There is a war being waged against the women of this country. Over the past few months, women have been compared to animals left and right, called prostitutes and sluts on national media, and have faced serious attacks on our reproductive freedoms. Amendments imposing severe restrictions on a woman’s right to choose have been introduced in many state legislatures, and there have been national debates about access to contraception. Our bodies have become battlefields, and it’s high time that we stand up and fight.
The United States has never been particularly progressive on women’s issues. The Equal Rights Amendment was successfully blocked in the 1970s, and as a result there is currently no constitutional guarantee that women receive the same rights as men. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, a document that essentially serves as an international bill of rights for women, has been ratified by 185 countries. The only countries that have not yet ratified the convention are seven mostly conservative, developing countries and—you guessed it—the U.S.
However, while we do not have a comprehensive groundwork for women’s rights in the U.S., we have, at least, made some gains over the past few decades. Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 ensured the right of women to use birth control in any situation and, in 1973, Roe v. Wade ensured that women could receive legal and safe abortions.
Unfortunately, our country is now attempting to revoke many of the gains that our foremothers made in the second wave of the feminist movement during the 1970s. The so-called Personhood Amendments that are appearing in the legislatures of many states would severely restrict women’s access to abortion, often even in life-threatening cases and in cases in which the fetus is dead or has no chance of surviving. There have even been attempts to legally redefine “rape” so that it would be harder for rape victims to prosecute rapists. There have also been attempts to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, the main source of reproductive health resources for the women in the U.S.
Furthermore, these attacks have been carried out largely without any input from women. A relatively recent congressional hearing on insurance coverage of contraceptives did not allow a single person who would ever have to worry about an unplanned pregnancy (read: who was female) to serve on the panel. And when there was a hearing scheduled afterwards for a female graduate student, Sandra Fluke, to be allowed to give her voice on the issue, she was called a prostitute on a national radio show.
All of these actions serve as examples of a majority group making decisions for a minority group, a situation that seems to occur all too often in our country. White males are grossly overrepresented in all levels of our government and thus all too often make decisions for groups of people whom they cannot accurately speak for. However, this war is not being waged against women by men in general or by the government as a whole. It is being waged by a very specific group of conservative, mostly male politicians who think that their religion gives them the right to make decisions about my body.
However, after months of this barrage of acts against us, some movement is finally taking place. Tomorrow, women and their allies will gather in cities across the country, Boston included, rallying and letting the government know that these attacks on our self-respect, our bodies, and our rights will not stand. But once these rallies are over, it does not mean that we are finished. We will still need to call and write to our Congressmen and women and educate others about what is happening. It is impossible for people to rally against injustice if they do not know about it or understand it, so we must spread the word and get people motivated to fight for their rights.
As women, most of us are taught throughout our lives to be highly considerate of the opinions of other people. We are trained to respect the decisions and thoughts of others, especially those of men, regardless of what those opinions are. But there sometimes comes a point when what the other side has to say is violent and offensive and wrong, period. When there’s no room for debate because you are not on equal footing with the opposing party, as they are in a position to do things to you that you can’t protest or fight through traditional legal means. This point has come, and it is up to us to make sure that their actions do not stand. So let’s band together, make some noise, and refuse, in no uncertain terms, to be politely angry.
Reed E. McConnell ’15 is an editorial comper in Greenough Hall.