“Where are all the women?” my young friend Paula demanded over lunch last week. “You tell me why women all over this country aren’t out demonstrating against all this horrible legislation that’s going on.”
She was talking, of course, about all the anti-female legislation going on at both the state and national levels. In the midst of a stagnant economy and huge deficits, somebody had met the enemy and it was female. More specifically, females of childbearing age who need information about contraception and reproductive health and prenatal care. The women who urgently need services you can find at Planned Parenthood.
Somehow, because a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s services involve abortion, PP had become an easy target. Reread that preceding sentence: It’s true, but it makes absolutely no sense. Three percent of PP’s services involve abortion, which is not government funded — so state and national governments are going to scrap funding for the remaining 97 percent of services everyone with half a brain agrees are valuable to society?
“Where are the women?” Paula demanded again. “Why isn’t everyone furious about this?”
Where are the women? I don’t know. If they’re younger, they’re probably too busy earning a living and bringing up kids and feeding them to protest much of anything. (The economy’s still shaky, remember?)
If they’re older — like me — I think something else is going on. Since I’m the only woman of my generation in this room, pecking at the computer, I’ll elect myself by acclamation to speak for women of a certain age. You know what? I think we’re fucking sick and tired of all of this. We’re astonished that an organization as august and invaluable and moderate as Planned Parenthood is under attack. Planned Parenthood, the responsible group once supported even by moderate Republicans like George and Barbara Bush.
It all reminds me of the Swift Boat attack on John Kerry in ’04. The whole smear campaign was so patently ridiculous: A genuine war hero was running against a guy who spent the Vietnam War stateside going AWOL from the National Guard — and you’re going to smear the vet as a coward? How laughable was that? Why even bother replying?
Yes, if I’m going to have the temerity to speak for many women of my generation, I’d say we’re exhausted from having unending arguments with clowns. Yes, the Earth is far older than a few thousand years. Yes, if you want your state to prosper, you’re going to have to invest in education. Yes, Planned Parenthood brings valuable services to women who need it — and its defunding will cost our society enormously.
And why are we having these arguments that aren’t worthy of John Nance Garner’s bucket of warm spit? How many more decades and centuries will they go on? (I refuse to leave my state or my country to the weasels, but sometimes I do think I might require citizenship on a new planet. Astronomers, please advise.)
I told you I was tired. And, when I’m tired, I often distract myself so I won’t go completely non compos. So, let me tell you an offbeat little story about political protest. In the early 2000s, my husband gave $1.98 to the national branch of the Republican Party.
Why? I screamed at him.
Because, he said, he wanted to be on their mailing list.
The weeks passed and he got letter after letter, plea after plea to write a check and save the country from the infidels. After my initial humiliation at having Republican Party literature delivered to our house, I started watching my husband more closely.
A few weeks earlier, he’d taken down an overhead fan that was broken, replaced it, and left the old fan in our den floor. (Another source of contention, but never mind.) Now, he started dismantling the broken fan blade by blade. He would take a blade and tape on a return postage-paid envelope from the Republican Party, then drop it off at the post office. “I’m a big fan of Dick Cheney!” he’d written on one of the envelopes.
The blades disappeared slowly, but before they were gone, our postman started automatically dropping the blades back at our house. “They seem to be on to us,” my husband said.
A diverting little story. Sometimes, though, I think my husband’s little political protest did more good than all the protest marches I’ve been in over the years. If I move to another planet, I’m going to insist on overhead fans.
(Copyright 2011 by Ruth Pennebaker)