Funny You Should Ask Where the Women Are

“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)

Read this before you take your kid to work with you

19 comments… add one
  • You are so right. I am just tired and disgusted with it all. And seeing Sarah Palin on the national news crawling on the back of some dude’s Harley made me just ball up in a fetal position and suck my thumb.

  • Your husband is a good argument for bigamy.

    Remember the suggestion in the 2008 election to make a donation to PP in Sarah Palin’s name? It was apparently very effective (and very profitable for PP, mostly from new donors).

    Never underestimate the subversiveness of women and don’t give up your planet earth address yet.

  • bob cobb Link

    There are few things I enjoy more than decimating the rhetorical flimsy of heavy-handed effete feminist bores who spend their time doing air-conditioned moralizing on internet- perhaps because there are few things I enjoy more than women with actual gravitas rather than naval-gazing school marms thinking their edginess is proportional with their level of awkward indignation and how many times they can say “fuck.” Fuck fuck fuck fuck motherfucking fuck. I win. Also, I will enjoy this thoroughly.

    1) if it is anti-women policies that are ridding the country of exclusively woman-enjoyed provinces, then it is anti-men policies that requiring men who oppose these policies to pay for them. you want ’em? feel free to pay for it yourself without making me financially support youthful slatterns.

    2) I’m all for equality, therefore, I propose that all women who turn 18 be forced to sign a draft card like all men turned that age.

    3) If this conversation is indeed not about abortion, as you all so disingenuously claim, i suppose you and the rest of the PP supporters would equally support Gov. Mitch Daniel’s proposal to have PP entirely government-financed so long as they cease all abortion activities. At very least, I think that’d be a fantastic litmus test for what percentage of “feminists” aren’t consummate liars.

    4) the figure is 12%. 12% of planned parenthood services (332,000 out of 3 million unduplicated clients) and 37% of its revenue comes from those services. I get my blood pressure taken every time I go to get a check up, they also fill out dozens of forms. Believe me, 75% of doctors’ services isn’t form-filling and blood pressure-taking.

    5) inasmuch as I assume you and your husband and your faithful reader or two enjoys your stories of your tragically misguided sophomoric political protests, I don’t think you realize how indicative of your own and your political affiliations’ childish boorishness they really are.

    I realize it is much more intellectually facile to assume that the tens, even hundreds of millions of us who think your abortion policies are tantamount to supporting genocide are sexist rather than meet us on the rhetorical battleground. Demagoguery is the singular rhetorical tool of the left. It’s pathetically obvious. I’m sure, however, that you’re okay with Ed Schultz calling Laura Ingraham a whore like the brainiacs of The View are, or Jerry Brown calling Meg Whitman a “whore” as the California chapter of NOW is. But pardon me madam, your hypocrisy is showing.

    If 15 year old girls want to sleep around, let them do it, just don’t make me pay for their gyno visits. Eight years ago, when I was 17, I took my girlfriend at the time to PP to get birth control. Even as an adolescent I knew it was wrong for my neighbor to be paying for my privilege to have sex with my girlfriend. I can only hope the intellectual adolescents of the future left can have the wisdom of a resin-clouded mind of a horny teenager.

  • Paula Link

    While the insulting comment from Bob Cobb (really????) is infuriating, offensive, and incorrect on so many levels that I nearly screeched out loud, it’s after midnight and I only have time to address one particular comment. I depend on others to follow behind me and pick up where I am leaving off. Or remind me to just ignore the crazies and douchebags in the comments section.

    I am so sick of statements similar to the one from Mr. Cobb here: “just don’t make me pay for [it]”

    Nevermind that the 2 cents of your money that supports PP saves many times that in Welfare, Medicaid, uncompensated health charges for hospitals, etc. Mr. Cobb probably has no use for those programs either. And nevermind that none of your tax money actually subsidizes abortions. And nevermind that education about, prevention of, testing for, and treatment of STDs is a critical public health service.

    The true issue is: We don’t get to choose. I don’t get to decide if I want my tax dollars to support education, not war, or women’s health rather than tax breaks for oil companies. One doesn’t get to decide that because he doesn’t have children–or his children are grown–that he shouldn’t have to support education. Because these are public good, the good of the many, protected with varying degrees of success by our government, from greedy, selfish, smug assholes who would not give a penny to support anything that didn’t benefit themselves directly.

    And, as a final note, boy, I sure am glad that there was a place for a teenaged Bob and his “youthful slattern” to go and get subsidized birth control and reproductive health services.

  • Yes, most of us are tired. It’s time for the next generation to pick up the ball, and they aren’t. There’s something else going on for I had two jobs, two kids, and college when I marched and protested. My daughter has one job, one kid, and doesn’t protest tho she carries more units than I ever did. She says she has no time, and I believe her.

  • Ward Link

    Bob, at the advanced age of 25, certainly is committed to his anti-abortion stance, and I’m quite certain that he was prepared to step in as a responsible father had PP not been there. Or at least in the alternative, he’s surely a supporter of having the government pitch in to help the unintended offspring of those horny teenagers with food, housing and education.

  • Cindy A Link

    I think it’s that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and the batshit-screaming-crazy-anti-choice wheel just runs over everybody.

  • Oh, Bob, in a word, you’re a 25-year-old moron. If you knew it was “wrong for my neighbor to be paying for my privilege to have sex with my girlfriend,” then WTH did you do it, then? Because you weren’t ready to become a father? Exactly. The thing that gets me about men who are against PP and any funding to assist in family planning, is that they also believe in the myth of abstinence (Hey, Sarah Palin, how’s that working for ya!?)
    And the thing I also love about the “Bobs” of the world is that when a woman asserts any type of power, they like to go into name calling. I think the reason he likes the word “boorish” so much is that is what he sees when he looks into a mirror.
    My final message to Boorish Bob is to that of all men who think they should be able to legislate and have control over a woman’s body: When you can carry a child for 9 months, no matter if it was your choice or not to become pregnant (i.e. rape and incest), then we feminist bores may care about what you have to say.

  • This subject is so depressing that I cannot even come up with a worthwhile comment, but your husband’s protest did make me smile.

  • Ruth, for blood pressure reasons I will ignore the unbelievably nasty comment above but commend you for not just hitting delete on it. I guess it’s good for us to see how some people feel? What do we do to protest? Could you write a follow-up post with a call to action? I do care about these issues, and I would like to take action.

  • I think Living Large spelled it out nicely, so I’ll just say a big thumbs-up on that comment and keep fighting the good fight, Ruth.

  • Cindy D. Link

    Loved the fan story.

  • Honestly, I just don’t think anyone is paying attention. People will realize what has happened once it affects them and then it will be too late.

    Bob– I for one think the entire country should sign the draft card, just as they do in Israel. They ALL serve. No one gets out of it–regardless of sex or how important your parents are. Therefore the politicians make different decisions. It’s my understanding that women had to fight for the right to serve on the front lines here in the US.

  • I’m sorry, but Bob’s language is just so overblown and ill-used that I can’t even get past that first sentence, never mind engage his argument.

  • I hadn’t heard about giving money to PP in Sarah Palin’s name. THAT is hilarious. Thanks Duchess.

  • I wonder what “Bob Cobb’s” girlfriend would have to say on this matter?

  • Perhaps if you concentrated more on going into all the world spreading the gospel there wouldnt be places like these clinics. The other is this if we are going to protest against something and we do then we must also have solution.

  • An..abortion is invariably preceded by a pregnancy test–a separate..service in Planned Parenthoods reckoning–and is almost always..followed at the organizations clinics by a going home..packet of contraceptives which counts as another separate service…Throw in a pelvic exam and a lab test for STDs–you get the picture…In terms of absolute numbers of clients one in three visited Planned..Parenthood for a pregnancy test and of those a little under one in..three had a Planned Parenthood abortion. …Secondly Allen s.condescending description of a going home.packet of contraceptives post-abortion reveals her true.feelings about contraception. Pregnancy test options ultrasound going away packet plus abortion equals 5 services related to women obtaining surgical abortions.

  • Sarah Link

    What a surprise, a man speaks out againts some things he can’t stand concerning women and he get’s shamed and insulted. No worries, Bob, there a many people out there who agree with you, male and female. Not surprisingly, since I had to listen to what women say for the last almost 30 years, I usually stop listen. The same sexism they complain about is the sexism they use themself.

    Want to hear something funny? Often women use both the ” Behind every powerful man stands a woman” and the ” If women were the one in power, there wouldn’t be wars” argument., often the same women! You can’t have it both ways, ladies. Either with women there wouldn’t be wars or women secretly rule (well, they try, don’t they?) men. Prime example of the contrariness of women.

    Yes, yes, and since I’m a woman I should stand by women and show a bit of solidarity, right? No matter that this is again a matter which men get shamed for, it’s only good if women do it. Again.

    Fuck you

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