A few months back, a friend of a friend asked me an honest question over coffee: Isn’t sexism over? Now that women have the right to vote, hold jobs as construction workers, scientists, astronauts, and legislators, and have nearly broken the glass ceiling, what is left to fight for? Don’t women even have their own television network? (“Yes,” I said. “Where they can talk about lipstick shades and shopping with their gay besties.”)
These past few weeks I’ve been having this thought: Perhaps the one benefit of the brutal attack on reproductive rights we’re currently seeing is that there’s no room left for doubt. Women are being pummeled left and right in the political arena.
By making the line where the Hyde Amendment meets healthcare reform seem blurry, anti-abortion leaders have managed to reopen the subject of reproductive choice. By heightening the debate between “conscience” rights and patient rights, they’ve managed to roll back our expectations regarding access to birth control.
The Reproductive Parity Act, which would’ve ensured access to reproductive services for all women in Washington as the state implements federal health care reform, died in the Senate last week (The House passed the bill 52-46, but the Senate failed to bring the bill to a vote on the last day of the legislative session). Those who voted "no" included a legislator who was at one time a member of the NARAL board of directors.
Perhaps most enraging of all – and so “out there” as to be worthy of an Onion article – comes this little gem: “A proposed new law in Arizona would give employers the power to request that women being prescribed birth control pills provide proof that they're using it for non-sexual reasons.” I HAVE NO WORDS FOR THIS ASININITY.
In response to the recent outrage over a Virginia bill that would require all women to undergo an invasive procedure called a “transvaginal ultrasound” before having an abortion, Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak posits that women “do not, as a rule, spend a ton of time thinking about their wombs.”
Umm. Excuse me?
Hold the phone, maybe I was wrong. Maybe the repugnancy of the war on women IS escapable for some folks.
Apart from her misguided – nay sexist – assumption that a proper sampling of the female gender can be found at her local craft store in the middle of a weekday, Ms. Dvorak has something very wrong. Women DO care about their wombs. They told us this loudly and clearly when the U.S. Congress attempted to de-fund Planned Parenthood, and again when the Susan B. Komen Foundation decided to turn its back on women earlier this year. Certainly the members of the Women’s Strike Force, a PAC formed with the goal of defeating legislators who voted for the “trans-vaginal” bill, are focused on their reproductive rights. I understand that the intent of Ms. Dvorak’s article was to point out the absurdity of our legislators’ focus on lady parts when so many things need fixing, but I would argue that claiming the indifference of women in the area of reproductive health isn’t just incorrect, but tantamount to aiding and abetting the other side.
The same quote seems to be circulating from feminists of many generations these days: “We thought we had already fought this battle.” Two decades from now, will Gen Y feminists be singing the same tune? And will they be asking my friend’s question, “isn’t sexism over?” In response to my friend I shared a phrase that Lisa Stone can often be heard uttering: "Women's Rights. Really. Still."