It looks like my writer’s block is over.
The NYTimes has an editorial about Ruth Bader-Ginsburg’s thoughts on Roe v. Wade. This is prompted by her tepid approach to marriage equality and that a grand sweeping ruling may become the new political football that provokes a backlash. I’m not sure that’s true in this case because as I wrote in my previous post, the right has some potentially good reasons for trying to steal the gay voting bloc away from Democrats. They may try to present marriage equality as a fait accompli to their more religious base that is dying out anyway.
At any rate, half of the gay population is already in the privileged class simply because they are men. As long as they kept their sexual orientation under the radar, there was nothing stopping gay men from partaking of all of the benefits of being male in this society. In a way, I think the success of marriage equality depends on men standing their ground and refusing to give up those privileges. The fact that lesbian couples may also benefit is just icing on the cake. So, maybe Ginsberg’s concerns are less grounded this time around. Besides, what are the Bible Belt states going to do? Become more obstinate, belligerent and Republican than they already are towards gay couples? Is that even possible?
But it’s a different story when it comes to Roe v. Wade. My theory is that Roe dealt a huge blow to the movement for women’s equality because once it was decided, many women had the mistaken idea that the battle was won. Instead, Roe became the political football for BOTH political parties. It’s the primary criteria for which party voters decide they belong. It’s the fear tactic that Democrats use to corral women to vote against their economic interests as much as it is the tactic that Republicans use to rally their constituents to feel power and control over other people’s lives.
Not only is Roe a political football, it has had major repercussions in setting back women’s equality. Because abortion has been such a cultural hot potato, we tend to see women as a collection of body parts, primarily reproductive body parts. We are uteruses and vaginas and breasts and all of our discussion is about who gets to control those body parts. I am not a man or a male hiring manager but I have to wonder what crosses men’s minds when they see a female colleague. Do they consider her intelligence, determination, ingenuity and hard work or do they secretly thank god that they weren’t born with ovaries that are subject to religious and governmental regulation? There are things the state can compel or forbid a woman from doing that men don’t have to worry about. I cannot believe that this doesn’t have an effect on how women are perceived in all the various aspects of her life. Maybe if she were a bit smarter, she wouldn’t have to put up with that.
I do not agree with the NYTimes editorial board that women wouldn’t have won their reproductive freedom without Roe. This is going to sound weird but when I was on the cusp of puberty back in 1970 when New York allowed abortions, feminism was vibrantly alive and kicking, unlike 2013 when it’s barely visible, tepid and calling yourself a feminist is outré and derogatory. You younguns don’t even know. You had to be there. Women were on a roll. I was brought up in a religiously fundamentalist household and yet I was a raging feminist back in the early 70s just like many of my friends. The world was our oyster and we could do anything. The zeitgeist was definitely and defiantly feminist. Roe brought that to a screeching halt. If Roe had failed, there would still have been states where you could have gotten an abortion and the fight would have intensified, not slackened because the effects of abortion restrictions elsewhere would still be vividly real.
So, if Bader-Ginsburg’s concerns are that Roe short circuited the political drive and momentum for women’s full equality, then I totally agree with her. There were a million reasons why Roe should have been decided as the law of the land but the best one is that women are free and equal persons whose rights should not be abridged simply because they have different genitalia.
Instead, what we have is a hollowed out right to abortion and no equality because we stopped fighting.
Dump Roe. Revive the ERA.