So it seems that every week, every day there is another story that makes me as a woman – and hopefully you, too – concerned, worried, aggravated, disgusted or a combination of all four. There seems to be a shift in the culture, a not-too-subtle in the way some view women and our rights, our bodies, our liberties, our lives, that is all around us. And it seems that we’re going backwards as a society instead of forward.
First, we had the Komen/Planned Parenthood debacle in which an organization with seemingly impeccable credentials decided to withhold funds from Planned Parenthood, funds specifically earmarked by Planned Parenthood solely for breast-cancer screening and other breast health programs. It goes without saying that cancer doesn’t care if you’re pro life or pro choice, if you’re liberal or conservative, straight or gay, blue state or red state. When it hits your family – and is there anyone reading this (and I hope somebody is reading this!) whose family has not been touched by cancer?- all you want is the best possible care for that person. And to prevent that, you want to be able to get yourself and your mother and your daughters screened for breast cancer so that it doesn’t happen to your family. And with our economy the way it still is, for many women, Planned Parenthood provides many other low-cost services beyond reproductive services – high blood pressure screening, diabetes screening, anemia testing, flu shots – health care that these women might not otherwise be able to afford.
But to listen to the pundits weighing in on this, you’d have thought Planned Parenthood was using the Komen money to pillage and plunder this country. Not surprisingly, Komen backed down but we as women still had to sit and listen to what could have been an assault on our health care. (And, by the way, for the folks who don’t support the health care reform program, listen up. Anyone who couldn’t have gotten screened at Planned Parenthood, or couldn’t have gotten a flu shot there, or any other service they offered – if you can’t afford health care, you end up in the emergency room and then you and I and all of us end up paying for their health care. That’s why we needed – and still need – health care reform in our great country.)
Then we see a partisan hearing called in Congress over the controversy regarding those self-insured religious organizations’ desire to be exempted from the mandate that would have required them to provide free birth control to their insureds. I understand the dilemma on this, I truly do. I am a practicing Catholic but I think we can all agree that there are already too many people in this world, a world where we use up and discard our resources at an ever-faster pace. I don’t presume to speak for all – or even some – Catholics – but my sense is that the rhythm method is not practiced by most Catholic women. Because it’s the women who ultimately have to assume the birth control responsibility, not the men. (And, by the way, where is the pill for men? How come that hasn’t been invented yet?) And even if the rhythm method is practiced, how effective do you think it is? 2 of the Republican candidates have 13 children between them – how’s that rhythm thing working for you, Mitt and Rick? And Rick? Maybe you tell your PAC contributor, Foster Friess, that putting Bayer aspirin between your legs is not a commonly accepted form of contraception. Because I was taught by Catholic nuns and even they didn’t teach us that in high school. (Although they did tell us never to wear patent leather shoes because the boys could look up your dress. And that’s a very well known fact.)
So Congress calls this hearing and invites men – and only men – to testify. Because, as we all know, old men, particularly the clergy, are the best authorities to comment on women’s birth control. Thank you but I don’t need a man who has never had a child, never been pregnant and – for Catholic religious leaders – led a celibate life to speak on my behalf or my mother’s behalf or my sisters’ behalf or my niece’s behalf. We’re quite capable of doing that ourselves.
And then one of the Republican candidates, the one with 8 kids, says that pre-natal testing is designed to encourage abortions. As Amy Poehler and Seth Meyer like to say, really? This man – as are all Republican Presidential candidates – is opposed to abortion. I have my own opinion on abortion, as I’m sure we all do, and we’re each entitled to our belief, whether it’s based on our religious convictions, or our moral compass, or our own experiences. But the fact is that it’s the law of the land right now and this man, this person who appears to believe we live in a country where women are second-class citizens, opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest. This is not a person I want leading my country which – by the way – is populated by more women than men. (Go ahead, check the latest census figures. I’ll wait). We need someone who believes all of us – and not just all men – are created equal.
And, lastly, I ache with concern for Rihanna, a woman who sings such powerful songs, who appears strong and self-confident and is immensely talented. A woman who was beaten up very badly by a low life whose name I will not mention, a person who continues to show his ignorance and anger issues by his actions and his words. And now, if the news reports are to be believed, has gone back to her abuser. I ache for her, for her seeming inability to see that this is a destructive relationship she is allegedly heading back into. For what seems to be a lack of good sense, or judgment clouded possibly by the promises of someone who has already hurt her so badly. And it makes me wonder why there are men out there who think that we as women don’t deserve better, or why there are women who don’t think they deserve a kind and loving person to cherish and respect them.
I was blessed, as you all know, with an extraordinary father who lived his life with my mother and 3 daughters and he treated us all with love and respect and kindness and caring every single day. And I was married to a man who did not. So I know how critical, how crucial it is that we instill in our daughters that we as women are creatures to be cherished, that we deserve men who respect us, that we need that self-confidence to believe in ourselves and our beauty and inner strength. And I know how equally critical it is to teach our sons that when you love a woman – as a friend, as your sister, or your mother, or your wife – you elevate her to a place that she knows she will always be cared for and respected and treated well. That Rihanna does not seem to recognize this – that many, many women don’t seem to know this – makes me sad. We need more men like my Dad in this world so that more women can live their lives as I have, knowing how much the love and respect of a parent, or a partner, or a friend can and does change our lives.
So – and I appreciate all of you who have stuck through this very long post – I’m asking the women I know not to devalue themselves, not to accept politicians who don’t realize that we are not second-class citizens, not to assume that anything but kindness and love is normal. We can bind together and bring about change, and make sure that our voices are heard, our rights are protected, our future is guaranteed, our daughters are not taken for granted. We are powerful when we can come together. We are women; hear us roar.