Category Archives: Conditions of Change: Feminism

Feminists or not, the dilemma


Feminists or not,  the dilemma is long standing full of contradictions, mystery and history.  This is a response toLauren Enriquez who wrote and article  in NY Times 2/27/17 Pro-Life, But Left Out in her experience of the Woman’s March 2017.  I offer my experience to you Lauren and to  other women who don’t identify or feel the feminist or not feminist dilemma.   A long standing dilemma for women since the first feminists came along.

My experience was not of a divided group of women, some “feminists” – some not. In fact, the divisions of race and age, and status and income of all the women who assembled was without boundaries as we mixed and engaged to fill the streets with our support of women’s rights and human rights. First, I need to ask? Is Women’s Rights really all about abortion, and why does abortion create an insurmountable chasm in your experience, Lauren?

Consider this: Roe v Wade made evident and overt the terminating of a pregnancy, explicitly defining for medical professionals their liability not being in assistance to women. in the early years of the 20th Century, women had their babies at home with a midwife and family. The same women who helped women with their labor and delivery, helped them with abortifacients to terminate a pregnancy. Doctors did not participate in births unless there was a dire need for their intervention. In the 1920’s and 30’s, hospitals began marketing to women to come to the hospitals to have their babies according to historian Shannon Withycombe who specializes in the history of women’s health at the University of New Mexico. She says that given hospitals were no more sanitary than at home, and since antibiotics had not entered use in the hospitals, hospitals and at room births combined to make for a high mortality in delivery. 70 women in every 1000 died in labor and delivery, but rarely did the women  see any physician or midwife prior to delivery. What really changed the tide that brought women into hospitals for delivery in the 19th and early 20th century was their marketing the promise of pain-free labor with “twilight sleep.” Until the 1960’s, this combination of morphine and amnesiac was predominantly used in hospitals by doctors. In the 1960’s, the quality of birth for the mother and the child was reconsidered. Natural childbirth-drug free with breathing training then became the potential for childbirth in and out of the hospital.

Abortion has a similar history:  prior to Roe v Wade, women were treated by the midwives for delivery, but also to end early pregnancies in such common practice that it wasn’t directly spoken of.  When Roe v Wade came into law of the land, it was the physicians who  gained legal protection in intervening in a pregnancy, as well as the women.  Margaret Sanger, Founder of Planned Pregnancy center in upstate New York,  kind and compassionate doctors and nurses  were what was available  to women before Roe v Wade in 1973.  But what drove the need for that was the fact that  in 1964,  Civil Rights and birth control pills gave women more power in their lives.  By 1966,  66% of women used birth control.  A huge change was underway in the marriage and family patterns over the next two decades.  Of note is the fact that when Roe v Wade became law of the land, there were already seventeen states that allowed the practice of assisting the termination of unwanted early pregnancies.  Further, as historian Linda Gordon points out”the growing acceptability of sex without marriage made the ban on abortions unacceptable.”  Women achieved “greater safety, lower costs, and greater opportunity in education and employment,”  and as well, they achieved the legal status of purchasing a home and credit as they took on jobs.   Abortion rate from 1972-76 showed that deaths from abortion went from thirty-nine per million to two per million.  Feminism was attributed to Roe v Wade, but its source was actually the legal and medical establishments giving form and legal stand to those who assisted women in their choice of abortion.

Women’s integrity to choose what is right for them does not require group membership, or exclude any woman,  Having your choice and allowing other women to have their choice does not need to come with discrediting, diminishing or holding in contempt those who make different choices.  The Women’s March for me was all about that!   Our concerns, what we marched for was Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and Human Rights and standing together, marching together as women; -some who call themselves feminists, some who don’t.

We are here for each other, for our mothers, for our sisters, for our daughters.  In response to the New Administrations intimidation and threats hurled toward limiting or reducing any aspect of those rights that support the benefit of full inclusion and social equality achieved since the 1960’s, we resist.  We will continue to show up to stand with those in need of support.  That is feminism to most, and you are not excluded.  We are here, Lauren, together we and those who march together will stand with the most vulnerable, and bring ourselves forward together to achieve that.

Peggy Reskin, author of Barefoot Frontrunners: sex, women and power


The Woman’s March 2017: “Check Your Privilege”


The New York Time’s article today on the Women’s March Opens A Raw Dialogue emphasized women coming together to voice and represent nationwide, young and old, a range of interpretations of why women are showing up and marching. There are those who want to represent feminism, women’s rights and civil rights, with a full throated response to the Inaguration of a new President. With him, a new administration that has at the least shown ambiquity and a shift away from the trajectory of civil rights attained by women, the LGBTQ community, children of illegal immigrants, and those who represent the Middle East community within our country. Everyone is invited to this inclusive event. The Woman’s March in cities all around the country, initiated in DC, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta and many, many cities of the nation is happening on Saturday January 21st, 2017.

The Rise of the Woman – The Rise of the Nation is the context provided by the DC Women’s March. There are meetings and more meetings to make banners that say “He is not My President” and angry disappointed voices that want to initiate and stand against all that the new President-elect has represented over the past election. There is a call for the return to feminism of the 1970’s and engage newly toward the equality that has never been fully represented in our country. There is the “Check Your Privilege” conversation between women of color to the white women as they engage together for the Women’s March in DC. Even as the unmet goals of equality, such as the ERA and the reality of what has not been gained over the years since the social revolution of the 1970’s emerge, there is anxiety about what has been achieved and may be lost in the experience of most of those who are planning to participate in a Women’s March on January 21st across the country. There is the swell of a huge potentially destructive wave collecting anger and confusion as well as mystery in the mix as the Presidential power ends with President Barack Obama, and begins with Donald Trump, and the GOP agenda.

Where will you be January 21st is the question being asked of women friends across the country. My sisters and sisters-in-laws and friends in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and DC , and those friends and colleagues around me in the Bay Area are together, even as they are of different mindsets about the election and its results. All have consideration for the fact that a new day is coming, and it is not clear what will be asked of us, but we we must all meet the future with resourcefulness, clear eyes and even open heart. In the voices of all, there is the willingness to stand for what is important to us, as the women of this country. That is what the Woman’s March is about for many of us. Even as it is about Women’s Rights, the fifty-three years process where women filled out the potential of responsibility and choice in how they live their lives, what lies ahead is unclear. A Multigenerational Woman’s Gathering in Marin County was initiated almost immediately after the surprise victory of Trump over Hillary, their agendas could not be further apart on women’s rights and civil rights, and the young women reported panic attacks and huge grief at the news of Trump’s election. The coming together of young professional women who have only known what it is to have those rights, and their voice, juxtaposed to the women who participated in the process of gaining and living out women’s rights from Civil Rights, Birth Control and Roe vs Wade. Each woman, a rich source of attitudes and viewpoints about the challenges ahead, presented perspective onto our role as women given the platform presented by the President Elect over the two years of his campaign.

What we came to was to was the value and responsibility we felt to present our bodies and ourselves in our stand for Women’s Rights are Human Rights. The history of how women came through to their power reveals the fact that through that process, the lesbian and gay community gained access to express and represent, and direct their power. The struggles in race and in sex over the decades have a correlation and powerful mutuality, evidenced in the thread of equality constrained or given access to liberty through the Civil Rights Bill. We can have this Woman’s March represent a new threshold, a new potential. I will be joining my sisters and colleagues and friends in the Woman’s March to represent what we bring to ourselves, each other and the county. What it means to me is that we are united in our stand to move forward, include more diversity and differences to achieve the whole of who we are as a country. What this means to me is we renew our investment and enthusiasm for human rights, measure our stands to correlate with our immense capacity for bringing life and hope to ourselves and the world.

Check our Privilege, not because we are white, but because the real privilege is our ability to speak and bring the best of who we are as a country to the world to meet this new transition. Efforts and gains have been made and we do not want to see them reduced due to political change of who is in office as President: educating law enforcement officers, reducing the prison population, improving the means for better education and opportunity to our children in all zip codes, feeding and caring for the large number of children and seniors: these are the priorities we do not want to see lost or reduced. This is who and what the Women’s March will represent to many of us. This is where we can achieve our greatest victory.



Trump’s Election into Office


Trump’s election into Office:  Who are We?  It would be days before I could have an opinion about the results of the election that I witnessed with a group of friends of Donald Trump to be President. Not only that but the Republicans taking the majority in the Senate as well as the House of Representatives was not foreseen. Just like that, all the noise and conflict and screetch that had been in place of discourse for most of the election cycle of what seemed like years and years ended in what didn’t seem possible. How could it be that someone who openly bullied everyone with texts, insulted and spoke with contempt about Republicans as well as Democrats be elected to represent our country. The candidate who, demonstrated religious intolerance, and a 1950’s style bearing dismissed without apology his own sexual assaults that came to light in the campaign, had a strange relationship with Putin and hacking emails, all of this without going down. The mystery of how somehow he kept Democrats on the defense hurling unfounded assertions and threats about with relish did not seem possible.


This particular community of friends, who came together on election eve, had kept their distance from the election process. Only in recent weeks, a few one by one sent out emails and texts asking if the potential of Trump winning the election could really happen. We kept current with Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donald, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and New York Times editorials, so they looked up from their lives and asked out of surprise to the serious threat that seemed to be coming as the election came closer. Daily Kos Polls gave Clinton a 85% chance to win, that only declined to 70% when the FBI once again spread doubt about Clinton and the emails just days before the election. Only the Nate Silver’s poll reported the chance that Trump could win. Each of the people in this room were active in climate change advocates, social justice workers who took their role as citizens seriously, more on the local California level than the national. It was as if this election jerked them into the reality that California is attached to the rest of the country, and ultimately would be impacted by the consequence of this election, but no one was prepared for what felt like the tragic defeat of Democrats washing over us like a storm as we sat huddled in the room together. The full table of food and drinks left untouched as the results came in. One by one people left unable or not wanting to even say goodbye as they slipped away.


People didn’t talk to each other the next day out in the world.   Facebook was all quiet. The New York Times editorials were mild in their response, though just as surprised it seemed as the general public at the outcome. At our house, the cable news went off and it hasn’t been put on again. Like Lemmings we were led down a path and over a cliff. The well dressed and bright new stars who had the microphone and gave out their pronouncements as if they bore some basic truth now were exposed. They were making stories that sold ads on cable. The New York Times and other papers are now willing to say that it was like a hall of mirrors: opinions and attitudes shared within a context where everyone agreed on the same reality had led them down this path, and they had taken the public with them.


OK, so there were more popular votes for Clinton, but the election had been set up on the electoral vote system, and just because we lost didn’t mean we could change the game now in the face of this loss. Were the shoe on the other foot and Clinton having won the electoral, and Trump the popular, the very same people wanting to disqualify the electoral college outcome would have been on the streets in outrage if the situation were reversed.


Rather than having an emotion other than sad dread, I withheld any real response and looked for information around me before having an opinion or taking any action. Once I saw that Trump was elected into office by 53% women voters, and that an estimated 49% of the country didn’t vote, then I had a response. Those were the people who didn’t feel included: as the media and the candidates made assaults and noise, these people didn’t feel that Hillary Clinton offered them what they needed. They were the silent and invisible majority who expressed their no vote to Democrats and Hillary Clinton. For that reason, the anger that began to surface by steadfast and heartbroken Hillary workers though understandable, seemed misplaced. Who are you angry at? The women who did not identify with Hillary Clinton? Or perhaps, the people who turned their backs on the election many of whom had taken the position of the Bernie Sanders supporters, that the flaws of the candidates and the election itself made voting irrelevant, and what was needed was a social revolution.


But if not anger, what was the response to have? My neice from New Jersey, a fierce and courageous young woman wrote that she was afraid the morning after Trump claimed himself the winner of the election. My nephew a brilliant former Eagle Scout, high achieving, successful producer on a news channel in Philadelphia also wrote me saying he was considering cutting off relations with anyone in the family who voted for Trump. Fact is. we have family members who voted for Trump. In recent visits, no one has spoken for or against any candidate but just respected the differences in positions and candidates. But what now?


We had already made Air B&B and airline reservations to DC to see the first woman elected President to take her oath months before, and had been cautious in letting family members know about that. In our minds, we didn’t want to confront them with our glee in the event of her Inaguration. Now we will see our family, and we will deal with whatever comes up to be there. Somehow it seems even more important to be there on January 20th now. My response to my neice and nephew was that this is a time for tribes and families to get together. Compassion will be the order of the day. I hope to see them both when we are there for the Woman’s March in DC on January 21st.


Still being considered is which direction to take. Van Jones started a response to Trump voters and supporters called the Messy Truth. We progressives have all been talking to each other, watching the same cable news, reading the same columns in our newspapers and journals. The way forward may be to go beyond our comfort zone, beyond our understandings and assumptions, and get to know who these people are who voted in Trump.


Arlie Hochschild, retired Professor of Sociology from University of California Berkeley did a study on the Trump supporters in the South in her book “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right.” She begins describing the interviews she did in the South scaling what she calls her Empathy Wall,. She suggests that an inquiry must begin with genuine curiosity to understand not only how people think but how they feel toward our country, toward the government, their support of Trump, and about their lives. In a session at the Hillside Club that evening with Joan Blades, Co founder of Momsrising and Founder of MoveON, Hocschild indicated we were going to need to be curious, respectful and look for the common ground getting outside our liberal “bubble.” While Joan supported the idea that through Living Room Conversations, the great divide could be healed in true listening to those holding a different perspective, Arlie held another position.


Arlie drew the audience into an understanding of what she called the “Deep Story.”Dr. Hochschild described how it was for those Trump supporters who were in their own depths of need, shorted in jobs and income to see those who got to be at the head of the line of opportunities and benefits.   Minorities and women who had advantage over hard working blue collar folks represent the class warfare rarely acknowledged. That kind of understanding described by Arlie Hochschild illuminates the basis of the great divide.


Her book about her interviews and study of the Trump Supporters is in her book: “Strangers in Their Own Land:Anger and Mourning on the American Right.” She sees the value of understanding and empathy and common ground as the need going forward, but very vigorously, emphasized the need for the action and stands presented in the social revolution of the 1960’s and 70’s being called on now to keep the social values and human rights gained. Sit Ins, Demonstrations, protests she suggested may be how in fact we go forward with the Republicans in majority in the House and the Senate, with potential of other Conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court justice in the Trump era, as well as the Right wing conservative Cabinet coming into play.


It may very well be we will encounter all manor of needs as described to meet new challenges that lie ahead, indeed a new social revolution may soon be our new world. It may call from all concerned to expand and extend the sense of self in the world, and take on including those who oppose all we have gained in the past decades in social justice and social equality.









Black Lives Matter: The Social Revolution of our times


Black Lives Matter:  The new social revolution is showing up-led by three feminists- and it is where we need to  see it.  In the gaps, empty promises and pain and injuries and undeniable realities exposed in Ferguson, and across the country in recent months.   Feminists have often led the charge for equity and justice in social reform from the 1920’s onward.  The Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was designed to have race and sex and country of origin not be a limitation to full equality and access to engagement and production in society.  What we see now is  the systematic politically and economically driven obstructions have denied the full application of civil rights through mass incarceration, poor schools, poor healthcare, no early education, racial profiling and a police and criminal justice system that is now being confronted.

Senator Bernie Sanders now running for President has many decades of work for civil rights and human rights.  He says what is wrong with the country can not be changed, it must be transformed.  And that comes from social revolution. A break from the systemic conditions that fill prisons, result in early death and broken hearts is what is required, and that requires not just change but revision coming not from the decay of the missed efforts to civil rights, but a renewal of intention to end the conditions in place and build new opportunity and new hope.  Recently Bernie Sanders had a confrontation with the three feminists who formed Black Lives Matter at a Netroots Nation symposium.  Netroots Nation is highly progressive in their politics and have done a great deal for dismissing the media’s monopoly on how information is giving to the public.  The population has a mixed demography, but is predominantly white, male, college degreed and independent in their political views.  This particular event with Senator Sanders came about because he wanted to talk about the changes he wanted to see in the economic structure that rewards 1% of the population.  Black Lives Matter wanted to talk about life and death, and the death of Sandra Bland which had happened just days before.  Following Freddie Gray, following Michael Brown, and now Sandra Bland there was no room for politics, and Black Lives Matter made that point by interrupting some considered rudely the presentation by Bernie Sanders.  Since revolution is by definition unpredictable, designed to cause the effect that Black Lives Matter created on that stage with Bernie Sanders.  Since Black Lives Matter has indicated that they will not be in the pocket of either Republican or Democrat Presidential candidates.  Now is the time for the killing and imprisonment of young men and women of color to stop, they say.  Now is the time for the empty shell of civil rights to be recognized as having not attained its goal: the incorporation and inclusion of all people, regardless of color, sex or country of origin. Enough, they say.  Enough.

Just as in the 1960’s when revolution made uncomfortable a public that could not turn away from the disparity between what they believed about our country and what they saw in Viet Nam, in the streets of Selma, on the college campuses, there is a demand, an unflinching demand by Black Lives Matter in a confrontation that has just begun.

Gloria Steinem both speak of the necessity of revolution. Karl Marx pointed to the need of “feminine upheaval” as the means to “great social change” and that progress could be measure by where the “ social position of the fair sex.”   Gloria Steinem in the 1970’s argued that reform did not achieve what true revolution does.  She pointed to the visibility of sex and race are “a primary way in which human beings organize around superior and inferior groups.” Humanism she pointed out is really the goal and the means by which feminism brings those changes that add to a better world. For men, for women, for all races. And here we are-about to engage in taking further and going deeper into the hypocrisy and outrage that is just below the surface in every major city of the country.

Revolutions are rude, disruptive and have the intention to interrupt, not change, but transform the conditions limiting human potential.  Co Founders of Black Lives Matter Patrice Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi,  began what became a movement after the verdict of the Trayvon Martin, then emerged again as well at the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray-and Sandra Bland-all black killed by white men.   The District Attorney and Mayor of Baltimore and Black Lives Matter caused the disruption of elected local and state government, by holding them accountable for police agencies assaults and killings of black men ad women.  They stir and demand public awareness and accountability and have through protests gathered a momentum that is now called a movement.

Black Lives Matter is showing up with the message that they want to see black youth presented with opportunities to educate themselves, be trained in job skills and awarded for their youthful enthusiasm and energy rather than left behind and incarcerated . They want to see addiction treated medically rather than the cycle of prison being the only response to those suffering from addiction. While the middle and upper class options of rehab and medical intervention with peer support are available for those with the funds, addiction treated as a criminal offense has only made the offenders, their families and their community loose the value of that person. They want to see the promise of human potential being evenly awarded to this and future generations, they want to see life, liberty and justice awarded to all people.  There is every indication, that Black Lives Matter and those criminal justice advocates who have come together will get this result.  The Presidential Primary and election will be the background and at the forefront of this revolution that is already underway.


Thanksgiving: the year of gratitude 2014


Thank you all -you who have subscribed-  for bringing to the site your experience, your value to the conversation of who women and the men who live with them  are and the passage of women through these years of change.  This site and the book in process are all about my gratitude to the women and men who brought to the world the value of the freedom and  dignity of all people.  If you view this site and come to a better understanding and appreciation of the women in your life, then you contribute by your presence to this conversation.

It goes without saying and yet it must be said that women and men have come along together in the past fifty years, transforming how we live and what is important given our freedom to choose our identities, our function and our impact on the world.  There is more to go, for sure.  Miles and miles.  While the groundwork has changed dynamically altering the course of our mother’s and grandmother’s history, even so each generation takes the understanding further and deeper into the psyche of how we understand ourselves and each other.  We bring a context of feminism-seeking equality into the courts of law and congress -even as women’s rights continue to be attacked.

We – us human beings- men or women have the challenge of passing forward the advances we have been handed by the generation who sought and found a way to have life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through personal and social liberation honoring and trusting ourselves and each other.

For all this, and for your company on the road, I thank you and the opportunity every day presents to fulfill our hopes and dreams for ourselves,  for our families, our communities and for those who struggle with oppression and constraints to their every day liberties to expressing their lives as they desire.

Sore is the condition of our hearts as we watch Ferguson unfold.  Brings back the confusion and chaos of the civil rights movement of Watts and the streets of New York where the sense of the loss with just the barest potential of redemption is painful.  But we moved on, it got better for African Americans and for all of us really these forty years.  We are pressed again to look where we don’t want to look and feel what has us recoil with the knowledge of the miscarriage of justice and the sinister mechanism holding it all in place.  We will continue.  We will find our way through.  But just like the 60’s, we can’t see how or when. Looping back to pick up the policies and people left behind is where we must look for the tomorrow that surely will come.   It is we who see the group excluded from a place at the table who must demand the changes necessary so that young men of color, and the women whose hearts have been broken over and over again know we are here.  WE are here.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Feminism in Ireland


Feminism in Ireland and around the world and the position of countries relative to women’s rights presents a broad canvas of differences.  The origin of how women have come to define themselves is as rich as the variation of those differences.  Even before language,  girls are given messages in the silence about who they are to be and what is expected of them.  My Irish Catholic origins in Lynn, Massachusetts with grandmothers, aunts and cousins,  was where I  had come from.  I could be no further removed from those anchors of my origin than to move to Berkeley , California in 1970,  never to return to the East Coast.  Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area  in 1970 were in the midst of great changes, revolution really in  what would later be called the 2nd wave of feminism.  How that showed up for me was in new choices available to me,  and significant changes among my peers and myself in determining our roles as mothers and as women.   There was a fresh exploration of what was available around me, and in trial and error as a guide to the newly opened terrain.  For a very long time, I did not look back.  As I did throughout the later years,  it was always a curiosity to me that I lacked much interest in the roots of my origin, along with vague dislike of memories of emotions I couldn’t interpret.

My seeming lack of curiosity in Ireland, Irish music and stories given this trip to Ireland among my 40 member family reunion offered an opportunity to know not only our history, but have experience of the country of our grandparents.  I was open to a greater understanding of the culture I had to have absorbed on some level.    I was aware of the  struggles that motivated my grandfather,  in 1906 at age 13, to take the treacherous trip to join his sister, already working in the slaughterhouses in Chicago.   He then moved on to Lynn, Massachusetts where he would meet and marry my grandmother in 1919,   who emigrated in 1912.

The trip to Ireland might give me the connection to my first experiences, spoken and unspoken,  recalling my first six years of  life. For instance,  what was it in my DNA, my psyche and my understandings, that informed me, and caused me to look in directions I chose,  take the measures I’ve taken, and make the decisions that I’ve made?   What information could I gain about our default assumptions based on  unselected attitudes and concepts before we’re verbal or creating concepts about our experience that drives us in our understanding of who we are, and  as women?   Who are the women in Ireland today and what os the measure of women’s rights today?  Could I even imagine my grandmother’s experience of Ireland, and what remains of the conditions and life she led compared to life today for women?

My grandmother left as many million did during the period of the famine from the farm lands.  The famine  is a well known driver of the destiny of the two million Irish who either died or emigrated to the US, Britain and Europe and Australia beginning around 1848.  The life in the countryside with  the Celtic Chieftains was marked by the land wars amongst the families in power.  The Norman Invasion and English overlords with Henry ViII declaring himself king of Ireland in the 1600’s set up the constant struggle for Home Rule over the course of the years preceding my grandparents emigrating.   The Irish were an underclass to the British rule. and Ireland itself was considered to be an English plantation.   The country survived immense tragedy under this rule.   The path of Thomas Cromwell slaughter of thousands of the Irish citizens rebelling against his cruel rule, and the Catholic church coming into power defined the path of the Irish civilization.  Even before the plague, these were the struggles endured by those living in Ireland in the 16th-18th Century.   Those first adults I met as a child under five had all come through these experiences, and as I recall wept whenever they spoke of Ireland.  Coming to understand their history by visiting the areas where these events took place had the affect of my understanding their expressions experienced as a young child.  What it could be described at now as I look at it is the great wall of grief expressed at every family gathering that my family brought with them from Ireland to Lynn, Massachusetts.

But an intention I had going to Ireland was to have particular knowledge of  what governed women’s lives  now,  where things are in terms of women’s rights today.  What is  ability of women to determine their own destiny?  With that,  the value for me was to reconcile my own experience with what I observed and felt around me in being in Ireland.

From Shannon Airport, the  vast, sprawling carpet of  hills and vales of green with rows of trees  clearly created  boundaries separating property was all that I could see for miles and miles.  Rolling hills, with a few purple mountains in the distance with a 360 degree view most often available, was stunning.    Cows and sheep peppered the green hills.  There were 31 of the family fresh off the plane, with all but two of us visiting Ireland for the first time.  The executive bus came with a driver,  Michael, who moved us steadfastly through narrow winding streets with no margin for error, we had no certainty about our destination, and throughout he gave his own understanding of the country.    Michael spoke to us as we moved through the countryside and identified distinctions of the small and larger  townships we passed on our way to Blackwater Castle.   We would enter small townships barreling along at a good clip, the cluster of houses  and pubs bound together in a row in clumps.  Bright flags and colorful flowers at each location, we moved directly through each town:  Limerick, Adare, Killarney, Castletown Roche on our way through Mallow to Blackwater.    “Guys, this is Ireland.  We’ve had some hard times but we stand together.”  With that, he put on the Irish music, robust and merry but yet the sad tones and words came through.  “We’ve had a hard time, but we’re coming back from 2008.”  He described the ownership of properties by absentee landlords who left for Europe with the profits from their tenant farms, leaving behind bankruptcy in Ireland.  That sounded pretty familiar given the recent recession crisis in the US, with many banks taking their profits and leaving bankruptcy for many.   “But a new day is coming to Ireland, guys” Michael told us.  “We’ve discovered that energy is what there is to sell in the new world.  We have land, a great deal of land untapped for use, and now there are windmills on the vistas, and doors open for investors to take on this new opportunity.”

We would discover over the week the decades and centuries of hard times, devastations and tragedies that fill the history of Ireland.  From the Celtic Chiefs  through the Viking and Norman Invasions and the great struggle over two centuries to own their own land, the English control of the Island prevailed.    Chieftains Hugh O’Neil and Hugh O’Donnell surrendered to Queen Elizabeth I, with  Ireland essentially serving as an  English plantation.   Their struggles sometimes ended up with the women being offered as gifts or peace offerings.  But there were also women who stood in places of power.  Among others was Lady Roche of Blackwater Castle, the place our family was staying.   We were told the story by our hosts, the current owners of the castle, who made it available for events, weddings and family reunions like ours.  Lady Roche herself, led the defense, when the castle came under attack by Oliver Cromwell’s army, while her husband, Lord Roche was away.  She fought valiantly, but was defeated and later hanged for her trouble.

Relative to women and their position in early medieval Irish society, we would learn of the Brehon law which favored women, allowed divorce and allowed women to own property and land.  The Norman invasion would revert the power of land ownership to men only by 1169, but would be brought back in the 13th century.   Given it was the 19th Amendment in  1920’s when  women could first own property in the US, the contrast to Ireland with women having property ownership  is remarkable.  Prior to the 13th century, land ownership was often done in trusts from father to daughter.  She would have to give ownership to the husband if she married.  Once the Catholic church was established, the patriarchal rule over women was established.  The power of the Church remains today, and limits the power of women.

My two grandmothers, Catherine Flynn and Sarah Fleming, both took the journey across the Atlantic, and  were among those who survived the trip that cost many their  lives in 1919.  The two women met on the boat and became friends.  Later, they both worked for the Hitchcock House, one of the major wealthy homes of Boston, for a number of years,  as housemaids.  This work afforded them more independence and privilege than they ever enjoyed in Ireland.  When we visited Cork, the township from which the Titanic pulled away for its last sailing, we saw the 3rd class quarters and saw the harsh conditions my grandparents and 90% of those on the boat endured.  It was a miracle that they survived. The work and the life my grandmothers found was in contrast to the reception the Irish men received with “Irish need not apply” signs in employer’s windows and doors.

I looked for their faces-what my grandparents might have looked like- as we visited shops, castles, musical performances and retail establishments in Cork and Kinsale, Blarney and Kilkenny.  What I saw in the faces around me was resilience and independence in how the women presented themselves.  I saw an  extra stride in their step,  their chins raised high, and in their tone cheery and bright.    The women convey a sense of their being in charge of their place in the communities in which they live.  Pretty people, very kind and willing to extend themselves with visitors.  Actually both the men and women exude enthusiasm, conveying an optimism they share about Ireland, the coming prosperity they see as possible, and life ahead.  Yet they live within the constraints of the sexual conditions from which women have not freed themselves, nor does there seem to be much demand in the area of sexuality,  from the feminists in Ireland.

The feminists of Ireland are represented by  the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalitions, Wikipedia tells us, and have effectively sought measures of  equal political, economic and social rights for women.   This is referred to as the Second Wave of Feminism in Ireland  1960-1980 which progressed to  the Third Wave of Feminism through the 2000’s described as an “extension of the earlier feminist movements’ perceived failures” according to Wikipedia.

The matter of choosing to be sexual before marriage, the use of birth control, or the decision to become pregnant without marriage, today holds a stigma and a social cost.  It is reported that women can divorce in Ireland since 1995, but it takes five years, and is socially condemned. Birth control is available under constraints that limit it’s access to unmarried women. It is reported that 6000 women quietly journey to England to terminate unwanted pregnancies. While many women die from home remedies. The stigma of pregnancy and being unmarried is still condemning to women. For the women who do choose go to London clinics to terminate unwanted pregnancies, they choose to keep their decision private and personal because of the enormous social costs in the overwhelming catholic population.

Currently the Irish Feminist Network is “still fighting the church’s political Influence.” (MS. Blog Camille Hayes June 6, 2013.) While in the 70’s, feminists like Nell McCafferty, Mary Kenny, June Levine and Nuala O’Faolain worked towards towards gender equity did have an impact and the Mother & Baby Homes which forced unwed mothers to separate from their babies was halted due to their efforts.   Today the IFN is addressing the needs of “younger women.” They are seeking equal representation, economic equality and reproductive rights for women.   Abortion is still, even for the 6000 annually who go to London for abortions, a personal and quietly carried out act that women do not want to make public, so the catholic church is still in the powerful position of excluding the conversation because of the stigma attached to abortion.

The exception is the  alarm and demand for change around the iron clad power of the catholic church and women’s rights  surfaced in October 2012.  That is when Savita Halappanavar,  in her 17th week of pregnancy, experienced an incomplete miscarriage.  Yet the doctors would  not assist with a cesarian section to withdraw the expired fetus.  The world’s attention was on the Galway Hospital, as doctors allowed Savita to slowly die, rather than perform the life saving surgery that the Church would not approve.  The social outrage of the feminists and people of Ireland  demanded and won the small concession of  the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013.    This  bill allows doctors to intervene if the mother’s health is at risk, or there is risk of suicide.  As this story was told to me, I didn’t want to say that in the US today, there are over 1000 state proposals to reduce women’s rights.  It just seemed too brutal to mention,  given the consciousness being aroused by  women in Ireland to deal with the locked down rights of women to own any part of their sexual rights, and the  hope they see in the achievement of Roe VS Wade in 1973.

But it is certainly a heads up for feminists and human beings  everywhere to know that only a year ago, a bill in Ireland gave legal grounds for abortion when the life of the mother is at stake.

We’re on the bus again with Michael and a merry Irish tune on the speakers, as we pass through the picturesque streets of Killarney.  There are shops of amazingly beautiful wool, coming from places like  the famous  Blarney Mills,  that we will visit later.  A group of young boys walk through the streets of Cork; robust, confident and animated.   Trailing behind them,  a group of girls in typical teen age attire: jeans and black tee shirts,  talking to each other.   Then we are Inside the pub for a pint, and are warmly welcomed.  Visiting women are encouraged, to only go in groups through the streets and to the pubs, if not accompanied by a man,  for their own “comfort and ease.”  Accordingly every pub, cafe or restaurant  there are clusters of pretty ladies together, and a few men.  Good times are the sense of the atmosphere.  Flowers outside the door and throughout the streets in every township has it feel like a stage set.  They give such a sense of celebration, everything grows so well with the ongoing light rains that barely dampens the streets but clearly keeps the blooms continuous everywhere we go.  And everywhere the grass is so very green.

What can I claim from this only surface experience of Ireland that can be felt if not fully perceived, known if not understood.  I can see my own resilience and never fully consumed aversion to  being contained, regimented or controlled,  to a fault, really.   My instinctive resistance is sometimes realized by an impetuous trust to step outside what is acceptable, to what has not been claimed, trusting my instincts and gut.   Costly, expensive sometimes,  but holding firm and moving on, and not looking back or looking for direction from unknown sources.

Not expecting a hand up is implicit in my choices.  Making my own path is what I’ve always done.  And taking leave.  I have always been the “leaver.”  It was a relief to come across the expression the of the Irish goodbye.  Similar to the Irish blessing May you be gone before the Devil knows you’ve left.   Funny what we know without knowing how we know what we know.   I’ve always felt refreshed on the paths I have found.  I look for the state of wonder from which to find my ground.    Gained my standing, found my voice and honored the call.  To hurt for those not seen, speak for those excluded.  And to send into the space of community of beings,  my vote, my feet, my care.  It makes more sense to me;  I make more sense to me having found my feminism in Ireland.

What we “know” happens, begins long before we select our experience and have language to define it.  We move in directions that we can’t define from a wisdom that is not ours alone.  So it is that without “knowing” it, my alienation from “Ireland” had ground that I have experienced, discovered in this trip to Ireland.  It is a terrible beauty, with a people who feel never defeated and always are looking for a better life.  That better life for women is beginning to be inserted in the conversation, below the surface,  and spoken of and criticized by a large segment of the women as well as the men.  The distance we have come in 50 years is more apparent in the attitudes of both men and women, and liberation for both is at stake,  in my consideration.

I bite my tongue and don’t want to share with the few women who have talked to me about the limits of choices available to them in how they live their lives.  I don’t want to say that  where I live in the United States, the Supreme Court has reduced the boundaries around women who make the choice to terminate their pregnancies. And women encounter similar personal attacks on their right to choose.   That employers can now deny  health benefits from their company to grant birth control pills,  is a process we are undergoing that I also don’t want to mention.  I am embarrassed to tell them that is where we are as a country.  I am ever more alarmed and hope that women and men are paying attention.   I hope we don’t want to go back but only forward in the march toward women’s rights, civil rights and human rights.  Rights which come from the stand that there is a better world, a better life for all with dignity and respect for choices made by people.  Choices made out of integrity,  choosing alternatives available to women/human beings in how they live wish to their lives.




Supreme Court vs Roe VS Wade


“There is no simple reform. It really is a revolution. Sex and race because they are easy and visible and visible differences that have been primary ways of organizing human beings into superior/inferior groups and into cheap labor on which this system depends. We are talking about a society in which there will be no roles other than those chosen or those earned. We’re really talking about humanism.” Gloria Steinem

The Supreme Court vs Roe Vs Wade is in a constant dance.  Many see the Supreme Court’s decision to reduce the distance between those who protest abortion, and those who using the benefit of abortion on the grounds of service providers as an attempt to reduce women’s rights. The few feet taken away that provide a buffer between those on either side of the question of abortion are important. Many see this result from the Supreme Court as yet one more attempt by those who do not agree with the law of the land: Roe VS Wade 1973, and attempt to reduce women’s rights.

The work of the years of social change and legal process came through many who lived in the atmosphere of revolution and what the 60’s were about. Women, since the days of the earliest feminist gathering in Seneca Falls in 1848, have always been about reform-in the prisons, in the factories, on the streets and the Temperance movement. But the turbulence of the Viet Nam War and Civil Rights movement in the South included participation by women. They worked shoulder to shoulder with the men for reform in a war that cost 55,000 soldiers’ lives in Viet Nam. They witnessed in the cities of Montgomery, Birmingham and Memphis, the work of Martin Luther King and responded. Women behind the scenes organizing and supporting the civil rights action through protests and demonstrations. On college campuses, they left their classrooms and protested from the top campuses of the country. Who and what was important was in the process of change and flux and that chaos stirred throughout the country created a dynamic change for the whole country. Nationwide, democracy was challenged in the streets of the cities and college campuses by a counter culture that questioned the status quo of authority. Many universities across the country, in the college classrooms, and from churches, there came a movement made up of people working to promote the end of the draft, and against the war came together. Historians note that women in anti war and civil rights movement began to bring the focus to the principles and demands of the women’s movement in mid 60’s, whether these women identified as feminists or not.

1964 also brought the birth control pill into the doctor’s offices and into the reach of married women, allowing choice in pregnancy and childbirth. Women gaining the right to birth control provided an undeniable liberty that freed them to determine their life’s course. Around the topic of women’s rights, a counter culture developed in how women perceived their roles as women and as members of society. In 1964 under President Lyndon Johnson we have recently been reminded as a society the Civil Rights Act for the end of discrimination based on sex, country of origin or sex, the potential for change became based in fact and in the law of the land. With it, the Affirmative Action law required employers and colleges to account for entry of those who had been excluded due to race or sex, that is women and minorities were given access that had to be fulfilled by those who admitted students or hired people for their company. The effects of birth control, women’s’ rights and access given to minorities in jobs and eduction provided a whole new platform that brought about the world gave a boost to the entry of some, with the idea of leveling the playing filed but ended in 1978 with California vs Bakke. There has been action in the Sacramento about the benefit of Affirmative Action and how that might apply to working for people now with the division of those with job skills and those without in a tough market prevails.

Civil rights, women’s rights are a work in process for sure. But more to the point, as the Supreme Court decision today indicates, the boundaries around women’s rights are inquestion policy and practice in various states of the nation. The process and goals of humanity we gain that allow choice in our sexuality, gay marriage having progressed well in so many states, and the demands for equality are in a tedious balance. The buffer taken away by the Supreme Court that takes away a zone of legal sanction protecting women from personal attack about their choices has been reduced, and a move that lessens the sanctity of their personal decisions.

Valuing how it came to be that women gained the right to choose may an unknown to the generation born after 1977 because they have always lived with those rights and privileges to choose as women. Most young girls went to Planned Parenthood with their girlfriends at age 13-18 to be educated and take responsibility for their sex lives. But back then, before 1977 how was it then for women, and the society that brought this change of freedom to choose to women. In the late 60’s, Television news was full of racial struggle, war in Viet Nam, and the protests and demonstrations around the country around civil rights and the war. Families were driven apart by the different positions different members of the family held relative to these questions. There were those who supported the change in the attitudes toward race and inequality and those who saw the threat of change as dysfunctional and destructive. With women free to choose their biological destiny and choose to make decisions regarding fertility and termination of an unwanted pregnancy, it was seen as women “being just like men.” For those who protested the war, those who felt there was no choice but to serve in the war just as their fathers and their fathers fathers served in previous wars. Yet the turmoil and violence around the country relative to the war in Southeast Asia, and the demands to end the draft and bring home the soldiers around college campuses made for a very difficult time in our democracy. Women came to have a voice through their participation in the antiwar and civil rights movement, and brought feminism into its second wave of changing the culture inside out and changing the constraints and exclusion that limited women’s participation in the world.

The loud and brash women speaking from the black and white televisions, the Bella Abzug’s, Gloria Steinem’s, Jane Fonda’s were considered by some to be dangerous. By others, they were caricatures to be made light of. First Lady Jackie Kennedy in 1965 shared in a television interview that her husband found these women espousing liberation to be “unfeminine, and thought they might be lesbians.” The country was in an uproar as roles and choices by men and women were being recalibrated, reconceived and for many reborn. Many women did not identify with the movement, and alienation to the strident demands of feminism did not resonate with all women. Yet as the opportunity to higher education and job advantages provided by the Affirmative Action took hold, women gravitated if not to the women’s movement to experiencing the value of being the director of their own fate.

But this day, June 29th, 2014, today we have in every day’s event, news of abortion centers that are under fire, state legislation bills attempting to reduce choice for women’s ability to choose, and ultimately to continue on the path of this portal to equality and empowerment of those systematically excluded. It is clear that many women having had the freedom to choose their destiny are not about to turn back now. But it may be time for those unaware of these political moves and their consequences to know this struggle is underway. The argument that women need to have decisions made for them was common in the 1920’s. Just like removing the opportunity for education for girls in Somalia makes sense if you want to reduce women’s access to full participation and choice- as if that choice alone is somehow evil. Many women have not chosen and will not choose abortion, and they don’t need the protection of a law that takes that choice away from them. Their integrity will guide them, just as it has over the past years since 1973.

A recent film Obvious Child renders a good look at the process and integrity involved in those choices. Women don’t need to be directed to make the choices right for them, and the Supreme Court’s decision today have ruled by reducing that barrier, the number of feet between vulnerable women, and those who show them terrible projections to discourage their decision. To harass, attack and humiliate these women for their decision advancing just a few feet closer by this Supreme Court Decision may be just a few more feet closer to denying women the validity of their choice since 1973 and Roe VS Wade allowed for that as personal and private and worthy of the sanctity those few feet measured..


Feminism and women in prison


Feminism and women in prison is one of the earliest movements in social history.  Primarily efforts by feminists in the 1920’s, then again in the  1940’s were made to better the condition of prisons that stored the girls off the streets, homeless and poor, often abused with no family or kin.   Currently, the reality of women in prison and the cost to women and our world has recently been evoked because of a netflix series  by Piper Kerman Orange is the New Black that contributes to a new awareness about prison for women today.

Orange is the New Black, but really a puddle jump.

KPFA of Berkeley interviewed  author Piper Kerman, of Orange is the New Black  and she reported a startling figure. Kerman said that women in prison, state and federal, has been an increase of “800%” since her incarceration. She also emphasized that the majority were non white, thus orange in her title is not a pun so much as it is a reference to the fact that more women of color are in prison than white and the increase of women in prison is beyond alarming.

Fact checks of prison data reveals that 1 million women have gone through the criminal justice system since 1985, with 200,000 confined in state or local jails representing 7% of the prison population. The rate of incarceration of women has doubled since 1985 with 30% black women, 16% Hispanic. In 2005, a black women was three times as likely as white to be incarcerated, and Hispanic women are 69% more likely to be incarcerated as white. 40% of the criminal justice cases of conviction were related to illegal drugs with 80% of women receiving more than a year in jail, as reported by Kerman quoted in her KPFA interview 5/5/14.

What does this represent for the nation? It reflects the fact that women may not have the funds for lawyers, and like the male non white convicted there is a lack of education and treatment for drug addiction for these women. It seems to represent also that there is growing numbers statistically proportional to male incarceration.  Both males and females of color are more likely to be in jail.   Case after case reveals that non whites receive more severe sentences, are consistently found guilty to crimes they did not commit.  Sadly, we hear this, read this on line, in the newspaper, on cable, etc.  It is not news.

Even so, the astonishing increase of women in prison has not been information well represented.   For Piper Kerman, her book providing a cast of characters as she does, her goal is to increase knowledge and compassion of the state of women who are imprisoned.   The popular Netflix show based on her book and her experiences in jail for Kerman has put Netflix in strong competition with HBO and Showtime for an audience that was very receptive and enthusiastic about the series.  A social responsibility seems to be at the base of Kerman’s altruistic and genuine interest in making public her experiences in prison.  “Without the contact and support you can gain from the other inmates, prison is impossible.”  It is hard.  It can take your life away is her message.  Who are the women?  The girls who didn’t finish schools, from abusive relationships as children and as adults, with no particular training or future.  In prison, Kerman recalls, she knew she had a life outside and the Ivy League school and status she had before has been hers to regain.  The book and the network series have us know:  for many women, prison is a puddle jump away.  The decisions made by young girls with no back up and no particular place in the world.

Kerman points out the destructive elements of incarceration on families who are left behind, children, parents, siblings-all a cost rarely measured. Prison does not rehabilitate, prison does not educate or provide any future hope, but basically keeps the person confined and constrained to conditions that do not allow progression to a productive life outside. It is alarming that women have increased in the numbers they have in state and federal jails. It is a cost we feel in our lack of public funding for schools, trainings or childcare that could support young women trying to make it.  Profoundly,  Kerman emphasizes that  Women in prison suffer HIV and Hepatitis C in large proportion,  with few if any true health standards around their care.  Much of the pelvic inflammation and chlamydia symptoms have no symptoms, so go untreated.

Orange is the New Black makes  known facts that illustrate that treatment, psychological and medical are what is needed in the treatment of incarcerated women.  Given the reported cost of $104,000 per inmate in prison, a much better use of the taxpayers’  dollar would be to treat and educate women to return to society.   Piper Kerman, like most of the women she met in prison, did something against the law not foreseeing the possibility of the consequences that would follow years later.  She has returned and is contributing with her knowledge of women in prison.

Where is feminism in this conversation?  Piper is a feminist for sure, and knows her own value, has lived through her mistakes and is looking to have the conditions and problems she saw women facing in prison be seen, acknowledged and changed.    She stresses the lack of humanity in how these women are deal with in prison,and the cost to all society with their exclusion from the ability to rise as she has from the crushing defeat prison can be for anyone.   A barefoot frontrunner, Piper Kerman sounds like she is not going to stop till she gets some results from a society that is waking up to the news that prison is a business we can’t afford to support any longer.



The Integrity of the right to choose


The Integrity of the right to choose to end a pregnancy is very real, and under attack and duress.  The question is by whom and for what purpose?  There is a serious attempt to reduce women’s rights and revert the  1973 before Roe VS Wade decision, and given the fact that the abortion rate is equal to that prior to Roe Vs Wade, it makes no sense. What is the basis of these attacks on Women’s Rights?

Is Blatant sexism sometimes  so broad and so in the grain of the surface, that it is barely noticed in the conversation around women’s right to choose?  The recent Supreme Court decision, and  Republicans in general come from the place that women are not adult enough, not smart enough or sophisticated enough to make the right choices for themselves.  Like keeping candy away from the child, out of the house and out of reach,  here is the assumption that taking the decision to make a decision by a woman is somehow similar to keeping candy out of reach to a child.  Ergo, the child will not eat candy that is bad for them if you take away their ability to choose.  Women will not make the choice if they don’t have the right to choose.  The same arguments have been made about women from the 1800’s by both parties, not just republicans:  that decisions need to be made for women and children by men.  Voting, driving cars, owning real estate, working – all of these were considered outside the range and responsibility level of women at one time, not that long ago.   But in the fifty years of women’s rights, civil rights of women, responsibility and choice have moved forward the dial of responsibility and integrity for women.  Women have chosen the road to equality by  taking responsibility for areas of their life that go with the rights they hold to manifest their lives from their choices.    Now in 40 states across the country, there is the attempt to  make decisions for women about their right to choose to take to term a pregnancy.

The facts are that abortions are at the same level in be 2014 that they were in 1973fore Roe VS Wade.  Greater access and education on birth control has brought the need and use of abortion down to the rate it was pre right to choose.

Roe VS Wade happened in 1973, the dawning of the visibility and the significance of civil rights-ushered in a time where women could had legal right to make their choices given their lives, and their circumstances.  As Justice Ruth Ginsberg has stated repeatedly:  women of means have always had the alternative of choosing to end a pregnancy as there has always been places women could go to get the help they needed.  The same women who helped women with childbirth helped women end pregnancies.  It is only the poor women who will suffer if the attempts to reduce women’s right to choose is taken back.  Back to the 1950’s, back to another time.    There is an attempt to turn back the clock, turn back the civil rights of women to make their own decisions is at the base of the efforts to go back in time.  As Hillary Clinton has said:  Women’s Rights are Human Rights.  There is no turning back.

By attempting to reduce women’s rights by eliminating the use of abortion in those states, there is an assumption that by having the option of abortion, women will mindlessly choose abortion who would not otherwise.  I totally disagree, and know the seriousness with which a woman approaches an abortion.  It is not an easy slide to make the decision.  It is a dilemma, it does require and is given consideration and women are more than capable of dealing with those decisions responsibly, with courage and integrity.

The catholic church represents one end of the spectrum where any interruption of a pregnancy through birth control is a violation of the potential child.   Barrier birth control or contraceptive birth control pills fall within this realm.  Then there is the IUD.  Perhaps it has not been fully recognized that what the IUD contraceptive method does is by its placement in the uterus, the body will reject any potential embryo when the menses cycle occurs.  Essentially the IUD serves the same function as abortion.  The continuum from diaphragm to medically inducing the expelling of an embryo are the range women have as choices in being responsible for themselves and any child that might result from their carrying it to term.

Integrity is the right word in terms of how women come to evaluate this scale of choice and responsibility.  It is not the easy way out as often assumed by those who denigrate women’s ability to choose what is right for them.   Because an IUD is available doesn’t mean that the GOP or the states that want to reduce women’s rights to choose  should outlaw their use.   Nor should they reduce access to  induced abortion.  The availability of the IUD and abortion are choices women are capable of making for themselves.  Women are not children for whom you need to limit choices and for whom others need to make decisions.  The prism of perception that allows attitudes that mitigate or challenge the ability of women to choose for themselves  falls into the range of the older days of institutionalized patriarchy.

There are women who will consider ending a pregnancy, there are many who will not for a variety of reasons not related to religion or even prior understanding of what they would do in that situation.  It’s a here and now experience that draws on the character and identity of the women and her mate, and her community.  She is right to make the choice that is right for her.

Integrity also in dealing with the process of releasing this potential life from your body is an experience women share, because rarely is there a listening for experience.  No one wants to hear that the hormone level of pregnancy is at one high level, and one measure of determining the embryo has left the body is the dramatic drop in the level of hormones, which can be quite devastating.    As a result, the emotional and hormonal experience for most women who experience spontaneous or induced abortion is difficult.  Women get little compassion for this process and rarely speak of it.  The procedure itself has to be right on the same level as an invasive root canal.  Women don’t choose to have these experiences, they choose to take the measures that responsibly deal with a pregnancy that they don’t want to bring to term.

The experience of the abortion and compassion for the women are not generally in the conversation.  It’s  as if they don’t deserve that response.  Truth is that the use of abortions though legal since 73 has dropped  drastically.  There is less need for abortions and less use of abortions now.  The most vulnerable groups to have unwanted pregnancies are those who don’t expect to have sex and therefore are not prepared, like teen agers and women over 50 according to the research.  Since their first visit to Planned Parenthood, girls have been informed about sexual responsibility, regarding unwanted pregnancies and sexual diseases.  Schools are prepared to respond to the interests of learning about sexuality and responsibility for sexuality.  All of this has an impact on the fact that there are less unwanted pregnancies, and a significant drop in abortions.

Women are not children who have to be protected from making their own decisions and need the law and a congress ambivalent about women’s rights to make decisions for them.  Not now, not ever.  Fifty years of women’s rights, civil rights cannot be washed away in a sea of false cause in an attempt to retrieve a past we have left behind for the better of all.



Eleanor Roosevelt: Catalyst and Leader 1930-1960

Eleanor Roosevelt:  Catalyst and Leader 1930-1960 began to gather women to take their parts in taking care of the people she saw languishing on the streets of Washington:  women, children and the elderly were the most vulnerable people.  Mrs. Roosevelt is said to have taken a part in the Commission on the Status of Women begun by more than a few presidents that proceeded and represented the basis for the Woman’s Movement.  The New Deal that came through her husband’s work many attribute to the engagement of Mrs. Roosevelt who ventured from the White House and her Upper Class standing to come to see and understand the needs of the country at different points in time.  Rarely referred to as a feminist, she represents everything that is powerful about women coming together for social change.

PART I:  HISTORY 1930-1960

Ruth Rosen, University of California social historian describes most specifically the process of change that from the early Women’s Movement prior to 1963 throughout the backlash against feminism in the 80’s to the rise of global feminism in the 90’s.  She chronicles the rise of effectiveness of the women’s movement to unintentional consequences by President John Kennedy in 1961.  The women who had been a part of his successful run for President were invited to participate in the “Commission of the Status of Women.”  These women were particularly skilled and educated and once brought together came up with grievances toward women.   “Once women get together and talk, they identify the issues and from their ability to establish a language have the basis for social change,” is how Rosen describes this process then, now, here and globally.  She has interviewed the women on that commission, and met with the women who she feels were the “reason for the results that happened for the Women’s Movement.”  Eleanor Roosevelt was the Chairperson of the Commission and they were effective in what they presented to the public, but did not get the results they wanted from within the structure of the government.  In 1966, they formed an independent Women’s Movement to have their issues and grievances for women addressed and acted upon.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was being presented for a vote and Rep. Howard K. Smith, chair of the House Rules did not want to see the Equal Rights Bill pass for racial or country of origin civil rights and so added, sex to the bill with the assumption that  would result in the bill failing to pass in congress.  Instead Title 7, Equal Rights Amendment in the Civil Rights Act passed changing the course of history.

Rosen stresses two significant accidental contributions by President Kennedy and Rep. Howard K. Smith that provided the playing field for real change to happen for women.  The other factor attributed to the social change underway was the fact that the women who participated in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Students for a Democratic Society created a “manifesto” in 1965 to 40 women active in civil rights, student and peace movements that produced “discussion and action toward the goals of feminism that would be debated over the next three decades.”

Rosen credits the middle class value of education for women that came up in the 50’s, the Feminine Mystique by Betty Frieden, as the source of the language, noise and productive political actions of the Women’s Movement.  She describes how women came to identity the “injuries of sex” and once identified and brought to language gave found for “the real genius of the Women’s Movement.”

It has to be said that the 1964 change of women having access to birth control pills correlates with the changes women brought to bear in social policy, and shows up in the fact that all changes of significance happened for women after 1964.

Part 2:  War against Women among other sources has a list of 65 state legislative proposed actions to limit Roe VS Wade.  Their statement is:  “When one group of people display inordinate animus and enmity toward an organization representing a majority of the nation’s population, it is either because of ideology or conditioning spanning centuries.  In American, over 200 years of slavery has left an indelible streak of racial bigotry that persists today despite a civil rights movement and election of an African American President.  Despite women’s suffrage and feminists movement in the last century, women are still regarded as second class citizens by a stubborn patriarchal element in government incited by evangelical Christians.  The evangelical element is so enraged over women gaining a semblance of equal rights and the right to choose their own reproductive health, they naturally extended their hatred of women to an organization that primarily serves women and their health issues.”

Relative to this interview with Ruth Rosen, my question was-given the current state of the GOP war on women-should the Women’s Movement be reignited, recharged, regrouped?

Dr. Rosen’s answer was a surprising – no,  Her position is that the Women’s Movement has created millions of women on their jobs, in their communities, in education, in their churches who are representing the need for action relative to the goals of the Women’s Movement.  “It was a brilliant success” because women themselves bring to their homes, communities and work places, their unions the integration of the work that needs to continue.  The need for childcare, was a current example Rosen gave that is significant for women today.  Googling women’s organizations, it is clear that there is evidence that backs up Dr. Rosen’s view.  She doesn’t see a gathering of one Women’s Movement even within states as effective as compared to the effectiveness of  how women are participating now, mainstream, everywhere.   A Women’s Movement now  would produce more “significant differences,  more conflict”  than collaboration in Rosen’s assessment.

So surely the internet is a means to connect, identify issues and form action that brings women together.  One such group that came to mind was  that I brought up to Dr. Rosen.    They have no central office, all are in their homes all across the country and address women’s and civil rights; their recent work had much to do with the success recently of paid family leave.  Bringing up concerns nationwide that effect all moms, all families is a source for  changing policies by their presence on the internet and at the White House.  Dr. Rosen does know this group and speaks highly of their work as representative of women creating social change for the better.

PART 3: Women coming out to vote for midterm election

Dr. Rosen expressed strongly that it is very important for women to get out the vote for the midterm elections.  It is a known fact that women generally do not get out to vote for the midterm, but getting more seats in the house is really important this election.  Here is where women can get together however they do their votes in,  and encourage each other to get their vote in and counted.  All women need to be concerned about the 700 bills in play in congress and in 40 states, designed to silence the women and throw away decades of progress in civil rights and equality that have deeply contributed to the current choices available to women.  Our daughters, their daughters may not know how it is they got to have the choices they have, the platform established by the Women’s Movement and the debt we all owe to those who brought equality as a practice into our lives.  Getting out the vote for the midterms was the recommendation of Dr. Rosen.  The women’s vote is critical and many speak about that on the various political analysis cable news shows.  This is an important year, and the huge difference can be made by the women who were identified as having been a large part in President Obama’s success in his election.

This is the year to take action and vote in response to what President Obama said recently at a Planned Parenthood conference, that the legislation in 42 states banning or severely limiting the right to choose  is an “assault on women’s rights, and an attempt to roll back the clock for women to 1950.”  Statistically the number of women who generally don’t vote at the midterm elections if they do vote can create the tipping point needed to have the number of  GOP seats reduced and the country to move on to future rather than attempting to return to the past..