Voting is for the Girls!

Lego Girls Vote – by Kay T. Holt


We raise our children to be the bosses of their own bodies. We teach them to dress and wash and feed themselves, and to keep their private parts private. But if our children happen to be daughters, there’s an oft-neglected aspect of self-care that we must impart: Voting. It may seem strange to count civic participation among the apparatus required for the care and protection of women’s bodies, but it may be the most important tool in our kit.

For those who’ve forgotten the suffragettes: The only reason women have the right to vote in this country — or in any country — is because women insisted and carried on insisting in creative, energetic, and above all incorrigible ways until they moved the law of the land. Which is why voting is “for the girls.”

Or else.

Left to their own devices, powerful men will relieve us of the right — but not the responsibility — of minding our own business. National and state legislatures have declared women’s health issues their top priority since 2010, making what happens between our legs more important than the economy, more important than war, and more important than climate change.

Maybe that’s as it should be; lady parts are pretty amazing, after all.

Self-Portrait by Del Dryden (used with permission)


The trouble is that lawmakers are doing it all wrong. Instead of proposing record numbers of laws to protect and improve women’s access to effective and affordable healthcare, the legislatures are doing everything they can to disenfranchise women short of repealing the 19th amendment.

From the Guttmacher Institute

“Why extremists always focus on women remains a mystery to me, but they all seem to. It doesn’t matter what country they’re in or what religion they claim. They want to control women. They want to control how we dress. They want to control how we act. They even want to control the decisions we make about our own health and bodies.” —Hillary Clinton

In spite of the progress our country made in recent generations, some people still believe that family planning and our sexual healthcare should NOT be left up to women; that they should be controlled by men. Unfortunately, many men elected to office are either ill-informed about how reproduction and contraception work, or are committed to social agendas which are at odds with the welfare of women. Because ignorance and prejudice in politics are vulnerable against informed and active voters, lawmakers with these conflicts of interest are bound do everything in their power to ensure that more of their like-minded citizens are able to vote than those of us likely to oppose regressive legislation.

“The dumbest thing I ever did was let you learn to read.” –My conservative father to me

I Did Not Raise My Girl To Be A Voter (public domain)


Abortion and other women’s rights are under heavy fire right now because it’s an election year and dividing the voting populace has always been an effective strategy for garnering more votes along one side or another of an issue. Voter suppression, in its various forms, is another effective and equally ugly strategy to manipulate electoral outcomes. Under the guise of preventing election theft (an offense more often linked to bumbling election officials and glitchy vote-counting machines than with individual voters), lawmakers in many states are advancing bills designed to reduce the number of eligible citizens who are able to register and vote.

“Seventy percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win in 2012 will now come from states with new restrictive voting laws.” —Brennan Center For Justice

Men, who love the Freedom which your Fathers won for You, Pay your Debt by Winning Freedom for your Daughters (public domain)


Like the original Jim Crow laws, these new anti-voting rules disproportionately affect minority groups. They also often make it too costly, complicated, and inconvenient for poor, student, and elderly voters to participate in elections. Because women are more likely than men to be poor, more women than men are students, and more than twice as many women as men live past the age of 85, voter suppression efforts also disproportionately affect women.

In other words: Regardless of our individual opinions around abortion, other forms of birth control, and healthcare reform at large, women must vote. If we don’t exercise that right, it could very well be taken from us.

“I have a right to nothing which another has a right to take away…” —Thomas Jefferson

Citizens United helps corporate puppets and other power-hungry zealots get elected in the first place, but they can only stay in office by our leave. And the regressive laws they pass will stand only if we stop resisting them. Fortunately, recent events remind us that public pressure scares the pants off politicians:

“Female authority is still associated with childhood. The last time a lot of powerful guys saw a powerful woman, they were 8, and they feel regressed to childhood by a powerful woman in a way that they don’t feel with a man.” —Gloria Steinem

Activism has always been key to overcoming suppression. In this age of social media, it is easier than ever to organize against disenfranchisement and other social ills. We can signal-boost for women’s rights on Twitter with just a few clicks and inveigh directly to our representatives on Facebook. It takes a little more effort to expand those conversations on our blogs, but it’s worthwhile for women to speak our minds. And while it’s vital that we support and maintain online efforts to expose and counter attacks on our rights, nothing beats direct action In Real Life.

We simply cannot afford to be passive. Fortunately, the internet also makes it easier to form new partnerships, locate existing groups, and join each other offline for some good old-fashioned peaceful protest.

Unite Against The War On Women 04-28-2012


We’re not the weaker sex, only the disempowered sex. But we have strength of numbers — more than half of the US population is female — we just need to put that strength to good use.

The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution reads:

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

In this era of the War on Women, perhaps we should interpret it to include the notion that our rights shall not be usurped on account of having sex.

It Doesn’t ‘Unsex’ Her… (public domain)

Further reading:

Further Viewing:

Michigan Woman Could Get 93 Days in Jail for Planting a Garden

Michelle Obama lives in arguably the most prestigious home in America. In 2009, she dug up a portion of the South Lawn and installed an organic vegetable garden to provide fresh produce for the White House kitchen. Short of the chemical companies who produce pesticides – definitely not allowed in an organic garden – who could complain about such a plan? It’s a great example of sourcing foods locally and Washington DC school children have had the chance to dig in the dirt, learning just where their food comes from.

It’s a good thing the White House isn’t located in Oak Park, Michigan.

The Bass family’s front yard vegetable garden.

When the Bass family had to tear into their lawn to repair a sewer line, instead of replacing the grass they decided to plant a vegetable garden. Oak Park city officials were not impressed with the family’s idea and asked them to move the garden to the backyard.

“Five beds, six yards of compost, about 90 plants – but most important of all, on principle — no!!!!” says Julie Bass.

Short of a little container gardening, this is the first time the Bass family has grown a garden. But instead of focusing their efforts on developing new gardening skills and harvesting the fruits of their labor, Julie Bass, a mother of six, finds herself facing a court battle and possibly jail time.

Over a vegetable garden.

The family would love to raise chickens for fresh eggs, have a goat for milking, and generate electricity with a windmill. They haven’t done so because those activities are not allowed in Oak Park. Vegetable gardening, however, is not explicitly against city codes. So what’s the problem? City code requires that front yard landscapes have “suitable, live plant material.” Well, since the plants in the Bass front yard are not made of silk or plastic, it appears that the battle is over what’s “suitable.”

Is a green lawn maintained with chemical pesticides and fertilizers and trimmed with a gasoline-powered mower suitable? Not in my book.  I think it’s entirely UNsuitable to expose our communities to the dangers of poisons on a daily basis just to maintain conformity.

“If you look at the definition of what suitable is in Webster’s dictionary, it will say common*. So, if you look around and you look in any other community, what’s common to a front yard is a nice, grass yard with beautiful trees and bushes and flowers,” says Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski in an interview on WJBK Fox News in Detroit.

Following that line of thought, would the front yard vegetable garden become suitable if the majority of households in the Bass’ Oak Park neighborhood tore out their lawns and planted vegetable gardens of their own? Vegetable gardens would then be common, and by your reasoning, thus, “suitable.”

“That’s not what we want to see in a front yard,” says Rulkowski about the Bass’ veggies.

Beg pardon, Mr. Rulkowski, but who are you to say what is and isn’t desirable – or suitable – in a front yard? Determining what passes for “suitable” landscape is purely subjective. Your opinion surely differs from that of the Bass family and many of their neighbors.

Is a statue of St. Anthony suitable? Or what about topiary? Where exactly is the line – and who draws it?

You know what I think is suitable and desirable? This:

organic, vegetables, edible landscaping, Oak Park, front yard, Bass,
Photo: Rosalind Creasy, used with permission
organic, vegetables, edible landscaping, Oak Park, front yard, Bass,
Photo: Rosalind Creasy, used with permission
organic, vegetables, edible landscaping, Oak Park, front yard, Bass,
Photo: Rosalind Creasy, used with permission

Isn’t it gorgeous? These photos are from Rosalind Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping. Ms. Creasy has done an amazing job of combining vegetables and flowers for an aesthetically pleasing landscape. In other words, it’s a very suitable landscape – that happens to produce vegetables. I can’t imagine that Mr. Rulkowski would have any quibbles with a lush front yard like this, vegetables or no. Certainly the Bass’ immature garden isn’t quite as lush as Ms. Creasy’s mature landscape, but with a little TLC (and a lot less BS, if you don’t mind my saying) the potential for a gorgeous, produce-bearing garden is great.

The Bass family is doing something different, certainly, than most folks in their neighborhood – but why in the world would the City of Oak Park spend any of its budget fighting a battle against people who have simply opted for a different type of landscape? One that provides sustenance for household members, in the form of food and companionship from the neighbors who stop by to visit the garden? Does Oak Park not have any actual criminals?

Instead of condemning this family, Oak Park would do well to use them as an example of how residents can build a sense of community through growing food.

“I think this has been a great experience for the neighborhood kids- lots of them come over any time we do anything outside,” says Julie. “They were here to help shovel the dirt, and dig the holes for the seeds, and water the new plants. They love to come over and sit and hang out on the swing, and [a] neighbors’ son actually gives garden tours to people who want to know what specific plants are- it’s too cute!”

The City of Oak Park is charging Julie Bass with a misdemeanor that could carry a 93 day jail sentence. Julie is blogging about the experience of being on the wrong end of the city planner’s office and the right side of common sense, here.

*The definition of “suitable” in Merriam-Webster (both online and in my old tattered print copy) does not include the word “common.”

GeekMoms, what do you think? Is the City of Oak Park out of line? Or should the Bass family move the garden to the backyard?