I recently came to a horrifying realization that I was venerating a man for respecting women’s rights. The problem here is not that said man has a deep respect of women’s rights and fights to protect them, especially in the field of health care. That’s wonderful! The problem is that it was making me swoon—have we fallen so far that being treated like a human being is enough to turn me into a giggling fool? Yes. That’s when I realized how effective the War on Women has become.
Although it has crept its way into social and cultural arenas, the War on Women is rooted in healthcare. The GOP can tell me it’s not real, that it’s all in my head, but you don’t even have to be watching carefully (which women are, for the record) to understand the message they are screaming with their actions.
The Missouri legislative session has filed over 20 anti-women’s health bills since it began on January 8, 2014. Although their legislation is aiming to prove I am not smart enough to make choices about my body and my healthcare needs, I want them to hear my opinions. I do not need politicians and THEIR personal religious beliefs mandated into my doctors office visits, inserted against my will into my discussions and private decisions. For a group that touts hating big government, I cannot believe I have to fight daily to keep them and their trans-vaginal ultrasounds LITERALLY out of my body cavity. It feels invasive to me. It feels like a gross overstep of their authority, but what do I know? I’m only the one directly affected by the laws sponsored predominantly by older gentlemen.
The power of the anti-women agenda is in its omnipresence. We hear it in the news, laugh at it on sitcoms and have become so inundated and immune that we unfortunately use it on each other unknowingly. We’ve time-traveled back a generation, both in the battles we’re fighting (wait, Roe v. Wade was 41 years ago? Are you suuuuuure?) and the stereotypes of women we perpetuate.
I have relatives and acquaintances that felt completely justified asking me about my sexual orientation, as though I owe them either way to proclaim that private aspect of my life to the world. The fact that “she’s gotta be a lesbian” is the only logical reason they could fathom would explain why I am not frantically trying to fix my “single and childless” status says to me that having a vagina, not my experiences and achievements, should be deciding my life path. That logic seems like it belongs in a Jane Austen novel, not in 2014.
If it feels like oppression, it probably is. If the powerful people doing the oppressing are telling me it’s not, that is only more proof that it is. Our society is toxically full of victim blaming and shaming with very little attention focused on the sources of our problems. Women deserve more than to be patronized and asked to appreciate it. I have woken up, and I’m fighting back. Now I just need the new Skreened shirt to match: “feminism: teaching girls to be somebodies, instead of somebody’s.”
—Dina van der Zalm, firstname.lastname@example.org