I marched for the first time on behalf of civil rights for minorities and women in the bloody year of 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. had been killed on April 4 of that year and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated the following June.
My son was 4 years old at that time, and it was very difficult to leave him, never knowing if I would get back home alive. But that was a part of the price to be paid for freedom. Everybody paid up, nobody complained and later, most of us just felt lucky we made it home one more night.
I marched many, many times after that and when the marching was over I promised I would alert every generation that social change must never be considered permanent. Every generation must fight to preserve the changes gained by the previous generation. Of course, with the passage of Roe v. Wade, women felt that they were home free and they would always have the right to choose in the matter of having children.
Well, here we go again. Male Republicans have once more taken up the role of attempting to manage women’s bodies. Last week an amendment was introduced in the U.S. Congress that would allow employers to opt-out of covering birth control medications (among other medicines) for female employees if the insurance provider has a religious or moral objection to the dispensation. That amendment was defeated by a vote of 51-48.
It didn’t take a lot of nudging to get men to this point. They have been hanging on the edge for years waiting for the moment when they could feel justified in bringing this up. There's something about not having direct control over women’s bodies that drives them up the wall. They are having enough problems trying to manage tornadoes. The whole idea that anything could possibly exist on this earth over which they do not have control cannot be tolerated.
Young women, of course, are new to this process. They don’t understand that some men feel that women are not capable of making decisions about their bodies. A popular notion many men are attuned to is that women, having once been an oppressed group, are simply too virtuous to oppress others and therefore incapable of making nasty, indelicate decisions like whether or not to have babies. In other words, in order to be a sound decision-maker you have to have the mind of an oppressor.
If women are to defeat this current assault on their rights as people, they will have to organize and prepare to fight for justice. It’s the same old fight in a new arena. It is not that men don’t realize that they are infringing on the rights of women. They feel they are able to wear women down to the point where they will stop fighting and ultimately be convinced that men know best.
In my family, women have shared power for several generations. And all the women have always been prepared to take over leadership at any point, if it became necessary. My grandfathers were bricklayers and carpenters when young women learned to handle hammers and saws early in life. If the men were away on a job site and there was a job to be done, the women did it.
It’s too bad men can’t have babies. If so, we could all be spared the necessity of spending so many valuable hours fighting for our rights. We could be doing things like settling disagreements among nations, finding cures for major diseases, discovering new sources of energy, and solving all the problems men could have been working on if they hadn’t been so determined to manage women’s bodies.
I sincerely hope that this will be the final round of this struggle for the rights of women. Perhaps, but not likely, some men will rise up and tell their cohorts that enough is enough.
Do we have to start from scratch?
You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or emailing her at email@example.com.