2012: A Rough Year for Women
This year has been a bit odd. Every time I turn on the news, some analyst is discussing abortion, birth control, or motherhood. While I’m interested in these topics, typically the mainstream media isn’t. But now, from Rush Limbaugh dropping the “s” word, to the GOP’s alleged “war on women,” and the Susan G. Komen funding controversy, us lady folk can’t seem to stay out of the news. This can be seen as a negative because a lot of the legislation proposed and passed this year has been restrictive to women’s rights (particularly reproductive rights). But there is a positive side. For the first time in a long time, the country is having a conversation about the role of women, and, consequently, the role of feminism, in 2012.
I would point to the beginning of all this at the 2010 election, which resulted a record number of abortion restrictions passed in state governments. Following the trend, Congress attempted to pass legislation banning abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks. Mississippi is actively trying to shut down the only abortion clinic left in the state. Eight states require women to undergo a medically unnecessary transvaginal ultrasound before an abortion. About which Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett said, “I’m not making anyone watch, okay. You just have to close your eyes.” Thanks for the reassurance. I guess nothing demonstrates how focused you are on fixing the economy more than forcing a woman to keep a fetus she doesn’t want or can’t afford.
Abortions, though, could be made rare once birth control is covered for every woman under universal health care. But with abortion being such a divisive topic, it seems like politicians just want women to become nuns. Of course, simultaneously, nuns are being accused of promoting “radical feminism” by the Vatican. So, I have to wonder, what is “acceptable” for a woman nowadays?
Perhaps we should just keep our heads down and focus on our professional success. But the Paycheck Fairness Act failed, so there is no guarantee that we will be compensated equally compared to men. We could attempt to change all of this, get involved in politics. Though, remember, if you mention the word “vagina,” you will get a timeout.
And when we try to escape the real world, look for a distraction, a laugh, we are told that “women aren’t funny.” So, fine, we won’t be comedians. Can we just go and watch comedians? Sure, but there is a chance these comedians might imply that it would be funny if you were gang raped. If that’s the standard of humor, maybe it’s a complement that women aren’t funny.
So, after such a year, how can I claim there has been anything positive? Well, all of these matters have resulted in a wakeup call. Women have protested at state capitols and donated in mass to Planned Parenthood. From Hilary Rosen to Anne-Marie Slaughter, we have conducted a national discussion about the expectations for working mothers. Nineteen-year-old Julie Zeilinger published a book about “why feminism isn’t a dirty word.” Jezebel exists. And, my personal favorite, “The Melissa Harris-Perry Show” premiered on MSNBC.
Harris-Perry optimizes this generation’s feminist movement because for her, race, gender, politics, economics, sexuality, and religion are undeniably intertwined. She challenges her panelists and her audience to recognize the complexities of each issue. As a professor, she also provides the necessary historical background that is often denied in sound-bite journalism. During her final few minutes on air each week, Harris-Perry singles out an individual as a “foot soldier,” someone who should be acknowledge for their contributions to society. I would assert that Harris-Perry has been this year’s foot soldier.
But it is only July. Who knows what new legislation will be proposed, what new controversies arise. All I know is, American women will be ready.