Wednesday, March 28, 2018

In the Year of the Woman We're Going to Need Each Other

Women's Liberation protest, 1971
Enlightened women of America, if I say we're at our most vulnerable right now, right this minute, and our gains are becoming losses, would you be tempted to smack me down?

Would you rush to remind me of the Women's Marches, the "Me Too" movement, the multiplying numbers of women seeking public office?

Would you send me links to maybe a dozen men whose careers have now ended, thanks to women coming forward about sexual abuse just last year alone?

I hear you. Now hear me:

Donald Trump, a serial sexual abuser, is our current president. Congress, led by a Republican majority, is still overwhelmingly male, many of them open chauvinists. ( Out of 535 members of Congress, only 106 are women--22 in the Senate, and 84 in the House.)

We're the only gender who can make babies, yet it's still left to men to decide how we control the process.

Red states outnumber blue states and women's rights are in danger in every one of them. Free contraception is looked on as a sin or a waste of good money. Kentucky could become the first state without a single abortion clinic. Many others are down to one or two. Planned Parenthood is under siege and may not make it this time.

Dismissing and disrespecting women's lives is back in vogue. It happens every time we gather in large groups and make too much noise.

And yet there are millions of women who don't or won't see what the fuss is all about.

If you ask Republican women why they vote the way they do, their answer, overwhelmingly, is "abortion". Nothing else matters, as seen by their approval of Donald Trump, the poorest choice for president this country has ever seen. Trump, the former pro-choice advocate, saw early on where the sun does shine and did a complete 180. The women still supporting Trump refuse to believe he lied for their votes.

We could argue all day long about the shortsightedness of protecting fetuses while ignoring the needs of our living children, but the fact is, millions of women will vote for inadequate, unqualified, impossible men as long as those men say the magic words: "Pro-life".

Even proof of sexual abuse and domestic violence isn't enough to sway them. Even threats to give to the rich and sell out the poor won't slow them down. They see nothing beyond abortion.

We should hate those women for their blind loyalty to the forces working against us.

We should hate the women who didn't vote for Hillary for opening the door to Trump.

We should hate Hillary for not winning.

We should hate that our decades-long work on equality and worth is about to become so much dust in the wind.

But if we waste even a minute honing our hatred to such red-hot degrees, we use up energy we're going to need going forward. With all the bad news, with all the setbacks, we're gaining momentum. Women's voices are being heard.

If we divide into factions, we'll lose.

This is not white women against black women, it's not progressive women against centrist women, it's not young women vs old women. It's all women against the forces that work to hold us down.

We're going to have our differences. We're going to want to steer each conversation our way, to stress what's important to us. To you, to me, to her. We can't do that yet. It'll have to come later. Right now we have to work together, without bias, without prejudice, without ego.

And we're going to need leaders. No movement ever succeeded without strong, mission-oriented leaders. The ones we choose won't be perfect. They shouldn't have to pass purity tests--we've had enough of that--but they're going to have to speak for us in inclusive, powerful, charismatic ways.

They don't have to be celebrities in their own right, but they'll need to be wise, articulate and, most of all, riveting. They'll be competing with shlockmeisters and celebrity noise--those folks the mainstream media lust after, no matter how much they claim otherwise.

I don't know who they'll be and I'm not up to making predictions. We'll know them when we see them and we'll raise them up--but not so high the mission will get lost in their celebrity. They'll have to weather brutal storms, assaults on every aspect of their past, a constant parsing of their every word.

 My choice, for that reason, would be someone already seasoned--already past all that--but I'm open to new voices, to new ideas. We need to talk about this now, reasonably and honestly, and we need to keep the anger down.

It's the Year of the Woman. Momentum is on our side. Now we get to prove who we really are.