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.”
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.
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.
- Arizona Republican Wants To Force Women To Witness Abortion Before Having One
- Arizona Senate Passes Bill Allowing Doctors To Not Inform Women Of Prenatal Issues To Prevent Abortions
- Proposed Arizona Bill Would Allow Employers To Fire Women Using The Pill for Birth Control
- Chuck Winder, Idaho Lawmaker, Suggests Women Use Rape As Excuse for Abortions
- Texas Loses Entire Women’s Healthcare Program Over Anti-Planned Parenthood Law
- Tennessee Bill May Expose Identities Of Women Seeking Abortions
- Pennsylvania GOP Governor Defends Ultrasounds Bill: Tells Concerned Women ‘You Just Have To Close Your Eyes’
- Alaska Bill Requires Signed Permission From The Impregnating Man Before Abortion
“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
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
- League Of Women Voters Forced By Florida Law To Suspend Voter Registration Efforts
- Colorado GOP House Approves Bill Requiring ID At Polls
- Nebraska Election Commission Plans to Close Polling Locations In Low-Income And Minority Neighborhoods
- Minnesota House And Senate Pass Constitutional Amendment Requiring ID At Polls
- Pennsylvania Governor Signs Voter ID Bill Into Law
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:
- Senator McCain Backtracks After Supporting The Blunt Amendment
- Senator Murkowski Regrets Voting For Blunt Amendment
- Due To Public Comments Against It, AZ Senate President Pulls Public Bill Allowing Employers To Fire Women Using Birth Control
- Idaho’s Forced Ultrasound Bill May Be Dead
- Utah Governor Vetoes Bill Curbing Sex Education In Public Schools
- Republican Congressman Tells Women To Support Democrats
“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.
- Male Congressmen Now Being Inundated With Handmade Vaginas
- Women Say “Flush Rush [Limbaugh]” With 500 Rolls Of Toilet Paper
- Female Lawmaker In Ohio Proposes Law Restricting Men’s Access To Viagra
- State Senator Proposes ‘Spilled Semen’ Amendment To Oklahoma Personhood Bill
- Wilmington, Delaware City Council Urges: Personhood Rights For Sperm
- Women Step Up Protests After Virginia Ultrasound Law Passes
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.
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.
- Highly Restrictive Abortion Laws Do Not Lead To Fewer Abortions
- More Than Half Of All Reproductive-Age US Women Now Live In States Hostile To Abortion
- Updates On The War Of The Uterus
- Centrist Women Tell Of Disenchantment With Republicans