With Fresh Eyes: Fighting Back

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by Rich Nelson

Lingering just beneath the headlines, another directive recently enacted further erodes the legal reproductive rights of women, a step intended primarily to adversely impact the Planned Parenthood organization.  This new directive, implemented by the Trump administration, places restrictions – such as not allowing patient referrals to abortion services - on organizations receiving Title X Family Planning Program monies.  This equates to a wider concerted effort to defund Planned Parenthood, with the ultimate goal of forcing the closure of their clinics, a relentless campaign led by anti-abortion forces and aided by the current administration.  Lost in this effort are the many vital services the organization provides, primarily for young, female and low-income patients.  Wellness exams, comprehensive contraceptive services, and cancer and STD screenings are in the forefront of their mission.  Also lost is that Planned Parenthood, particularly in remote areas, is often the only accessible family planning provider.

Broadening this issue, the above directive further amplifies the tenacious prevalence of male privilege in our society, manifesting itself in many arenas.  It encompasses such issues as wage inequality, in which women are often paid just 80% of men’s salaries.  It can take the form of harassment in workplace environments.  It’s the hush money paid to keep extra-marital affairs quiet.  It takes shape in disparaging language, such as the word “chick,” a favored putdown used frequently by a certain local columnist. 

Our current President, the embodiment of an alpha male, carries with him a long-standing record of objectifying women.  A sampling of his words:  1992:  In an interview with New York Magazine, on women: “You have to treat ‘em like s…”  1994: “When I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.”  2006: “Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting, both inside and out.  If you take a look at her, she’s a slob.”  During the 2016 presidential primaries, on Republican candidate Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face.  Would anyone vote for that?”  Trump told Chris Matthews in an interview during the primary season that women who have an abortion should be punished.  In the first 2016 Presidential debate, Trump interrupted Clinton 25 times in the first half-hour, and, in a later debate, called her a “nasty woman.”  And, lest we forget the sexually vulgar and aggressive language heard on the infamous Access Hollywood tape: this goes well beyond “boy talk,” as Melania Trump described the tape in defense of her husband. 

This sense of privileged entitlement is a cultural leech in need of an exorcism.  It reaches into many circles, yet standing up to it has now brought down such accused abusers as Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Kevin Spacey, and Roy Moore.  Dismissive and degrading behavior, driven and reinforced by historical gender and societal expectations and enforcements, are more openly challenged today, with credit to the #MeToo movement and the courageous women (and men) stepping forward with their stories.

Politically, the upshot of fighting back has been astonishing.  A record number of women are running for public office in 2018.  Just last week, Stacey Abrams won the Gubernatorial primary in Georgia, and she could become the first African-American female Governor in U.S. history.  Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, won an upset victory in the Democratic primary in Kentucky’s 6th district for a U.S. House seat.  Across the country, 476 women have filed to run for the U.S House this year.

This movement, and with it the momentum, takes on significance in our everyday lives, too.  And it can prompt worthy discussion of important life lessons.  A recent social media post  reinforces the value of instilling in our young people a respect toward others.  The post reads: “My teenage nephew told me he asked a girl out and she (adamantly) turned him down.  I said, ‘You know what to do now, right?’  He said, ‘I know, I know, keep trying’ and I said, ‘No, leave her alone.  She gave you an answer.’  He was shocked.  No one had told him that before.  Teach your boys.”

Yes, the times … they are a-changin’. 

Contact Rich at richmskgn@gmail.com