my occasional musings on life, love, art, perfume ... what else is there?

7.03.2005

A Message for My (Younger) Sisters

This is awkward and I'm not sure I can say it right.

I was a rebellious adolescent ... and evolved into a somewhat iconoclastic adult. I've always resented and refused to accept the patronizing, the condescending, the "I know what's best for you," the "voice of maturity," whenever I heard it.

I try hard to remain open in my thinking, resilient in my reasoning, accepting of the new, the untried, the adventurous, the novel.

The fact remains, however, that I am 54. I have lived *gasp* a half century and I've seen a lot.

Today I'm fortunate to know a number of young women that I greatly admire -- for their style, their accomplishments, their spirit, their courage, the way they shoulder many and heavy responsibilities.

So it's awkward for me to step up on any kind of soapbox. But I want to warn these young women that I admire so much.

More than thirty years ago, brave women, courageous like you are, stepped up and loudly questioned why the state had the right to refuse a woman the health care of her choice. They asked why in some cases an adult woman had to have her husband's, or even father's, permission to obtain certain types of health care. They showed pictures of women dead in pools of their own blood, dead from desperate self- or criminally- administered abortions.

This is a morally-loaded issue and you may say: I don't behave that way. I will never find myself pregnant and alone, or perhaps in a dangerously abusive relationship, emotionally unstable, perhaps physically ill and unable to care for a child. I will never become pregnant from a rape. I will never become pregnant with a child with defects so severe s/he will be unable to live a full, healthy life.

You may choose to say all life is sacred and I will never have an abortion.

Just know that other women have said that ... before they were faced with horrible circumstances and made a terrible choice they said they would never make. And have compassion, because most, consciously or unconsciously, live in torment from it.

But they live. They now have children that they were able to bring into the world, into good solid environments. They have children they look at, and love, in remembrance of the shadow child they gave up. They're alive because they had the choice.

And more than thirty years ago, it wasn't just about reproductive rights. These women stood up and asked "Why can't we work, if we have the skills?" "Why can't we make a decent living, if we work hard and have the skills?" "We want to help our husbands, share the burden of support for our children -- why should men carry this alone?"

These women were disparaged. As the suffragettes who had met hostility, in the early years of the century when they fought for accessible birth control and women's right to vote, so did these women. There were shouted remarks about bra burners, women-libbers, insinuations about whether they were "real" women, accusations that they were trying to emasculate, divest men of their own rights. There was a lot of ugliness that surrounded these women who stood up and tried to ask why. And the ugliness wasn't just from some men; some women shouted and accused.

But the women who stood up for these health and economic choices -- as did the ones who got us contraception and the vote -- gutted it out and made progress. And it eventually seeped into the consciousness of most American women, that they should be able to make choices for themselves. That they should be able to take responsibility for their own bodies, their own decisions. That they should be able to work, and earn as much as anyone else with the same skills.

But these advances are not permanent and irrevocable.

Even though we're not in Iran, and are not being overtly threatened as women there are -- with a new theocratic president who believes that ankles must once again be covered, the veil must again come down -- we face our own potential return to a near-medieval era.

My warning? Don't be complacent. Don't be comfortable. Don't believe the soothing balm of "Nothing is going to change."

Don't let anything be taken away from you that took other women more than a century to earn.

Today's fragrance: MAC MV3, for its amber-sandalwood-vanilla comfort. Today's book recommendation: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Today's film recommendation (thank you, NST): Vera Drake.

18 Comments:

Blogger Tan Lucy Pez said...

YES! What you said!

I've marched in Washington every time there is a Pro-Choice walk. My daughters, dddragon, and ActonBell have marched with me, and once Aral Peppermint Patty did also. This last time, my close friend from CA flew in and went down with us, and her daughter Kris, who was 7 months pregnant by choice, took the train from CT to join in with us. It was wonderful.
This one issue is so important to me. I've been an escort at a clinic that provided this care for women, and so has one of the daughters. We have to keep this right.

8:29 AM

 
Blogger Urban Chick said...

never a truer word was spoken

maybe i am one of the younger women you are talking to here and i for sure am conscious of the need not to lapse into complacency

the pro life movement in your country scares me as did the news i read on barbara's blog about pharmacists being allowed to refuse to fulfil prescriptions for the contraceptive pill

we need to stay vigilant and keep battling wherever necessary on these and many many other issues

thanks for the reminder!

8:38 AM

 
Blogger cjblue said...

Thank you for your words, M. My daughters, through my husband and me, know only of a world in which women have full rights as first class citizens. They are aware that we didn't always have these rights; they don't know that we still are not exactly equal in status in every area. I hope to live my life as an example to them and raise them to believe that they have these rights - therefore they will fight for them.

My older daughter votes with me at every single election. If you ask her why it's important to vote, she'll tell you "Because women weren't always allowed to vote and if we don't exercise our rights that we worked so hard for, we might lose them again." She's 7.

Thank you for the reminder. It is indeed terrifying to realize that, little by little, reproductive rights are being taken away. It is up to all of us to fight for the right to control our bodies and our destinies.

9:05 AM

 
Anonymous mamiesb said...

Once rights and freedoms are lost, they are difficult to get back. Fight to keep them now, so you don't need to fight to regain them later.

Thanks for posting this.

9:40 AM

 
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Lovely, very timely post M. May I add a movie for the day? Vera Drake.

10:03 AM

 
Anonymous keeter said...

Thank you for these words. This is a wonderful post.

12:30 PM

 
Blogger Annieytown said...

When I was in the fourth grade my mother sat me down and "had the talk". My talk focused on how important it is that abortion remain legal. In high school several of her friends almost died with self and back room abortions. She wanted me to understand how important it was for it to remain safe and affordable for all. She taught me to never judge people's choices and to protect them with a passion. By the time I got to college I was pretty passionate about pro-choice. When my roomate got pregnant I instantly called my mom for advice. This woman moved mountains in the course of one day. I am very lucky that I was born to this woman. Very lucky.
I wish she was a supreme court justice. LOL
Thanks for this post M! It was needed!

2:25 PM

 
Blogger The Crusty Crone said...

A most excellent "warning".

It was not that long ago that Blue Cross would not pay for a hospital delivery if the woman, who was the insured, was single.

A divorced woman could not buy anything on credit.

A woman could not receive state assistance for job training if she were married.

Only a few that come to mind...

Bravo for your words. Words, like music, can be very powerful.

3:00 PM

 
Blogger Bela said...

I was one of those 70s women-libbers. I marched and spent hours, if not days, discussing the subject with my Catholic male colleagues at the time.

I cannot contemplate living in a country where women have no voice once again. As you say, nothing is permanent and irrevocable. I see worrying signs around me.

I hated the men who were against us, but hated the women even more.

Those things need to be said - again and again... Thanks.

4:53 PM

 
Blogger EU SOU LUZ said...

Olá,
I had access its blog, when it consisted of the panel.
Antennado its well blog !
When it will have time, has access mine blog of messages.
Bye,
Mara

5:06 PM

 
Blogger Nicholas said...

Very true. I find it hard to believe that some people can make decisions such as against abortion, among other topics without giving deep thought as to what the consequences of not having an abortion and allowing a baby to live.

As you said, "don't be comfortable", the people that are "comfortable" are the ones watching the world pass by, not taking a proactive part in it. And if you don't have a stace, a reason or want to change a small or large portion of the world, you are arguably wasting your time as a person if you aren't willing to contribute.

Reading some of your posts from a female perspective was kind of a stretch for me being a guy, but I really like what you have to say.

5:22 PM

 
Blogger actonbell said...

Bravo! Wonderful post. I am very frightened of what may happen next, since Bush wants so badly to push the "pro-life" agenda, and concerned that the very young may not realize what this could mean.

6:00 PM

 
Anonymous neko said...

Mireille, I'm with you on this one. The fight truly is important. When you're handed something on a plater, you can't truly appriciate it.

When the occupational forces wrote Japan's consitution they gave women equal rights as men, including the right to vote. Quite frankly, it was the wrong thing to do simply because society didn't share those values of equality and as such Japanese women have never had to fight the government for equal access to work, property rights, healthcare and such.

The result- no one cares that women are locked into jobs with no career future serving tea until they get married (and are expected to "retire"). If a women does raise her voice the reply will be, "but you DO have equal rights... it says so right here in the consitution." Which is better, to have legal backing for equality but not in practice; or to have equality in practice but no legal backing to protect those rights?

At least Japanese women will never have to fear loosing the right to an abortion. It's always been a part of Japanese culture, unfortunately, as a form of birth control. This is why it took so long for birth control pills to be o.k.'d for the market... heavy lobying from clinics that didn't want to loose business. It's rather sad how casual the act is taken here. Counseling isn't even available. I got a sick note the other day from one of my students... it was from a clinic. She didn't even bat an eye.

7:46 PM

 
Anonymous Prim said...

Excellent post and I could not agree more.

4:37 AM

 
Blogger Trina said...

Amen! The apathy I see on a daily basis scares the crap out of me. Young people especially seem to take so much for granted (not that I think I'm old or wise at all), and assume that things will remain as they are forever and that they'll enjoy all the rights and privileges they do now. Thanks for this post - it never hurts to remind people of what we stand to lose.

5:17 AM

 
Blogger Atreau said...

It is a fight that must never stop because illegal abortions still and will always happen.

We owe it to the generations of the past, present and future!

1:26 AM

 
Anonymous Eaumy said...

Brava sister. Brava. Like you, I am old enough to remember when girls risked infection, maiming, or worse as a result of illegal abortions. I remember the brave individuals who stood up to resist that madless and called attention to the fact that no woman should be compelled by law to have a child against her will.

I have a teenaged daughter. I will do everything in my power to enable her to grow up in a world in which women have sovereignty over their own bodies and are seen as being capable of making moral choices.

6:03 AM

 
Anonymous Lulu said...

This should be said again and again. I am surrounded by younger women who are ashamed of the word 'feminist' and who think everything they have today is through their own strength of character and will, that they would always have had the same opportunities even in an older society, and haven't a clue that they are standing on the shoulders of others.

6:33 PM

 

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