My two daughters, aged 26 and 30, my mom, age 80, me, 61, my friends, young women artists, my two sisters, and the woman who cuts my hair, are the women I pictured when I went out to march in the Women's Rights Rally here last Saturday.
I made a sign out of plastic and duct tape, because it was raining, and I wanted it to hold up as I marched. I closed my store for 2 hours, and carried my camera, umbrella, and my sign. The march was relocated to the basement of the Eagle's Aerie, so I went right over there. Someone driving by waved and honked their horn when they saw my sign as I crossed the street. A woman seated at a card table in the basement aerie was asking people to sign in. Also, it would be $5 for the lunch.
Lunch? Where was the march? I looked around and saw a lot of people I knew, but I was the only one with a sign. Nothing about Women's Rights came into view.
This is the Women's Rights Rally? I asked the woman.
Oh, yes! she said.
The lunch line seemed to be moving slowly, so I sat down with some friends to wait for things to start happening. I talked to the people I was sitting with about the need to finish what we didn't in 1982, when the Equal Rights Amendment hit a deadline Congress had decided on. With only 3 states needed to ratify the amendment, it didn't make it into the Constitution. Right there was our mistake. We gave up. We didn't finish our business.
Now, 30 years later, we have anti-women's legislation proliferating in many States. GOP, all-male congressional panels hold hearings to limit women's access to birth control, or what a woman's doctor may or may not say to her about her reproductive health choices. We have personhood laws which could conceivably make it a crime for a woman to have a late period. Legislation signed into law last month by our present governor (in Wisconsin), makes it more difficult for women, seniors and persons with disabilities to get equal pay for equal work. Our Republican legislators even tried to introduce legislation to make single parenthood a factor of child abuse. Nothing like threatening a single parent (mother) with taking her children away to bring her into line, and not complain about her unequal minimum wage job. Or, to influence women to stay married, though there are many good reasons a woman might choose to leave a marriage (for her safety or the safety of her children, for instance).
Republican Senator Glen Grothman, Wisconsin, who is unmarried and claims no children, said that equal pay for equal work is not such a big issue. He said that not only is there no actual pay gap between the sexes, if there was one it wouldn’t matter anyway. After all, men need money more than women do, since they have families to support. “You could argue that money is more important for men."
How is this not war on women?
If we ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, then all of this legislation to limit women's educational and economic opportunities will be illegal. The Equal Rights Amendment is the giant fly swat to smack down all anti women legislation, whatever direction it comes from. Ratifying ERA would end this erosion of women's rights year by year, whichever way the the political wind blows.
This may be the perfect time to pass the amendment, when people have seen how sex discrimination in Federal and State laws intrudes on the lives of women. Young women, the age of my daughters, who think of birth control mainly as a responsibility, as controversial as allergy medication, and safe, legal abortion as a right, will be a newly politicized group of women. Tammy Baldwin, Congress woman from Wisconsin introduced legislation to restart the ERA process last March. In Wisconsin women make 75¢ to the $1 a man makes, pay inequity that has not changed significantly in the last 30 years. More women have to work for wages now, with narrowed economic and educational options, as they are squeezed out of accessible, affordable health care and birth control, and local access to safe and legal abortion. Planned pregnancy allows a woman to plan for advanced education, or to get a good start on her career. A planned family leads to a peaceful and safe home life.
Back at the Women's Rights march, a sit-down affair commenced with a few speakers. One speaker admitted she had written her speech just that morning, after Googling "Was it Susan Komen, or Susan B Anthony, who tried to cut Planned Parenthood out of the Breast Cancer screening business in the recent controversy?" followed by a stage giggle. Yes, a woman's health professional said that in her prepared speech. She admitted she, much like we, probably hadn't been paying as much attention (she's all about planting her strawberries) as she should have to the subject, though in her medical practice she advises women about their sexual health decisions every day. I wish I could tell you that someone from the audience stood up just then and screamed out loud.
Disheartened, I picked up my sign and left.
I should have gone to Madison. They were having a real protest march over there, with sassy signs, on topic, and energized. One photo of a protesting woman lived a short life on Facebook, last night, until it was expunged this morning. In case you didn't see it, the young woman in the picture was wearing an apron with a drawing of a penis and balls on it. She carried a sign that said, "Does this dick make my rights look bigger?" Now, this is attitude I'm talking about.