whatever discipline he chooses for whatever displeases him.

“Yeah, I smacked her. She burned the toast. I have a deeply held religious belief that I have to correct her.”

That’s what it’s often called, by the way, “correction,” as though women’s desires are meaningless and wrongheaded and therefore must be corrected.

So, what comes next, public stonings of women who have been unfaithful? How far do we allow ourselves to be pulled down this road?

The day the so-called Hobby Lobby decision was rendered by the Supreme Court, I found my local chapter of the National Organization of Women and re-joined.

The Asheville/Buncombe County chapter holds meetings the second Sunday of each month in the Community Room of the YWCA in Asheville.

Wherever you live, if you’re a woman, you need to become active. You need to register and vote. You need to raise your voice.

When I was a young feminist, I thought we were winning these rights for all time; not I know we have to keep fighting.





Let’s talk about women’s health and “balanced” reporting

femcareAs a reporter, I was always careful to tell both sides of a story, unless the “other side” was a lie — i.e. tobacco is safe, the world is flat or the free market can handle health care without any regulation whatsoever.

It was particularly important when dealing with controversial issues like abortion. I bent over backwards to be fair because although I am pro-choice, I chose not to have an abortion when I was advised to have one. There might have been a circumstance under which I would have chosen to end a pregnancy, but I didn’t encounter it.

I will not, however, condemn any woman who chooses an abortion because I am not in her shoes. According to the law of the land, she has a right to make that choice, with choice being the operative word here.

This week, the only clinic in the state that was eligible to perform safe, legal abortions was shut down by the state, just after the governor signed a law that will close the other 15 clinics.

The thing is, this isn’t just about abortion. These clinics aren’t abortion factories; they provide affordable care to women who are uninsured. I know because I got my primary care at an “abortion clinic” for several years when I didn’t have insurance and I never had an abortion. I’m not the only person who realizes how important these women’s clinics are for women’s overall health.

Women’s clinics also do well-women care such as cancer screenings. Many also have obstetricians who offer affordable care through pregnancy and childbirth. When you close down women’s clinics, you close down women’s access to health care. A lot of people are aware of this, and I would expect newspaper reporters to be among them.

However, when I opened my newspaper this morning, I might have thought I was the only one who knows about the diversity of services offered at women’s clinics and the importance of having them in the community. The front-page headline stated that the “abortion clinic closure” was “praised.”

Perhaps the closure was praised by people who oppose abortion under any circumstance, but the issue here is also access to affordable care, cancer screenings, contraception and other medications.

The problem here is that there is precious little help for women now. A woman of childbearing age (which I no longer am) has a right to decide when and if she will have a child. That’s pretty simple if she has effective contraception, but now that Femcare is closed, that makes affordable contraception more difficult to get. And the very people who deny women access to abortion also want to deny them access to contraception. Then, when the inevitable happens and a baby is born, these same people complain that poor women keep “pumping out” babies.

No matter what, they want to lay the blame on women — not on the men who impregnate them, not on a society that punishes people for being poor, but on women, often because we’re seen as sinful. Eve committed the first sin, after all. That’s what I was taught growing up.

So now, a group of old white men in Raleigh has decided that women can’t have access to abortion and the newspaper reporter can’t find a single person to say it’s not a good thing? No one is available to say women need the services this clinic provided?

I find that hard to believe.


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.


Single motherhood is abuse? Really?

The GOP in Wisconsin has introduced a law to classify single parenthood as abuse.

Where are these people coming from?

Before women gained control over their reproductive organs, we were forced to stay in marriages that all to often were unhealthy or downright abusive. We couldn’t find work that paid us enough to live on if we did leave, and men were very adept at not paying child support.

That is not an understatement or a lie; it is true. I knew women who were battered and unable to leave. It’s only been in the last 30 years that public opinion on domestic violence has changed to recognize that it’s not the victim’s fault, at least until these clowns got into positions of power and started turning back the clock on women’s rights.

Once we were able to leave, controlling men hated it. They had no way to keep women as their personal housemaids and sex slaves.

Now they want to regain control by denying us access to contraception and making single parenthood a crime.

Well, it is not a form of abuse.

I was a single mother for several years, and I can tell you it’s hard as hell to be both parents to children, especially when he absent parent (most often, but not always, the father) doesn’t pay his (or her) share of the child-rearing costs.

After work, I picked up the kids, went home and fixed supper as the kids played or watched TV. After supper, it was homework time as I cleaned up. By the time that was done, it was bath time, then bedtime. I never could take them anywhere that cost money because I had none, so we went for picnics or hikes when the weather was good.

My children would have been deprived of Disney World had it not been for their father, who could afford such things. The only reason there was a television in their room was because their father bought it after I asked him not to. They had to suffer through eating home-baked snacks instead of Twinkies or Little Debbie cakes. They had to eat supper at home instead of McDonald’s.

So, were they abused? If you asked them at the time, they probably would have said they were because of the home-baked snacks and my aversion to theme parks, fast food and consumerism.

But they both grew up and moved out and realized I had been right about some things. They both developed a good work ethic and became honest men.

Being the sons of a single mother, they both had to help with household chores. They learned to do laundry and cook, sew on buttons and clean their rooms. They became more resourceful than kids whose mothers did everything for them, and they learned to respect women.

So, why would one want to criminalize single parenthood?

I think it comes down to control. These men who support such laws (and they are overwhelmingly men) don’t want women in control of their own destinies. They don’t want to have to share in the duties of keeping a home and raising a family, they want to be in charge of every aspect of our lives, and God forbid we should produce more strong, Democratic men.



You call that an apology?

Really, Rush? You call that an apology? “A poor choice of words?”

You went after this young woman Sandra Fluke, an articulate, accomplished young woman who only wanted to talk about the importance of contraception at Rep. Darryl Issa’s hearings. She was turned away because the panel was already full with five white men, at least one of whom was a priest who supposedly never has had a need for contraception.

When she was allowed to testify before an informal committee of Democrats, she talked about a friend who needed the Pill to control an ovarian cyst. When she couldn’t get the Pill, the young woman’s condition worsened and she finally had to have surgery to remove her ovary. That surgery was plenty more expensive than giving the young woman the Pill would have been.

But Rush apparently decided to comment on her testimony without even listening. He called her a prostitute and a slut because he mistakenly thought she was asking the government to pay for contraceptives. The fact is, she wanted to say the government’s compromise that would allow churches to opt out of covering contraception but make insurance companies pay for it, is a good thing.

He spoke as though a woman only takes birth control pills when she’s having sex, which shows how ignorant he is. Maybe he’s confusing it with erectile dysfunction drugs.

He attacked her again the next day and the day after that, inviting her to make sex videos to post online. Maybe this is how Rush tells a woman he thinks she’s attractive, I don’t know.

But waging personal attacks three days in a row against someone who only wanted to testify before a House committee is far from choosing your words badly. It is a deliberate, malicious action, and the man should be taken off the air, at least for a week.

That’s the punishment liberal talker Ed Schultz took after calling Laura Ingram a “media whore.” Schultz issued a genuine apology and took a week off the air.

Rush’s “apology” reminds me of the one my older sister made after my mother caught her pushing me. It was totally insincere and there was no doubt she couldn’t wait for my mother to leave the room so she could push me again.

This isn’t journalism; it isn’t even entertainment. This is a misogynistic rant from a very mean-spirited man.

In very poor taste

Last week, Rick Santorum’s sugar daddy, Foster Friess, said,  “Back in in my day, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”

Newswoman Andrea Mitchell was floored, and as progressive radio host Stephanie Miller said, this is a woman who has seen Alan Greenspan in the bathtub; it can’t be easy to shock her.

That joke was funny when we didn’t have to worry that we might actually have to resort to that. Now, it seems, it’s a sexist vision of America.

Women won’t have a right to any form of family planning if these people have their way.

What bothers me most is the same thing that bothered me two generations ago: All the decisions are being made by men. Women weren’t allowed to testify before Darryl Issa’a panel, only men. Old, wealthy white men. People who can’t get pregnant.

In my day, to paraphrase Friesse, women in Massachusetts, where I grew up, were forbidden by law from getting birth control. Any doctor who prescribed birth control to an unmarried woman could go to jail.That’s right, the penalty was on the doctor, who was almost always a man, as though women were too stupid to make up their own minds.

This isn’t about health care, it’s about control of women. It’s about taking us back to the 1950s, when women had few economic options aside from marriage and repeated childbearing. It was legal to deny a woman a job because she was a woman. She could be fired for getting married, and almost always had to leave her job if she got pregnant.

Contraception gave us the chance to have only as many children as we wanted or could care for. It also gave us the option to stay in our jobs until we chose parenthood, and even afterward. It gave us the chance to escape bad marriages. We no longer were prisoners — or property — of men. It was an important step for the women’s movement, and some want to go back to when women had to do as they were told.

Attacks on a woman’s right to an abortion were just the beginning, as it turns out. Now they want to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which is where millions of women go for annual checkups and birth control, and then they plan to go after contraception.

This is one wacko war we’re being called to fight.

Just because I’m too old to get pregnant doesn’t mean I won’t fight for the rights of my granddaughters to control their own bodies.

If your religion is against contraception, don’t use it. But don’t deny it to others. Your freedom of religion doesn’t mean I have to adhere to your convictions.