Five years ago, on the day of the women’s march, in a bar in D.C., I overheard some young women talking. They compared themselves to suffragettes, an inapt comparison. Suffragettes were jailed. They were raped, force-fed, and suffered brutal treatment. Men didn’t want anyone in their way sharing their privilege. Competition from women, blacks, or immigrants was not to be tolerated.
Pope Francis bemoans the tendency, a worldwide phenomenon, of women having fewer children. The Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade. There is a dearth in the labor market in roles usually filled by women in hotels and restaurants.
After years of lockdowns, being forced to stay home with children, acting as teachers, domestic violence being a second plague, and having had time away from oppressive and abusive workplaces, women are at the “I’ve had enough, and I’m not going to take this anymore” stage.
Roe v. Wade was an awkward decision based on privacy concerns not specifically defined in the Constitution. In practice, it gave women control over their organ of reproduction. At the time, most American women were grudgingly allowed decisions over their other body parts. The decision legalized an ages old practice already available at the right price and with the clear knowledge that it might kill you. Often spurred on by the male co-conspirator, women faced backstreet practitioners.
Currently pressed by true believers, in a variety of institutions purporting to know their creator’s exact wishes, anti-abortion hordes are working assiduously to regress to the aforementioned status quo. Those of those donning the “Right to Life” banner have a curious and disturbing lack of interest in life after birth, politically opposing life-affirming measures such as universal health care, food assistance, and free lunches while supporting life-destroying policies like the death penalty, mass incarceration, and the God-ordained right to have as many guns as a small army.
White (male) supremacy is raising its hideous head out of the muck once again. Many of those claiming Christian identity seemed to have skipped over the parts about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and comforting the afflicted during their bible study, but find the one line in Leviticus that they interpret to support the already strongly held aversion to those whose sexual identity is different from that they deem as “normal.”
We are being harried by a mob, a small minority of people, who seem to want their narrow cruel views canonized into what would look like a “Christian” version of Sharia law with an occasional reference to some letter or other of Paul.
So, what now? Those suffragettes wannabes, should they find the looming re-subjugation of women undesirable, may find themselves on the front lines. The verbal culture wars are likely to become much less verbal and much more actual. So, who among them will be willing to stop talking during their wine and cheese gatherings and engage?
Simone de Beauvoir said women are complicit in their own un-freedom. Cooperation facilitates oppression. Fear, bolstered by millennia of societal conditioning, leads to acceptance.
Things are not as they are because that is God’s will. Things are the way they are because they suit those who hold power. Resist sharing. Resistance can be very costly. There are few things more difficult to overcome than the mental conditioning of religious, social, and economic paradigms. The first step is to recognize that one has indeed been programmed. This indoctrination affects everyone enforcing role definitions on men and women. After millennia of maniacal wars, male aggression and strength became selected to support the rulers who wanted to increase their power through violence. We still have enormous armies supplied with weapons frightening to imagine.
Women have been boxed in by the need to bear and care for children and, until very recently, denied participation in actions and places through which power and influence are attained. This perpetuates the continuity of male world views.
In western society, white male dominance has created a wealth differential. Women and people of color have been kept in a subservient position by practices and policies that, having existed for so long, are deemed as inviolate.
The battle against these ingrained paradigms will be hard-fought, long, and probably bloody.