Earlier today, I learned that feminist icon Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the stalwart Judge of the US Supreme Court had passed over. Just days ago, she told her granddaughter, “[my] most my fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” The Universe had other plans and now it’s possible the Trump will replace her with a conservative judge who will continue the rolling back of individual rights including those bestowed through Roe versus Wade. The rights of women to decide what happens to their own bodies is under a very real threat.
Instagram later showed me an interview with Glennon Doyle who said white women learn early on “that we will accept our proximity to power and all the comfort and safety and belonging that will get us but in exchange we will never ask for any real power. We will stay quiet and grateful and accommodation.” Glennon is a keen observer of a common female reality.
Then an old work colleague rang me out of the blue and we talked about how women still struggle with self-worth, give their power away to their male partners and need to be vigilant about their safety in ways men never have to be. Women still need to be aware of their surroundings when they go out, watchful of who is around them, wary of walking at night, and consider their personal safety and how a man might react if they reject him. Women still need to do this, even after all the time that has passed since the 80s when my colleague and I were in our teens and 20s.
We talked about how every second woman we know has experienced some form of abuse as a child or an adult, at the hands of a man.
After all of this, I can’t help but feel tired, sad and disheartened. How much more do we have to fight for rights that are so fundamental? Why are there still discussions about what women can and can’t do with their bodies? It’s not as if anyone ever talks about mandatory vasectomies for men? Can you imagine the uproar if someone tried to legislate such a thing?! Still, it seems women’s bodies are still somehow public property while men’s bodies are not. One 87-year-old judge in the US Supreme Court was the last bastion standing up for a woman’s right to choose versus a government’s move to dictate a woman’s decisions regardless of her own personal desires and autonomy. Now RBG has departed, the threat to women’s legislated rights to choose is very real in a country that has, until recent times, been a leader of the free-world.
Meanwhile, the truth of Glennon’s words stay with me because I know women give away their power every day – we frequently give it away more than it is taken from us. We give it away because we desire those feelings of safety and belonging that Glennon talks of. We give it away because we have become so convinced that it is the normal thing to do. We watched our mothers do it, our friends do it, celebrities do it, and so we have done it too. We ignore the red flags and accept less than we’re worth. We are too often taught not to use our voices stridently to ask for and claim what is rightfully ours. Instead we are taught to ask nicely and be nice at all costs or otherwise face rejection.
The not-good-enoughness, the I must “help him” at my own expense and the excusals of behaviour and red flags with the age-old “but I love him” continues. And even though on one level, social media provides so many opportunities for individual expression it also strangely, drives strong messages of conformity. How can women rise if we are still trying to fit into a norm that we helped create and exist in, while trying to create something new that is not yet realised?
It’s September 2020, RBG has died and it feels like we aren’t moving forward.
Tomorrow is a new day and I’m sure my optimism will return. My drive and belief that we can change things for the better has not left me. It just feels a little subdued today. I can only hope that, somehow, we change things over the coming decade so that the girls being born today will not have the same experiences in their 20s that this generation is having.
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