CARRIE STAMBAUGH | The Independent| Friday, April 20, 2012 1:18 am
I’m a member of the first generation of women who have been told from birth and always believed it to be absolutely true, “You can do, or be, anything you want to.”
An Astronaut? Absolutely.
A stay-at-home mom? Of course.
CEO of a Fortune 500 Company? You could start your own.
Our mothers and grandmothers have always told us, you are an American Woman, you have what no other women in the world have: Control of your own body and therefore your own destiny. Go out in the world and do something we couldn’t have imagined.
Like many women my age, the sacrifices and struggles of the generations before — just one or two generations back — that secured those freedoms and rights were never recounted with much detail or gusto. We learned about women’s rights in history class. That was the appropriate place it seemed.
The advances women had made were permanent. Things could and would never go back to the way they were before. Women would never be second-class citizens who couldn’t vote or were discouraged from working outside the home. Or so we were told.
Sure, there was room for improvement. Eradicating sexual harassment, closing the wage gaps, expanding women’s role in combat and shattering the few glass ceilings, were a few of the targets that remained.
But the biggest and most important issue, the one that held the key to achieving equality in all those other areas, had already been settled.
Women own our bodies. We have the right, just like men, to sexual freedom. No one could tell us what we could or couldn’t do with them, or what we had to do with them.
Our bodies were ours. And only ours. Reproductive decisions were to be based on an individuals’ own morality not what the law said.
Maybe that’s why in the year before I turn 30, I’m aghast at what is happening right before my eyes.
Suddenly, from every corner, what I believed was an absolute and fundamental right, the ability to control and protect my own body, is in danger of being lost.
Access to lifesaving health care facilities is being limited and the availability of medications that in addition to controlling fertility solve a host of female-only health problems are in danger of being criminalized and taken away.
The U.S. Congress is holding hearings on women’s health in which no women are invited to speak. And when they finally are given the chance, they are being grossly insulted and humiliated on the national airwaves by men, with hardly any real repercussions or consequences.
And then legislation, actual legislation, is being introduced across the country that would force women to have a medically-unnecessary procedure that sounds an awful lot like rape to me.
I keep asking myself, did I wake up somewhere else other than my America? Am I still in the 21st Century or did I go back in time to the 18th?
In a country where women are now earning more college degrees than men and in a year when we’re celebrating our 90th year of being able to vote, this is really the battle we’re being forced to fight?
Women are poised to outpace men in the workplace soon and we now make up more than half of registered voters. And we vote more often than our male counterparts.
I can only hope, and pray, that millions of other American women are as angry as me. That their lines in the sand too have been crossed.
For me, it is time to get up and join the fight. It is time to double down on the pursuit of absolute equality.
Otherwise, we are in very real danger of presiding over a backslide. I, for one, don’t want my generation to be noted in the history books for giving up what so many women before us had already attained.
I want us to be recognized for our ability to realize what those before us never dared to believe was possible.