Today's agenda included writing - I am supposed to submit the work I've been doing on a book proposal to an editor by the end of the day. However, I have been reading articles recently that have collected and simmered in the back of my mind. A conversation last night, coupled with this image today, has shifted my writing priority.
I am becoming increasingly concerned about the status of women in the United States. Though I will admit that most of my information comes from articles posted by my Facebook friends, most of whom share my political views, what I have read indicates a trend toward regulation of women's bodies and choices, effectively a trend toward dehumanizing women - a real step backward in the fight for equal rights and equal opportunity. Two recent issues that have suggested this downward move in the status of women are the Personhood Laws of Virgina and Oklahoma and the Ultrasound Law in Virginia. My goal here is not to critique these political movements, but rather to share them as part of a public discourse that centers on issues of gender. An article posted by Daily Mail (and confirmed in another article in the NY Times) suggests that a contender for President of the United States believes that President Obama's "health care overhaul encourages abortions [because] insurance companies are required to pay for prenatal testing." This candidate's argument hinges on the claim that prenatal testing leads to increased D&C procedures. I cannot comment on the legitimacy of this claim; I can see, however, that it completely negates the women who need or want the prenatal tests. By taking away insurance coverage of these sometimes needed and often helpful tests, many women lose access to important care. This stance, along with the political debates about personhood and required ultrasounds, do not put women's health and well being at the forefront. We are reduced to secondary status.
These issues of gender equality are certainly connected to issues of gay and lesbian equality. An Indiana lawmaker has made this clear in his views of the Girls Scouts, which, he is quoted as saying, "has been subverted in the name of liberal progressive politics and the destruction of traditional American family values." He criticizes the girl scouts as a "'radical organization' that supports abortion and supports the 'homosexual lifestyle.'" He does not agree that the organization has a "strong positive influence... on the American woman." What is a strong, positive influence on the American woman? Is it a return to an era where women did not garner equal protection, equal pay, or equal status? Is a strong woman one who cannot make her own decisions?
This past week the governor of NJ vetoed a same-sex marriage bill, instead suggesting that such a sensitive issue should be decided by voters on a ballot question. I sadly added his name to the growing list of lawmakers who have not stood up for equality. I want him to voice publicly that all individuals have a right to the same support, care, and happiness. I want all lawmakers to realize that women are also individuals who have these same rights.
Last night I conversed with the ladies of the L.M. crew (liberal mom). I'm nicknaming us L.M. because our conversation determined that we certainly defy traditional standards in our homes and marriages. All of us acknowledged that our husbands accepted our L.M. view - and we loved them for it. Our conversation made me appreciate even more the model that my parents gave me and my brother. From the balance of home and work to the assignment of chores (which were age-appropriate rather than gender appropriate), my parents assured me that I, as a female, was important, special, and equal.
Gender equality is something I have always taken for granted. I have been fortunate not to fight gender discrimination openly in the workforce. My mom's generation worked hard to fight that battle. I have never felt slighted socially or academically because of my gender. But recently, I notice that being a woman is, indeed, different. From blogs that I discussed in an earlier post to laws that are being passed, I feel as though society is trying to put me in my place, to take away my ability to make decisions that are right for me and my family. I fear that this kind of discrimination will go unnoticed, lying insidiously below the surface of more open debates about gay and lesbian rights. All of these conversations must voice the inherent inequality in legislation that is passed, or not passed, that limits the rights of breathing, thinking humans.
I recently attended a conference that focused on advocacy in education. In one of the sessions, the facilitators asked us to write about a time when we were engaged in advocacy work. I thought hard about the work I have done as a teacher. I encouraged my high school students to hear the voices of "others," and to listen to voices that are not always heard. In my graduate classes I ask students to enact change in their schools and communities. Despite my positioning as an advocate, I questioned whether I had truly done advocacy work. As a student of history, I know the advocacy work of my parents' generation - the amount of sacrifice that it took to change society. I marvel at the bravery of advocates such as the Freedom Riders and question whether I have that kind of grit inside of me. I also know that despite the gains of the Boomer generation, there is much more work to be done and that prejudice still exists on many levels. I wonder how I can become a stronger advocate. I'm starting today with this blog post.