(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 25 August 2012)
I seldom talk about women’s issues in the United States in this column for one very important reason: there are so few columnists (if any) in Guyana who focus on the women’s issues of this country.
However, it is important to touch on the fact that this past year has seen the rights of women in the US diminished as those who would love to see a return of the “barefoot and pregnant woman” era find their way into power. People of a twisted mentality similar to that of Todd Akin – of the now infamous “legitimate rape” statement – are coming out of the proverbial woodwork.
I am going to be quite honest and say it is a scary time for women who value their rights in the US. In fact, in the last year, there has been a lot of new legislation presented and passed that restrict or rescind women’s rights, such as a woman’s right to have an abortion and women’s right to fair and equal pay.
This new breed of politicians even refused to renew the Violence Against Women Act, which provides for community violence prevention programmes and battered women’s shelters. The Act was originally passed in 1994 and has been reauthorized by Congress twice in bipartisan votes, but not this time.
I am going give my explanation of why I think this is all happening right now. I believe there are some men who have seen that women are taking their rightful place in society and it scares them. They are afraid of losing their power for the first time in thousands of years and they are scrambling to find a way to stop the women.
They are trying to create an atmosphere that would force women to have children by restricting abortion and contraception in order to push all women back into the home and out of the workplace. They are refusing to protect women who are being beat and abused in hopes that the men can beat the women back into “submission.”
In fact, the assault on women’s rights is so bad now that women’s rights advocates are calling it a “War On Women.” What these wacked-out men do not realise is that women will not be forced back into submission. As is quite obvious already, women will simply live their lives without a man if it means they will be free agents of their own lives.
It is so frustrating when someone has the nerve to say that women are already equal. There is such a long way to go to realise gender equality and, as is obvious in the last year in the US, the hard won rights of women can easily be taken away on the whim of crazy politicians.
There is something innately wrong with a bunch of old white guys deciding what happens to women’s bodies. Moreover, they do not want women to even be a part of the discussion as was evident when they decided to put together an all male panel to discuss female contraception this past February. Imagine the gall!
Common sense (i.e., a woman can’t get pregnant if she is raped??) and common decency (i.e., women should be making decisions about women’s bodies and rights) seem to escape these men. They do not even realise just how ridiculous they look to women.
They also do not seem to realise that women vote. As a matter of fact, I am moving to Missouri next week to be closer to my pregnant daughter and the rest of our family, which means I get to vote against Todd Akin – and for a woman – on Election Day, November 6.
Tomorrow is Women’s Equality Day in the US. It is a day proclaimed each year by the US President to commemorate the giving of the vote to women throughout the country on an equal basis to men. Women in the US were given the right to vote on August 26, 1920, when the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was certified.
Here is the Joint Resolution of Congress from 1971, designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day:
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex;
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and
WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26 of each year is designated as “Women’s Equality Day,” and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place.
The young women of the US today really have no idea how their mothers and grandmothers fought so they could enjoy the rights they have today. Now those rights are being ripped away from the women. Yes, there will be a fight ahead for the women of the US.
But this I can guarantee, they will pry my rights and the rights of my daughters out of my cold, dead hands.