A Terrible Time Machine
Not too long ago I had a bit of a heated conversation with a good friend who claimed there was no "war on women" brewing here in the US.
It reminded me that, as I approach my 50th birthday, I have to claim my roots as a crusty old feminist from the old days. In my youth, I read Ms. Magazine, volunteered for NARAL and went door-to-door in support of the ERA. In my junior year of high school my favorite souvenir from our field trip to Washington, DC was a T shirt with the slogan "A Woman's Place is in the House…and in the Senate."
Over the years, I decided that women had gained enough political and social clout that I no longer needed to chastise people for referring to grown women as "girls." I decided it was ok to trade my hiking boots for a pair of high heels once in a while. My daughter grew up with few of the inner or outer gender limitations that had been placed on the young women of my generation. We had done a good job, I thought. Even without the passage of the ERA and the protections that would have afforded us.
Never did it occur to me that the rights and recognition we had worked for could be fragile, or temporary.
The right to reproductive freedom has always been in question. I remember a friend who was an organizer for NARAL telling me that we could lose the right to choice in 1985. When it didn't happen then, or any other year after that, I relaxed.
The fact is, I get the basic concept of the pro-life movement, at its heart. I understand the sorrow at potential human life extinguished. If I saw those same people interested in offering health care, nutrition and education to unplanned-for children I might take their movement more seriously.
My biggest concern now is not the possibility of an overturning of Roe V Wade. My biggest concern is about something much deeper and darker, something of which this fevered drive to control women's bodies is only a symptom.
I have a friend who is another crusty old feminist from back in the day. She has often exclaimed to me her upset with rap, a music form I have come to respect and enjoy. Her feminist heart is hurt by the disrespect to women she hears in the lyrics. I have always heard the same thing, but decided not to let it bother me. The old me, the young feminist in T shirts, denim and hiking boots, would have. But, since I thought we had already won the war, I decided the battle was unnecessary. Let people say, sing and rap what they wanted, our position in society was secure. We could study what we wanted, work where we wanted, and enjoy equal protection under the law, even without the ERA. We had won.
Now it seems I was wrong.
The evil root that I see growing now is nothing short of misogyny. And, in many cases, the purveyors of this hatred are women themselves.
The recent conversations about "forcible rape" and "legitimate rape" have sent shivers of dread up my spine.
But nothing compares with the news story I saw today out of Arizona. Apparently, an off-duty police officer went into a bar and sexually molested a woman. At the hearing to sentence the assailant, who has been removed from his job, the judge, Coconino County Superior Court Judge Jacqueline Hatch, told the victim that if she hadn't been in the bar she wouldn't have been groped, according to the Arizona Daily Sun. The judge said that she hoped the victim "learned a lesson" from this experience. The judge reduced the assailant's sentence from time in jail to probation.
Did we all just step into a time machine and get sent back to 1940?
Of course, Judge Hatch is the appointee of Governor Jan Brewer, whose record against women speaks for itself.
I wonder what social influences have created this return to the dark ages for women. Is it, as my friend suggests, our tolerance of song lyrics? Is it the growing influence of anti-woman religions here in the US? Is it a somehow a result of difficult economic times? Or is it that we feminists failed to be vigilant?
I don't know what the answer is. I don't know what to do to stop this time machine that threatens us. To me, it is like something out of "The Handmaid's Tale."
I see the problem. I see neither the cause, nor the solution.