I have mulled this particular post for a couple of months now. I think this is the perfect day for it.
I originally was going to call it “Two Broken Girls” because the initial inspiration was the juxtaposition of an image of Malal Yousufzai (the brave young Pakistani girl whom the Taliban attempted to assassinate for her outspoken defense of educating girls and women) against the soft core porn pedaled by such mainstream American comedies as “Two Broke Girls” (I have a lot of other problems with that particular show but when they had a scene where the leads slapped each other suggestively that was the final straw).
Then Jyoti Singh Pandey was raped and murdered in India causing that country to finally come to its senses and speak out en masse against this formerly silent crime. And Anene Booysen was raped and murdered in South Africa igniting a similar series of protests in South Africa. I began to feel hopeful that there really was a shift in the zeitgeist and that women and children were going to get the protection they need and deserve.
In the last couple of days I have become less optimistic. The federal Violence Against Women Act was finally renewed in the Senate. But 22 rich, old, white men (yes, I know at least one of them was black but I think in this case we can be pretty sure he’s really white in his heart of hearts) voted against it and they will most likely be reelected next time they run. So there’s that.
But the WORST and MOST DISCOURAGING thing that I saw recently was at the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Mr. Obama was talking about equal pay for equal work. Actually using his bully pulpit to advocate that women should not be making 75 cents for every dollar a man makes. The camera panned the audience and I saw three congresswomen looking grim, shaking their heads and one of them actually mouthed the word “no”. These three gender traders were Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA,) Lynn Jenkins (R-KS,) and Virginia Foxx (R-NC). I urge anyone who reads this and is a constituent of any of these women to contact them and tell them exactly how wrong they are. Economic violence is in many ways much, much worse than physical violence. Physical violence you can walk away from or recover from but women who live in poverty (and most people living below the poverty level are women and their children) cannot just walk away. And any society that says it is protecting the female half of their population while still not providing the ability to earn a living wage is just flat-out lying.
And don’t even get me started on the whole Sport’s Illustrated swimsuit issue mess. This is what we are telling our young women. The only way to economic success is getting mostly naked and posing for a photograph that will then be plastered five stories high on the side of a building in NYC. That too is a form of economic and psychological violence.
We have had better models offered to us. Roseanne Barr being one. That woman is who she is and makes no apologies for it. A woman who has been successful on her own terms telling the truth about what life is really like for most women and their families in this country. Gabby Gifford, a woman struggling to overcome the effects of the most violent of attacks, a gun shot to the head, and still firmly resolved to do what she can to make this country a kinder, gentler place. And yes, even Hillary Clinton, although I am not a big fan, I do admire her dedication and determination to find peaceful, non-violent solutions whenever she possibly could during her tenure as Secretary of State. She worked so hard that she may have sacrificed her own health in the process. You have to admire that kind of guts and determination.
So how does all of this tie together? I don’t know. I just know that until women start respecting themselves more it is going to be damn hard for anyone else to respect us. And the truth is that when you don’t respect someone it is mighty easy to treat that person in an abusive way. Maybe that’s it. That’s the message. Love and respect. Two great things to be thinking about on this Valentine’s Day.
P.S. As I was editing this post the spell checker highlighted “congresswomen” and offered me the choices of “congresswoman” or “congressmen”!!! What the fuck WordPress? There can only be one congresswoman but many congressmen. Talk about hidden sexism. I am disappointed to say the least.