News from SLO NOW
The recent pictures from Tahrir Square in Egypt of the police stripping and beating women protesters are horrifying and yet, inspiring, for all the obvious reasons. And, did you notice that, as a result, the older women, the mothers, came out in such force to lambaste the authorities for their behavior, that the police had to apologize!
But what does it mean for us here in the US? While we have that freedom of expression and right to assemble missing from so many other world cultures, those rights are being eroded by the forces of capitalism – corruption and greed. Occupy Wall Street is our current protest of choice for the younger among us, but it is still a small, mostly male-centric group. What will it take to get women motivated to protest the takeover of government by private corporations and the loss of their personal rights?
I don’t know. I don’t condone violence. I do know when the marchers get too close to a sore point or power node, the dominant interest fights back, usually with violence, viz. Occupy Oakland and the closing of the Port of Oakland, or the Russian Revolution, or…
This year will be important politically: will the country continue to be pulled down by extreme social-issue politicians and greedy corporate interests? Or will the equilibrium begin to swing back towards sanity? I prefer to think the latter.
You can help it along. Get interested in the political implications of what is going on – not just the surface facts (although, those too, but with a grain of salt), but the relationships of the people involved to the whole, who will benefit and who won’t.
If you are a feminist, you look at events from the perspective of how does this benefit women’s quest for full and equal access to the social contract. It’s not always obvious; the recent issue of Plan B is an example.
The Food and Drug Administration recommended the sale of Plan B for all ages. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius decided it was not safe for 11 year olds to buy off the shelf, and so she would not approve its sale except by requesting it from the pharmacist. It is available without a prescription but, like condoms used to be, it is hidden behind the counter. Query: How many 11 year olds are going to the drug store for Plan B anyway? Unfortunately, what her decision also did, was prevent some unknown number of 15 to17-year-old girls from buying safe, effective emergency contraception, girls who didn’t feel “safe” or confident enough to ask the pharmacist (who in small towns probably is in Rotary with her father), which may result in more unwanted pregnancies, or abortions, but which also further eroded the right of women to full access to reproductive health.
But more importantly, notice the political consequences. Once again, a small but well- funded and connected minority (the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) has restricted a woman’s access to reproductive health care. There go more personal rights. The Bishops also want Obama’s Affordable Care Act to exclude the requirement that all insurers must cover contraception. Another chink carved out of our rights.
January is the month we traditionally celebrate the United States Supreme Court decision that gave women that equality we had been denied for so long - the ability to control our own bodies and make medical decisions that affect our lives. Today, the prevailing cultural shift to the right (of everything) has resulted in laws that restrict that right. First is was funding for publicly provided abortions; then, defunding Planned Parenthood, 48 hour waiting periods, onerous regulations on clinic operations, etc. Now it’s contraceptives and medical coverage for contraceptives that are the next issue. What after that? Will we end up losing the right to own our own property? Or, to sue for divorce?
The National Organization of Women is not holding a public event for Roe v. Wade this year, inviting people to hold candles on January 22 in memory of all those women who died before 1973 trying to control their own biology, but we are asking you to remember how fragile are our hard-won rights, and to be mindful of your heritage (isn’t it nice to have a word that doesn’t imply male-ness, like the word “history”?) as modern American women. Stand up for your rights, as they did in Egypt - no one else will.
On another note, people have asked me what is happening with the attempted takeover by National NOW of the California organization. The short answer is, I don’t know. My surmise is that National withdrew. I do know that California NOW is continuing its mission to protect the rights of women and girls in California. Check out its website: CANOW.org.