By: Marcia Prichason
There is clearly much left to be done, and whatever else we are going to do, we had better get on with it.
– Rosalynn Carter
In 1972, the Supreme Court rendered the decision that a woman had a right to choose. I felt the same heady burst of excitement my grandmother must have felt when she cast her first ballot; we won!
Women have been fighting for equality since Eve was discredited for taking a bite out of that forbidden apple. And it’s been uphill all the way. Strong women, smart women, ordinary women have been jeered at, taunted, raped, and jailed for believing they had a right to be equal to men in all aspects of life. As women gain power, reactions are brutal. Today, we face significant challenges, not only with respect to women’s control over their own reproductive health, but in areas of employment, the military, and in our everyday lives. Roe v. Wade may have been a battle won, but we have a long way to go in this war.
There are lessons from the women’s movement that the LGBT community needs to learn…and “whatever else we are going to do, we had better get on with it.”
With Roe v. Wade in the win column, women gathered to support the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA, first proposed in 1923 affirmed that women and men have equal rights under the law, was passed out of Congress in 1972 and has been ratified by 35 of the necessary 38 states. However, it is still not part of the U.S. Constitution (www.equalrightsamendment.org). The movement, energized in the 60’s and 70’s seems to have lost momentum, enabling major setbacks in the goal of equality.
-Keep the movement for equality alive even in the face of adversity.
Since Roe v. Wade allowed women to have legal access to abortions, terminating pregnancies with a coat hanger or other barbarous instruments has become less common. The self inflicted mutilation of women in an attempt to control their own reproduction has diminished, but the assault from the outside has not. From vivid imagery of late term abortions to the murder of doctors performing legal termination procedures, strategies are employed to prevent women from exercising their freedom of choice under the law. Labeling the people who perpetrate crimes against women as “crazy” diminishes the ability to combat their viciousness.
-Stand together to ensure that hate crimes are vigorously and publically prosecuted.
For years, women who were “feminists” wore that title as a badge of honor. Today, young women in particular equate feminism with off-putting negativism. Images of strident women, media influences, a desire to conform may all be reasons for the co-opting of the feminist movement. It’s a mistake to let others define who you are.
-Own your identity. Be proud of who you are.
For a variety of reasons, women have not been involved in politics to the same extent as men. As a result, our legislatures, both at the state and national level, are disproportionately male dominated. Without a real voice, women are being assaulted by the male majority with respect to their health and well being. Being involved has its risks, but staying out of it allows discrimination, bigotry, and laws that leave people powerless over their destiny.
-Get involved. Stay involved. Be confident that your cause is just.
Many women, past and present, have worked and struggled to ensure that women have the same rights as men. For every victory, there have been vicious backlashes against those women and women in general. Women have been denigrated throughout history for their gender, but some have bravely fought on so the rest of us can enjoy the rights we currently have. We see, however, how quickly we can lose those rights. Those who are in power will always want to remain there, and they will always devise new ways to keep those who are not in power in a state of confusion, despair, and powerlessness.
-History need not define the future.
“There is clearly much left to be done, and whatever else we are going to do, we had better get on with it.” So, let us move forward to ensure equality for all in this country. Let us not be afraid in this endeavor; it is not only a right and just cause…it is the most important cause we can ever have.
…And I’m just a mom who loves her son…