Friday, April 28, 2017

I'm With Wendy

Weary with Trump fatigue, I had the good fortune to hear Wendy Davis speak at the 100 year anniversary celebration of Planned Parenthood last night.

from Post & Courier

I made my way through the half dozen misfits carrying Defund Planned Parenthood signs (the Post & Courier reported two dozen) into Cannon Green, where the event was held.  I would have been more disconcerted by the creepy protesters, but it is pretty much the same small bunch that show up at any event where women are celebrating the fight for freedom, privacy and the right to the best medical care.  Someone commented, "Well, this is the south."  But back in the 80's, when I lived in Stony Brook, Long Island, there was a small clinic in a strip mall a half mile from my home, where every Saturday morning the local scruffy old men and sad looking women would carry their nasty signs.  So, South Carolina, don't be too quick to take all the credit for misogyny.

I had been ruminating for a couple of days about the bizarre turn of events wherein Bernie Sanders threw his support behind an anti-abortion mayoral candidate.  Apparently he was right on all the other issues, so Bernie claimed his stance on abortion was less consequential than having his opponent win.  Apparently Bernie forgot that he was the politician with clout, that he could have stood up to candidate Mello the way he stood up to the Democratic Party last summer.  He didn't mind doing the "my way or the highway" until it came down to women's reproductive rights.

After all, the guy had the support of "the labor movement and environmentalists and Native Americans and the African American community and the Latino community" so of course he would offer his support.

Seems he forgot that 1/2 of all those people are women.

And sadly, women who will fight their hearts out for all people whose rights are being trammeled will forget, or make excuses for, not fighting for our own rights.

Wendy Davis spoke last night about her own coming to awareness of this during her run for governor.  Once, upon being asked if she was a feminist, she said no -- she still sounded amazed as she recounted the experience.  And later, during the dirty campaign in which her parenting was being dragged through the mud, when she was asked if she thought she was being treated differently because she was a woman... she said no.

And she said we have all done that at some point in our lives.  We still suffer the cultural bias that our welfare comes second, that it is our job to take care of everyone else before ourselves.  That if we stand up for our rights we are being selfish -- and none of us wants to be selfish.

Imagine Bernie saying he would stand behind a candidate who was right on all the issues except that he thought African Americans should not be entitled to the same education as white children.  Or that businesses had a right to not serve members of the LGBT community.  Or that immigrants should be required to show proof of citizenship whenever asked.

This whole "big tent" argument is so typical of Democrats, who live with so much insecurity about their identity that you can argue them into a pretzel on just about anything.  Suppose someone wants to be a Democrat, holds Democratic values in everything but abortion -- do we keep them out of the party?

OMG, don't be ridiculous people.  Anyone can be in the Democratic Party.  But we don't have to support a candidate who is against any one of those values.  Not if we value our values.

I am thinking of the leaders of the Women's March, who initially agreed to partner with the anti-abortion group New Wave Feminists, and then after backlash, changed their mind.  Come to our march, we are all-inclusive, stand with us, but you cannot lead us because your cause is against one group's individual rights.

I am not quite as open-minded.  It angers me that a group which purpose is to deny women rights would call itself "Feminist."  Just as I was appalled that Susan B. Anthony's name had been taken over into the anti-abortion cause.

And there it is again, that double standard.  We would not have welcomed marchers who held signs that were anti-Muslim (pro-Christian freedom), or anti-LGBT (pro-traditional families), but there were signs and banners that heralded "Feminists for Life" and other anti-choice (pro-life) messages.

Ayn Rand said it best (!) when she talked about the importance of selfishness.  Of course, she got it screwed up pretty badly when profit and greed came in to play.  But taking care of ourselves first is a bit like the announcement the flight attendant makes before take-off.  If those oxygen masks come down, you need to put one on yourself before you put them on your kids.  Otherwise, you aren't going to be around and functioning to take care of them at all.

Last night, Davis spoke about why everyone needs to support women's right to determine their own reproductive path.  When women succeed, when they are free to join the work force, make a living wage and work to their potential -- whenever that happens -- the economy flourishes.  Our families flourish.  Our democracy flourishes.

And I have to say it.  I am not as old as Bernie, but I am getting there, so at the risk of offending any men out there, I will speak my mind.  Women are smarter.  Women are able to learn more and faster, juggle more important tasks, because they have always had to do that.  Unless we are Mitt Romney's wife, we don't get away with just raising the kids.  When we work, we work harder, but always having to take care of all those important jobs outside of work.  We can squeeze a lot into the day, and do it well.  And we can prioritize, and get it right.

We empathize.  We don't have to be living on $2 a day, as too many Americans are doing, or live without health care.  We can understand what that means to our quality of life, and also how the suffering of others ripples through the rest of America.

What we women need to do now is put that oxygen mask on ourselves before we take care of anyone else.  We need to stop letting right wingnuts and christian extremists tie our hands, cut off our ability to live well and then criticize us for not working hard enough to succeed.

What do you get angry about?  Really, really angry?  Take that anger and personalize it.  Don't minimize what it means when our Democratic Party suggests that they can support a candidate who won't fight for us just because he will fight for other groups.

And we need to stop trying to find a rational argument that will convince the anti-abortion bigots that it is their right to determine the path of our lives.  The argument is:  It is my body, and it is none of your business.

After all, that argument has been working quite well for the NRA, despite all the lives lost because of their perceived right to carry weapons.  But that is an argument for another day.

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