It was 1989. It was two o'clock in the morning. I was a sophomore in college, nineteen-years-old, sitting on the floor in the living room of my college apartment. I can still remember the sounds of the screams; the feeling of shattered glass as it brushed passed me; and my roommate's voice asking if everyone was ok.
We were making posters to take with us to D.C. the next day for the Pro-Choice March on Washington. “Keep your rosaries off my rosaries;" “Pro-Choice = Pro-Woman;" “Keep your legislation out of my uterus;" our signs read. That was why we were now sitting in a room strewn with glass. That was why we were suddenly looking at a brick in the center of the room.
That brick had a piece of paper wrapped around it held in place by a dirty rubber band. I can't tell you why I remember it was dirty. But I do. I remember all sorts of minute details from that early morning because it was the most frightened I believe I had ever been up until that point in my life. No one said a word. My roommate rolled the rubber band off the brick and unfolded the note.
“Death to Feminazis and baby killers," the note read. We were all stunned. We cleaned up the glass. We talked nervously about whether or not to call the police. We were scared. And then we were angry. We went back to our sign making. The terrorists had failed. They didn't make us from our path. They only fueled our resolve.
That was nearly thirty years ago, and I still hear those words volleyed carelessly around – Feminazi, babykiller - and I am still stunned that denying healthcare to women is something people vehemently fight for and I am still puzzled at the arguments used as not one of them is valid or applicable. All I could think then, and all I still have to believe today, is that the battle is not about abortion or babies or human life. Never was. Never will be. The battle is over men controlling women's bodies.
It's not hard to see. A simple parsing of the “arguments" used by the anti-choicers. (I will not call them pro-lifers as they are not in any way supporting life). First they argue that life begins at conception not because of science but because of God. Well, seeing as believing in God is both a choice and something that the law says must be keep separated from matters of state, that's a non-starter.
Second, they argue that abortion kills babies, also a non-starter. Abortion removes cells that would otherwise develop into babies. Cells have no rights. Third, they argue that “life" must be protected. But these same people have absolutely no interest in the life of the mother. They don't care if her life is in danger because of the birth or because someone will kill her if they discover she's pregnant. And they have equally no interest in the life of the baby once she or he is born as the same anti-choicers who kidnap women to keep them from having abortions do not support governmental services to care for the child.
Photo Courtesy of QNS"They don't care if her life is in danger because of the birth or because someone will kill her if they discover she's pregnant."
So, they have no right putting their religion on other people's bodies, and they don't actually care about life. They just feign to in order to help their cause. They don't take issue with any other medical procedure. They don't take issue with men masturbating and wasting their seed. Shouldn't that sperm be saved to make a baby? And these are the same folks who are happy to see insurance cover Viagra. But if a pregnancy, even in the case of incest or rape is God's will, how is impotence not God's will? Clearly God does not want impotent men to procreate. Otherwise, he would have assured their ability to have sex.
The same arguments get played over and over and the fact that they are not arguments at all simply doesn't seem to matter. Over the years, the anti-choicers have killed doctors, kidnapped women, and blown up clinics. Yet, they claim they support life. Over the years, anti-choicers have argued that more women die when abortion is legal. Yes, they actually argue that more women die from safe, legal, accessible abortions then from resorting to having wire hangers and filthy knives and probes inserted into their vaginas while they lay on soiled sheets draped over tables set in dirty alleys and basements.
This is not about opinions. This is about statistics. This is about facts. This is about thousands of women a year who died when abortion was illegal. This is about creating a myth about abortion doctors chopping up babies and selling their parts. This is about control. This is about control. This is about control.
What anti-choicers actually want to is control women. They want to control women's bodies. They want to control women's sexuality. They see abortion as a method of birth control, as an easy out for women whoring around and carelessly getting pregnant at every turn. Take it from a women who has had an abortion. Who has walked through the screaming protestors at the clinic, who has laid on the table and heard the whir of the machine, who has suffered the pain of the procedure and the blood of recovery. Women do not have frivolously have abortions. They do not figure, “Why not have unprotected sex? Who cares if I get pregnant? I can always just pop on over to the clinic and have a painful, expensive procedure that will leave me cramping and aching and sore and bleeding for days to come."
And how do you explain the women who are anti-choicers? That's easy. Brainwashing. It is a powerful tool. It is a tool passed down generation to generation. The lies are set in place. God's law is law. Abortion kills beautiful little full term babies. A baby born as a result of a rape or a case of incest is a good thing coming out of something bad. Only sluts get abortions. There is a stronghold on the minds of women who still believe they in any way need a man to survive. Side note – they don't.
It's all wildly ridiculous and it is all wildly offensive. If anti-choicers were really about protecting life, why not stop things at the source? What about the men who get them pregnant? Why not control them instead? Why not give them reversible vasectomies? Why not teach them to be pure? Why not have them vow their virginity to their mothers until marriage? Why not teach them that birth control is their responsibility? Why not, hmmm? Why not? Why not indeed.
The abortion battle is not about abortion. It never was. The abortion battle is about reminding women of their place. The abortion battle is about controlling women and their bodies and sexuality. The abortion battle is about continuing the nauseating “boys will boys" mentality that will forever mean they need mommy to clean up their messes. They need women to be chaste because it suits the story they have created for themselves.
But it's a story that simply does not make any sense. It's a vision that perpetuates that virgin/whore complex. It's a vision that infantilizes women. It's a vision that kills women. It's a vision that leads to unwanted babies. It's a vision that simply cannot be tolerated any longer.
It's simple. A separation of church and state is still the law of our land. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal because the religion of some does not support it. Women have a right to their bodies and healthcare. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal just because men want that control instead. Lives are saved when abortion is safe, legal, and accessible to ALL women. So, there is no reason to make abortion illegal because some people refuse to accept the facts that women die when abortion is illegal and babies suffer and die when they are unwanted.
This resurgence against abortion, like the horrible and devastatingly restrictive laws just passed in Mississippi and Iowa is a distraction. It is an attempt to chip away at women's autonomy. It's the same as suggesting insurance shouldn't cover birth control. It's the same as offering no sex ed or abstinence only education which is the same or worse. It's the same as purity balls.
My mother was so upset when she found out I was headed to Washington for the Pro-Choice March. She wasn't upset because I was supporting abortion rights. She was having upset that I was having to march for the same rights she had marched for decades prior. It is insanity that we are back here having this conversation again, or perhaps more to the point, still.
We have to pay attention. We have to vote in elections. We have to protest. We have to educate. We have to fight. If you think Handmaid's Tale could never happen. Think again. Walls come down one brick at a time until there is nothing but rubble. Abortion rights must stand lest the world of freedom and equality that we are still at work building is at risk of crumbling to the ground.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.