I recently spent a wonderful afternoon with the lovely, the beautiful, the brilliant Anna Ellermeier, president of the student body of Western Washington University, soon to graduate with a degree in Spanish, and Law, Diversity and Social Justice; and formerly a voice and piano student of mine. She made an apple tart with Granny Smiths and honey and served it with English breakfast tea, just the way I like it.
I asked her if women on the Bellingham campus were upset about some of the birth control and abortion laws that are trying to get themselves passed in statehouses all over the country. Her eyes widened, “Oh yes!” she said. “Because we’ve always had those rights, we haven’t understood that we had to work to keep them.”
Talking to Anna and other former students—who I have instructed to stop introducing me as “my old piano teacher”—is my best antidote when I despair of the human race or of the earth herself. Another reason, besides college students to feel hopeful about the future of women in the U.S, is men. In the 60s, the women’s movement knocked a lot of men and women off their balance. But in the intervening years, many of us have discovered what’s in it for us. In recognizing women as Persons, we have gained so much.
Women and men have had to grow up—or not. We’ve discovered parts of ourselves that we had perhaps hoped would be taken care of by someone of the opposite sex. We’ve appreciated that we all have the full menu of what it means to be human, in differing proportions to other persons. It isn’t necessary to always delineate male and female especially in unedifying ways: “Isn’t that just like a man.” “You know how women are.”
When I was a girl, an outburst of Personhood was often quelled by the accusation, “That’s not ladylike.” I had no defense for this. My mind whited out at the condemnation in the tone, leaving me unable to question what the hell “ladylike” had to do with anything. This wasn’t an unusual response in my generation.
If people didn’t know what to make of the women’s movement of the 60s, today’s Facebook generation has put a less refined point on it. Senators and Governors who are backing bills to make birth control –birth control– and abortion difficult and who have Facebook pages, are finding out that today’s Persons can fight on any level that’s necessary. The comments are showing up by the thousands. Some poor government flunkey can’t scrub them fast enough.
Here’s one of the tamer responses to the bill requiring a vaginal ultra-sound before a Person could get an abortion:
“Hello Senator, My daughter is still young but will one day be a woman and before I know it, she’ll be having her curse, if ya know what I mean. What should she expect from a government that wants to probe her vagina? How do I explain the whole good touch, bad touch thing when politicians think it’s acceptable to explore vaginas with plastic instruments? Also, is this part of a plan to create jobs somehow?”
“You know Senator, I’ve wished all my life that a man would know more about my own vaginal issues than I do, and now you’re here!”
A spokeswoman for one of the politicians being inundated with Facebook comments has, in a version of “That’s not ladylike,” said “There is no place for such inappropriate comments.”
Oh, I don’t know. I find them entertaining. This is Facebook. If you can’t stand the comments, you can always change your status. Politicians are the last people on earth to be lecturing the rest of us about appropriate public language. I think it’s appropriate that the topic of women’s bodies and women’s rights has become as messy as childbirth itself. It’s about time for something new to be born.