Women Just Keep Marching...it's so good, and so bad. Some thoughts (i.e. many thoughts)
I have been reading an enormous narrative non-fiction for the last few months. I never pick up books this big because I always give up halfway and get distracted when my next book arrives in the mail. This is a genuine dysfunction in my life. But someone I respect a great deal recommended this massive book to me so I went to Barns and Nobel to make the purchase. This is a Pulitzer Prize winner by Isabel Wilkerson titled, The Warmth of Other Suns.
Buy it and read it.
Take it in.
Let it order your perspectives on the racial issues we face in a day and age where the media yanks us every which way. Wilkerson writes about the Great Migration of the blacks from the south to the north and west. Life for blacks in the south was cruel and outright evil; the train lines to the north and west, they believed, were the only hope to unlock the chains around their feet. Unfortunately, moving out west or up north didn’t bring the respect they had hoped for.
This essay is not about the book, though I could write many pages on it; I am writing about the Women’s March that took place in Washington, DC a few weeks ago. Millions of women took their stand against the political tone of the present election. My mind gets sideswiped with all the brouhaha as I have seen so many thoughtless people rant boldly, but unintelligently. My heart pumps fiercely for justice like the hearts of so many of these women. I have been face-down over this election. And yet, maybe we define injustice a little differently. Without a doubt, Isabel Wilkerson has helped me define it with more accuracy. To understand the mistreatment of humans, we must look at past events and even the present tyranny both in the US and other countries. Otherwise, we sound entitled, immature, and spoiled. We should not ignore areas of injustice, or let them twist a rope around us one wrap at a time until we finally choke. But we must keep mistreatment in perspective. Likewise, it is imperative to recognize our pattern as a nation; we react to the extremes we have endorsed by swinging so far in the opposite direction that we make a mess on the other side of the line.
The first women’s march was held in Washington, DC in 1913. This particular march took place before Woodrow Wilson came into office. The original program encouraged women to “march in the spirit of protest against the present political organization of society, from which woman are excluded.” It was formed around women’s suffrage: the right to vote. This was a worthy march. Women being refused a ballot was wrong. Truthfully, women have had valid reason to react to the subjugation going on for years. Sometimes it is difficult to even comprehend what we have come from. Our voices have been smothered, but with persistence we have slowly found the mic. Women have been relegated to domestic responsibilities believing that is the extent to which they would impact the world. Being a mom and running a household is a privilege, but women cannot be pigeonholed into this role. Women were not allowed to vote until 1920. Even so, it was not until 1984 that a woman was chosen by a major party to run, Geraldine Ferraro from NY for Vice President. It was not until 1981 that Sandra O’Connor was appointed as the first woman to be on the Supreme Court. Education has been another battle. Harvard opened its doors in 1636 but it was in 1980 that women were attending in equal numbers to men. Until 1978 with the Pregnancy Discrimination Act women could be fired from their jobs if they got pregnant. Women were not able to have a credit card until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was passed in 1974. The examples go on and on. The more we consider these realities, the more we can understand and even celebrate women marching for the rights that have been hard fought for.
Yet for every good thing to be passionate about, a separate issue arises. Even at this first march there were contradictions and confusion. These ladies were fighting for a voice, for respect, to not be dismissed. Valid things. However, these same ladies threatened to boycott the march if women of color attended. The inconsistency is glaring. We get sideways, driven by the euphoric passion of a mission and soon enough come face to face with how our own ideas break down, or even surface our own participation in corruption. The moment we feel entitled, a leak erupts in our philosophy. The right to vote was a virtuous fight. To have an education, a credit card, a voice, to have a say, for our opinions and thoughts to matter. This is upstanding. However, to turn around and look another group of women in the eye and tell them they should not have a voice, they should not have a say, and their opinions and thoughts do not matter, is a hypocritical stance.
On January 21, 2017, women across the country grabbed their jackets, hats, gloves, and signs and gathered in Washington DC to rally, to listen to speakers, writers, celebrities and political advocates. Every issue represented. Millions of women all over the country followed suit with all their voices, all their anger, all their passion, all their gratitude, all their ideas, all their fears, all their hopes, all their celebrations. The election of President Trump incited this movement. A man who has degraded women, people with disabilities, minorities and has boldly offended other candidates to their faces, will not be received well. Likewise, anyone taking a stance against abortion is going to endure some fire.
There are always valid concerns at the root of events such as this one. Strong voices to raise awareness. But similar to the march in 1913, irony shrouds the program. There were a few anti-abortion groups who signed up to march. They were welcomed and their attendance was named in The Atlantic. Soon after the publication came out, organizers had the pro-life groups removed from the list of partners. Backwards: the women who work to protect the unborn were slighted. This reaches farther than the march. If one were to search the New Wave Feminists on Wikipedia, they will see a tag, “This article is being considered for deletion…The neutrality of this article is being disputed.” It seems if a woman has a pro-life stance she is not welcome to a movement of women who are supposedly fighting injustice. This surfaces hypocrisy. A break down in the movement. Every woman should have a voice except those who are pro-life.
The tone of this march was that of persecution and the dire need to protect our freedom as women. When I consider the discrimination Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed, I can see how he was willing to give up his heartbeat for the freedom of his people. Isabel Wilkerson tracks the insidious evil of racism in her book. This was far more than just the stories we are most familiar with from history class of segregation on the bus or separate water fountains. A man almost beaten to death because he asked the clerk at the store for a receipt . A black person driving their car behind a white person and not allowed to pass regardless of how slow the white individual drove. Blacks in NYC and Chicago having to pay twice as much for an apartment two times smaller than that of white people. White people in the south fining $20,000 to anyone from the north recruiting a black person in the south to work for better wages. Black individuals trying to work out a deal with funeral homes to escape across country in a coffin. And many did it. A group of white men forcing a black man into the woods to torture and beat him to the point of near death before a scheduled hanging. Black people having a “colored Bible” in the courtrooms. Historical landmarks such as the Cicero Riot in Chicago in 1951 where a “college-educated, well-mannered, and looked like movie stars…” black family found a perfect apartment to meet their needs. But this was an all-white neighborhood which led to protests, rage and eventually 4000 people gathering to throw rocks and bricks and fire-bombing the entire building. “The rioters overturned police cars and threw stones at the firefighters who were trying to put the blaze out.”
THIS is oppression. THIS is injustice. THIS is hate and cruelty. Women today, me included, have no true sense of this level of societal abuse. We have exploitation we face for sure. And individually, many women have severe abuse going on in their homes. But the passion to march now, with such rage, must be tempered with perspective. And this is what seems off. We should always act with wisdom concerning what we fight about and how we execute our cause.
At this recent march in Washington, DC, Madonna called this “an age of tyranny.” Ashley Judd said she “feel[s] Hitler in these streets.” To anyone who has survived the torture and starvation of the Holocaust, I am wondering if they would disagree. Outrage was voiced regarding taxes that women pay on feminine products and the validation of the LGBTQ community. But the anger seemed to be directed mostly at the threat on women’s rights concerning abortion. For years I have observed our nation rise up on this topic. After careful inspection the argument breaks down with inconsistencies. If we look closely, we can spot it. One scenario refers to a fetus a “baby.” In another scenario, a fetus is called a “tissue.” Roe v. Wade protects the rights of women to have an abortion. However, another law conflicts. In 2004 the government passed The Unborn Victims of Violence Act. This was established to assure the rights of a child in utero. The law states that if someone causes harm or death to a baby in utero, it would be considered an entirely separate offense from the offense to the mother. Two crimes. Likewise, when certain medications are suggested, a doctor must be completely sure a woman is not pregnant before signing off on the prescription since taking it can harm the child. This is confusing. When a woman walks into an abortion clinic, why would this procedure not be considered “a danger to the child” in utero? The question of if a woman desires to have a baby or if she does not want to have a baby, seems to then determine the justification of the action. If she does, we must take all precaution to keep this growing child safe and healthy. We must protect it. If a woman does not want to have the child, we must defend her right to abort it. There is a mass call to ignore basic contradictions such as these. And most of the time, we willing do so. Mark Twain warned us, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.”
I laugh when I hear myself say, “When I was a kid…” Pre-internet days seem like another lifetime. We all agree that life is moving in a fast-forward pace. Some things have dramatically changed. The manner of women is one metamorphosis for each of us to reflect on. In many ways, this is much-needed growth. Women have needed a voice. Men have needed our voices and they still do, especially in the church. There is a quality women bring that man do not have. But like everything, there is a flip side to the positive. Women have reacted by shoving anything aside to get to the front of the line. Whenever any of us are driven by our rights, we can lose perspective of the greater good for society. We will compromise many things for this goal. It is in our nature. Women used to be known as the protectors and defenders of children. The rights of children always took priority over our own. Adrenaline would rush through a woman’s veins and she would perform heroic responses on behalf of a child. In fact, women were known to risk their own lives to save the life of a child. The priority of children looks oddly different today; it has taken a different shape. Too often a child is