Thursday, March 22, 2012


Last week Doonesbury had a six strip sequence on the new Texas sonogram law.
Needless to say this strip wasn't published in Eugene, not even on the editorial pages. Wouldn't have even known about it if some of the locals hadn't sent letters to the editor about the censorship. Granted a couple of them are pretty strong, but that seems to be the only thing that gets through these days. There were six panels starting on March 12, the other five can be found here. Just click on each day starting with the 13th and ending on the 17th. Color me PO'd not because Trudeau drew the strips but because my local paper didn't have the guts to print them, even on the back page of the classified section.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

We Should've Just Kept Burning 'em...

I mentioned in my previous post that I have a hard time understanding why today’s women are so eager to sexually objectify themselves. Actually, this seminal fact is what drove me to write the post to begin with. And the idea was put into my head by a trip to a department store to buy a bra.

Back in the Stone Age, I was a petite, skinny adolescent. I didn’t develop what could be called “breasts” until I was in high school. Even so, in seventh grade, I began wearing a size 28AA “training bra.” You remember those—the ones that looked just like a miniature grown-up bra but had soft, stretchy tricot cups. I wore the bra not because I actually needed to, but because by that age, I would be mortally embarrassed not to wear one. By the time I was a senior in high school, I probably would have actually grown into that bra.

Luckily, the 70’s trend toward braless fashions played right into my body type, and spared me further embarrassment in the locker room. It was fortunate I didn’t need a bra, because I could never find one that fit me. I remained a AA cup size throughout my twenties. Every trip to the mall to buy a bra ended in utter frustration. There was never a bra on the rack that did not hang on my skinny chest like a day-old helium balloon.

After the stretchy almost-braless look of the late seventies faded, sports bras became my best friends. Thank god for Olivia Newton-John and Jane Fonda. For the next thirty years, it was a struggle to keep myself covered in socially acceptable lingerie. The off-the-rack world never accepted my proportions.

Along about five years ago, I discovered that gravity and the extra pounds that come with age had presented me with a mixed blessing: I could now wear a B cup. Praise the Lord and pass the Playtex! For the first time in my life, I would be able to walk into a store and grab an almost feminine-looking bra in my size right off the rack! And I could…for about three and a half years.

Until society, the retail gods, or whoever, decided that no American woman worth dressing wore smaller than a C cup. The breasts of today’s fashionable female will be foamed, molded, under-wired and push-upped into the glorious ripe-melon globes demanded by our voyeuristic and sex-obsessed media. I searched the lingerie racks in three department stores in one day, and I found exactly one bra in my size.

It made me angry, and it gave me a bit of insight into why the times are so ripe for the unabashed stripping away of women’s rights. If we dress as sex objects, why shouldn’t society see us that way? Where do we expect this hyper-sexual look to take us? To the boardroom or the bedroom? Is it any wonder that right wing groups have chosen NOW to begin hammering away at our rights? Take a look at the way we dress. We have capitulated. We don’t want to be strong and equal anymore. We want to be soft and sexual.

Not only that, but we want our daughters to be soft and sexual from an appallingly early age.

My path toward the escalator after my disappointingly enlightening bra shopping excursion took me through girls’ clothing. Prominently displayed front and center of the department was a rack of bras. Remember those “training bras” with the tricot cups that I wore until I was fourteen? Not a one of those dinosaurs was in evidence. The rack was covered with little bitty padded push-up bras. With under-wires. Some of these were so tiny that, despite being labeled an almost acceptable “30AA” (the size I wore when I was in high school) it was obvious they were meant to be worn by little girls as young as six or seven years old. Who else is going to wear “Hello Kitty” underwear?

If there is a word for this fashion trend that is not “disgusting,” “depraved,” or “abusive,” I certainly couldn’t come up with it. Honestly. What are we thinking when we dress our little girls this way? What kind of feelings do we expect them to have? Or to inspire? Equality and empowerment? I think not.

So, sisters... If you want a better understanding of why our rights are ripe for the taking, just go to the mall. You will see women practically lining up to just...hand them back.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why Now?

We have come a long way from the kitchens which were the centers of our post-war mothers’ and grandmothers’ lives. Equal rights sojourners—of which, in some small way, I was one—gained a lot of ground for themselves and their sisters in the seventies, eighties and nineties. But we all know we are not there yet. We have a long way to go; and it’s in the minds of right-wing rabble-rousers across the country to give us a push-start for that long journey—but in the WRONG DIRECTION.

Why now, almost forty years after Roe v Wade and the ERA shone the spotlight upon fair and equitable treatment of women in our society, are we witnessing a surge of anti-feminism? What makes today’s political ground so fertile that individual state legislatures have succeeded in passing a record number of anti-choice bills in the past twelve months? And what has put it into the narrow minds of the extreme right-wing that it is now safe to advance their agenda on the federal level? And to expand their list of social sins to include not just legal abortion, but birth control, health resources for poor women, and equal pay for equal work?

Certainly we can blame this fiasco on the continued efforts of the GOP to court the votes of the far right. To my knowledge, the practice began with the Reagan campaigns of the 80’s. Throughout both of his election campaigns, Reagan paid all sorts of lip-service to issues important to the Religious Right—abortion rights and school prayer being the chief hot topics of the day. I remember with dismay the pastor of our small Pentecostal church exhorting his flock from the pulpit to go out and “vote for the Ronald Reagan of your choice.” But Reagan was no fool. As soon as the ink was dry on the votes sweeping him into office, he dropped those issues like a hot rock.

Fast forward thirty years, and the GOP has pulled out all the stops to be all things to all conservatives, without regard to HOW conservative. The Bush years saw a truly amazing metamorphosis of the Republican Party, wherein every GOP lawmaker was pressed into lockstep with the party line. The perfection of this tactic formed the GOP into a formidable force. In majority, they were unstoppable; and in minority, they were the ultimate obstruction. Centrists locked arms with extremists and stood their ground. For almost a decade, Republicans managed to maintain and wield that control like a laser. Until the 2010 mid-term elections, when right wing extremists finally woke up to the fact that their concerns were not being paid much more than lip service by the Republican Pary at large. And the Tea Party was born.

Now the GOP finds itself infected with a massive case of “Tail Wagging The Dog” Disease. And instead of trying to amputate the tail, they’re determined to bargain with it. I’m sure in the minds of mainstream Republicans (if such a beast still exists) there’s no harm in trading off the civil rights of a few powerless minorities in order to maintain the Party’s ability to guard the only things that are REALLY important: Money and Power. And don’t think the Religious Right doesn’t know this. They are poised to take full advantage of the GOP’s attempt to ward off gangrene by making peace offerings to the tail.

Unfortunately, they’ve made a possibly fatal mistake, in that they’ve allowed themselves to believe that American women are nothing more than a “powerless minority.”

So, yes…the political ground for rolling back Women’s rights is more fertile than it has ever been in the forty years since Roe v Wade. But I wonder: Doesn’t some of the blame for society’s rejection of feminism fall squarely on our own shoulders? Perhaps we have proudly presented to our daughters and granddaughters a hard won, carefully wrapped gift, which they opened and threw aside because they thought they already had one. Because we did not teach them about the beauty and fragility of this gift, and how to use it to expand their lives and enrich the world.

By the middle of the 20th century, modern American women were expected to excel in school, go to college and/or get jobs and leave home. Then they were supposed to find husbands and give all that up, get married, have kids and keep house. Then, when the kids were all in school, they were pushed to rejoin the work force and contribute to household income so that the family could enjoy a better quality of life. Oh, and they were still responsible for keeping house and minding the kids. Is it any wonder that women of our generation rebelled? We saw what a raw deal our mothers had got. Why would we want to grow up to be just like them—used and abused, overworked and underpaid? There was massive inequity going on here, and we determined to change it.

We knew that we were every bit as smart, talented, motivated and worthy as our brothers. But our roads to success were complicated by choices that men never had to make. A woman had to face the social stigma of choosing a career over a relationship or marriage; or risk an unwanted or ill-timed pregnancy short-circuiting her career goals. And recreational sex was out of the question. Then the 1970’s brought us access to safe, legal abortion. And The Pill. Reproductive freedom put us within striking distance of equal footing with men. At long last, we would have the opportunity to climb the ladder of success beside men, rather than leaning our shoulders into their posteriors and pushing them to the top. Or standing at the bottom holding the ladder.

I’d like to say we took that freedom and did it justice. We became doctors and lawyers, reporters and scientists, mathematicians and historians, ministers and astronauts, generals and legislators. There wasn’t a previously male-dominated field that we didn’t pursue; without fear of reproductive repercussions, we had the time and the luxury to pound on any door until it opened. Was it a walk in the park? No. But for the first time, it was possible.

But when we did eventually produce daughters, what did we teach them? Did we hand them the feminist manifesto with reverence? Did we arm them with the knowledge of how to use it to enhance their own lives and the lives of women across the globe? Or did we fail to communicate the responsibility that went along with the freedom, as all freedoms confer responsibilities?

Because, honestly, when I look at the culture of today’s young American women, I’m certain there has been a major malfunction of the baton-passing process. Currently, forty percent of all births in the US are to unmarried women. Forty percent. Why do so many sexually active young women choose, not to “start a family,” but to “have a baby?” (There’s a difference.) Babies and “baby bumps” have become 21st century fashion accessories. Do our daughters and granddaughters even know about the tools for reproductive choice we so cherished forty years ago?

Recently a Portland couple won a $3 million dollar Wrongful Birth suit against a prominent hospital. It seems their child was born with Down’s syndrome, even though doctors assured the couple that prenatal testing did not show a problem with the baby before delivery. It came out during the trial that the couple would have certainly terminated the pregnancy had they been aware of the baby’s condition. Is this why we fought so hard for safe, legal abortion? So that a young presumably secure married couple could produce and reject fetuses until they got one they liked?

And why are today’s women so eager to sexually objectify themselves? Plastic surgery practices are booming. Billboards lining the freeways tell us where to go to get a tighter butt, a lineless face, a flawless figure. Teenagers ask for breast implants for their birthdays. High school kids “sext” during class and post explicit photos of themselves on social media. We wanted the freedom to choose to have sex. But our daughters have chosen to be slaves to sex. Why?

Taking all this into account, I don’t wonder why folks might entertain the idea of going backward. If the sexual revolution visited all this evil upon our society, can’t we just take it back? Pretend it never happened? Go back to the good old days?

Of course, the answer is, “No.” Going backward is never the answer. You can’t recreate the good old days; we have knowledge and experience that we didn’t have then. We’ve learned lessons we can’t unlearn. The point now is to put that knowledge into practice.

So, in a certain way, I welcome this fresh assault upon our sovereignty. Perhaps this will show our daughters that the freedom they have taken for granted (and squandered) not only hasn’t always existed, but could, under certain deplorable circumstances, be taken away. And perhaps we will get a second chance to polish off the pure ideals of feminism and hand them to our daughters the right way this time. Reverently and deliberately, and with emphasis on the responsibilities that come with the victory. I think maybe we could all come out the better for it.

Vamanos, Hermanas!

 As any readers of this blog will know by now, we are officially very very pissed off. I am sixty eight years old, and find it hard to believe that the battles we women fought in my youth, are now being fought all over again. I guess the "War on Women" has never been over, just simmering and bubbling underground, and in the hearts and minds of people (?) like Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum.  I'm not going to rehash any of the current slings and arrows - Lisa has done a great job putting it all out there - I'm writing here and now to let everyone know about the upcoming action to raise our voices in unison on April 28th against this new War on Women.  From the website of We Are Women March:
Help defend women’s rights and pursuit of equality. Join Americans all across the United States on April 28th, 2012, as we come together as one to tell members of Congress in Washington DC and legislators in all 50 states, “Enough is enough!”
All Americans have the right to make decisions about their own bodies, including contraception, without interference from government, business or religious institutions.
Everyone is invited to join, plan, and rally as we unite to demand that every person be granted equal opportunities, equal rights, and equal representation
We will be marching in Washington, D.C. and in the capitals of every state.  Check out the website, find what is planned for your particular locale on the interactive map.  I am amazed at the size of the movement that seems to be taking shape here in my own western backwater of New Mexico.  Tell your friends, your sisters, and daughters. This is for our lives, our futures, let's put on our marching shoes and make this the biggest march on all our legislators ever!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Kevin Siers is the cartoonist for the Charlotte Observer. This is his updated version of the painting known as American Gothic. Ladies welcome to the Dark Ages.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

They Have No Idea...

The recent “War On Women” launched by religious conservatives (I refuse to sully the word “Christian” by applying it to this group) has reminded American women just how close to the surface lies the depth and breadth of the ire of “Angry White Men.” Even women like me, who have never been entirely comfortable sallying forth to secure equal rights under the “Legal Abortion” flag. It’s not that I have a problem with legalized abortion. Mostly I just hate to pin the complex problem of women’s sovereignty to a single hot-button issue.

Yet the actions of our right-wing brothers over these past few early-election-year weeks, accompanied by paternalistic and demeaning rhetoric, prove that how women are viewed in our society is very much reflected in the prevailing political attitude toward reproductive rights. Like it or not, “Abortion Rights” has become synonymous with “Women’s Rights.” Indeed, I can see certain Right Wing interests having a covert hand in this phenomenon. They understand that the dialogue devolves as soon as the word “abortion” escapes into the air. And they mean to keep the discussion polarized and mean-spirited.

Has it only been three weeks since Darrell Issa’s men-only panel was convened on Capitol Hill to assault the health care rights of women? I’m pretty sure that Issa’s intent was merely to embarrass and oppose the President at any and every opportunity. Evidently this has been one of the chief functions of the Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee since the Clinton Era. If President Obama proclaimed in a news conference this afternoon that the sky is blue, Issa would convene a hearing tomorrow to demonstrate, in terms designed to incur maximum damage upon the credibility of the Administration, why it is not.

This all began with the Administration’s efforts to compromise with religious employers who claimed moral objections to providing birth control coverage in adherence to The Health Care Reform Act. When word of this reached Issa, he saw an opportunity to exploit it into yet another very political, very public, very Republican slam on “Obamacare.” I won’t dignify his actions with the notion that he cared a fig for the moral stance of any religious leader. His motive was pure, political, election-year mud-slinging.

Since then, Republican-controlled state legislatures all over the country have rushed to exploit what they have identified as a favorable political climate to pass a flurry of legislation aimed at compromising the reproductive and health care choices of women. Just goes to prove that women’s rights are never for good and all written in stone; the issue never dies. It just lies dormant until someone who has been carefully watching which way the political winds are blowing decides that the time is right to drag it all up again. Time to whip up a crowd of ulta-conservative crusaders who firmly believe that it is their right and duty to dictate how all American citizens shall live, arm them with “moral” sledge-hammers and let them take swing after swing at our hard-won equal rights.

This time around, the hammer was handed over to that ever-popular conservative mouthpiece—Rush Limbaugh. That blow-hard political bully who has assailed our ears with his “humorous” pandering to the demons perched on the shoulders of middle class Americans, fifteen hours a week for more than two decades. With his army of over 15 million weekly listeners, it can be said (though the mainstream GOP patently denies this) that Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Given possession of the “Bash Women’s Rights” sledge-hammer, he proceeded to call up what I can only assume are his personal deeply held misogynistic views. On the air, over the course of three days, he repeatedly labeled a young lady famous for NOT being invited to testify at Issa’s all-male party a “slut” and a “prostitute.” Which led us all to ponder: Exactly how far back do ultra-conservatives aim to push women’s rights? Fifty years? Eighty? A hundred?

In the 21st-century world of public opinion ruled by sound-bytes and the “flap-du-jour,” we have demonstrated a tendency toward political ADD. Different groups hop up and down and holler about the latest controversy; the most recent way they have been deathly wronged by…whomever. Within days, the furor dies down, the story goes away, and we are on to the next juicy story. It has become common political practice to take swipes at gays, blacks, immigrants, public employees…whoever political conservatives seize upon as the latest threat to the rest of us here in the good ole land of the free and home of the brave (white American.) The outrage flares, then it goes away…too soon.

I mean no slam on those groups. They are minorities. That’s why they get picked on. Political bullies count upon the fact that most people in the country are NOT gay or black or immigrants or public employees. There are two unfortunate aspects of our society at work here: 1.) Our secret grudges and prejudices gain legitimacy once some political or media figure gives voice to them and 2.) There is no longer a popular sentiment concerned with defending everyone’s rights.

So now, I hear from pretty much everywhere, “What’s up with this ‘War on Women” furor? Why isn’t it dying down? Why won’t it go dutifully away like all the other times some public idiot has planted his foot firmly in his mouth and sucked as hard as he could?”

The answer is simple: We are the WOMEN, folks. We’re not some itty-bitty, nine or ten or even 20% of the population. WOMEN. I don’t hardly know anyone who isn’t one or doesn’t know one; doesn’t live or work with one. You think we should sit down and shut up? You think we should placate or ignore those who mean to take away our rights? You think that in a couple of days we’ll forget all this and forgive all that has been said and done to our sovereignty in the name of political advantage, of trying to brainwash One More Voter?

I have one thing to say about that: YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


And most women have to fight every inch of the way to hang on to the little they've got. Just finished the miniseries from the eighties about the partition of India. Who took it in the teeth on both sides. The women and the kids, as usual. And it just sank in. While the Viceroy and the politicians, mostly male were drawing lines on maps Edwina Mountbatten, born to privilege, was down in the blood and the muck trying to clean up the mess. Isn't that the way it goes. They break it. We get stuck with trying to put the pieces back together.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Small, and Hard, and Full of Meanness

I am so tired, all of the time. Each  national news cycle brings with it exhaustion that reaches to a cellular level. Each candidates' debate, latest spew of hatred from the talk show hosts or the candidates themselves, act of environmental destruction, most recent episode of school student-on-student violence and death -  each rape, murder, child abuse atrocity on the local news, makes the darkness drop a thicker curtain over my heart, my brain, my ability to get up and make the coffee of another new day.

Then, I find a slim volume of Mary Oliver's poetry that I haven't seen before, although it's been around for a while (Red Bird), and read myself to sleep for several nights. In the midst of nature poems, both sorrow and delight, poems of loneliness and longing for her departed partner of many years, I find this - lines that briefly and perfectly sum up the world in which we live. A world in which we must constantly work, though exhausted,  to somehow keep our hearts soft, open, full of generosity and hope.  To care about the quality of life for people, all people, dogs, and rivers. To be both loving and fierce.

Of The Empire

We will be known as a culture that feared death
and adored power, that tried to vanquish insecurity
for the few and cared little for the penury of the
many.  We will be known as a culture that taught
and rewarded the amassing of things, that spoke
little if at all about the quality of life for
people (other people), for dogs, for rivers.  All
the world, in our eyes, they will say, was a
commodity. And they will say that this structure
was held together politically, which it was, and
they will say also that our politics was no more
than an apparatus to accommodate the feelings
of the heart, and that the heart, in those days,
was small, and hard, and full of meanness.

Friday, March 2, 2012

On a Call to Action

It’s a disturbing time to be anything but a white, right-leaning male in this country. The Right Wing have taken on gays (of either gender), immigrants (read “Mexicans”), minority voters, non-Christians, “liberals” of any stripe; and now—women. Evidently they believe there are not enough civil rights to go around, and they aim to hoard them all for themselves.

I would like to warn them that women are not a small voiceless minority whom they can disrespect with impunity. We do not look kindly upon a group of over-entitled buffoons seeking to roll back our rights fifty or sixty years. And we vote.

What better time to reinvigorate an editorial vehicle called “Women On…”?

For millennia, men asserted their dominion over women through the sex act. Sex was about men getting it however, whenever and wherever they wanted it, and about women dutifully accepting this, and the consequences associated therewith. Unfortunately for the male of the species, at least in the industrialized world, science did him a dirty turn about mid-way through the last century--in the form of The Pill and other self-administered female birth control, and the legalization of safe clinical abortion. Suddenly it was possible for women to have sex however, whenever and wherever they wanted it, no longer chained to the “consequences” any more than men were.

Women were handed the keys to their shackles by the Sexual Revolution, and have not looked back. Much to the chagrin of those who preferred the status quo, and who have been pouring herculean efforts into stuffing that genie back into the bottle. These good ole boys may be dinosaurs, but they are not going to go down easy. They intend to reassert male dominance in our society, and as has been the practice of desperate men for centuries, they have conscripted “God” onto their side of the battlefield. God is, after all, just one of “the guys,” isn’t He? We liberated women are not, at long last, enjoying the freedom to realize the potential conferred upon us by the Creator. We’re subverting the will of “God.”

Like it or not, the birth control/abortion issue has become America's litmus test of the status of women’s rights in our society. Many women, including myself, are not wholly comfortable with this fact. In 1973, as a naive, sexually active and not-nearly-cautious-enough eighteen-year-old, I might have considered the option of abortion had I got “caught.” But that was at the very dawn of the Sexual Revolution. We didn’t have much of the science, experience and resources that are available to today’s young women. And the stigma assigned to unwed motherhood was ugly and strong. The concept of making the “problem” go away was considerably more attractive than the alternative.

But there have been changes over the past four decades--in education, in the availability of more solid science, and in the undeniable reversal of society’s attitudes toward unwed mothers. If I was a young woman NOW, I probably would not consider abortion as a preferred or valid method of birth control. Be that as it may, it is still not up to ME to dictate what another woman does with her body under her own personal circumstances. And if I don’t believe myself to be possessed of enough enlightenment to make this judgment, I sure as hell don’t buy that the government is.

So when MEN in or aspiring to elected office begin unabashedly spouting garbage about the State violating women with unwanted, invasive, medically unnecessary procedures for purely political reasons, my hackles raise higher than a flag on the Fourth of July. And when denying women access to free or insurance-covered birth control is perverted to become defense of some patriarchal cult’s “Religious Rights,” I don my gloves and come out swinging. Especially when any and all treatment associated with male sexual function/dysfunction is obligingly covered gratis, with a wink and a smile.

Sorry, guys. Regardless of the societal consequences—positive or negative—wrought by the Sexual Revolution, that boat done sailed. Going backwards, taking away civil rights, is never a viable—not to mention politically expedient—course of action. Especially when dealing with a “minority” group that arguably includes half the members of the human race.

We have what we have. And we are NOT giving it back.

A question…a challenge, if you will. To all the women who used to write here. What are your thoughts on the most recent attack upon us, the women of America? Can you share them here