Tag Archives: Roe vs Wade

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..


Sex, Women and Power


Karen Colusa, artist 2011IMG_0703

Gloria Steinem:  “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

Sex, Women and Power came as a new chapter for the new woman and changed the human potential for how men and women lived their lives.   While living through the abrupt interruption of the life around me in the revolution of the late 1960’s;  new perceptions and ideals even with  its cost provided a political and social chaos from which sexual liberation led to the choices I began to recognize that were mine to make.  Feminism-though I didn’t have a name for it- was what I felt like a hot knife to a still cold center of my being  as a child when I was a witness to contempt and lack of dignity afforded those considered less strong, less seen-the unconsidered, the other.   The concepts I could not name, but I felt  when I witnessed the inequity, injustice and pain administered with authority by those in power.  The urgent push to stand in the cracks rather than enter either the realm of those holding the power or those victimized was where I placed myself.  The passionate and uncompromising places I found in the cracks were the signposts and directives of my life, and the purpose of this book is to identify the process of feminism-equity and justice-for men and women,  inside and out, and the  call for the future we must secure.

Women’s rights born under the blanket of civil rights fifty years ago shares some of the history-the struggle for equality, finding a place at the table with equal rights and privileges as citizens with access to choice and responsibility has been a process shared between women and minorities. We argue that the structured systematic condition of placing obstacles to equality for race and sex are less overt, but live in the condition of the need to exclude and deny that process of exclusion in an attempt to maintain established white privilege and power.

Women and their sense of power are a thread that is the life-force, the motion and the expression of the feminism- that I address in this book.  Personal is the political for the women, the barefoot frontrunners, who took the steps to bring into their lives,  their dignity and their choices,  fulfilling the potential of equality.  One by one, in small and large measured and unmeasured ways often, the progress over the past fifty years is profound.  It reveals a pattern of empowered by sexual equality  that is  followed by full participation in all realms of business, political, medical and scientific achievement.


PART ONE – WOMEN describes  the path  of women through interviews, historical context and intimate essays of the changes experienced that redefined of women and the society around them .   Interviews with women who were born in 1940 initiated the process of recognizing the specific agents that created social and sexual change.  With the Women’s Movement and Civil Rights movement in the background,  women lived under the radar but were the instruments of significant change.  It was about how they lived their lives with  a response step by step, trial and error to a new world of choice and responsibility .  It is also the story of the women who came together in the 1920’s in the trade unions, then again in the 1960’s to forming the ethos of feminism.   NOW, and the Women’s Liberation Movement impacted and changed the political structure by their relentless demand and attainment of worker’s rights and  equality in the workplace and in the home.  But it was all the women who followed who took the movement to a transformed society.

 PART TWO – SEX describes  women  as they gained access to choice and responsibility to determine their own lives.   The world changed for women with the first birth control pills in 1964, and then the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 that determined prejudice against minorities, women and immigrants could not exclude their participation and inclusion in The Great Society we aspired to be.  The  atmosphere of the late 1960’s was  that of challenging assumptions about who we were as a country and as human beings, as men and as women.   Assumptions about our roles and identities gave way to the cognitive dissonance inspired by  the new freedoms and new choices and new responsibilities that came often in chaos and confusion.   The future was unclear, but the  demonstrations and anger from the universities to the streets of Chicago, LA and New York demanded a look at our priorities and  participation in the world.     Affirmative Action in 1965 was the starting point for many, within the scope of civil rights and President Lyndon Johnson’s insistence in fulfilling the intention of the Civil Rights Act.  Preferential admission to universities and jobs enhanced access for women, and minorities in an attempt to reverse discrimination.  The timeline shows that sexual and political power seems linked to the new history by women, and changes in social roles and by both men and women.    Sexual and political changes over the span of the  years of social revolution  illustrate how new patterns emerged in how people lived their lives.

The women who stepped forward in Seneca Falls in 1848 or in Afganistan a week ago, give weight to the position  of women who impact their circumstances and the world around them. Significant and a crack in the hardened ground of patriarchy, class regimentation, we see girls like Malala Yousafzai who have broken through the fear and contempt, and will not be stopped. In our own country, ground is broken for non violence against women who have had the courage to come forward and break the chains of sexual abuse in their homes, in our military, in universities, and in the athletic sports world. We have moved forward significantly, but in our poorest and most crime ridden local communities today, there is recognition that for girls,  lack of education and property make less possible access  and entry into the workplace.  It all begins for girls with the means to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies in order to progress and make into a sustainable life.  Planned Parenthood has served women since the days of Margaret Sanger in the 1940’s. Roe Vs.Wade has added to their support of women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, but predominantly, Planned Parenthood has served as a source of education and service for all income levels to guide their management of  health and well being, sexual education and birth control. Predominantly, the sexual revolution of the 1970’s brought the recognition of women as sexual beings with desire and appetite unrelated to their roles as wives and mothers.


The PART THREE – POWER  is the product of call in 1970 for the sexual and political liberation of women that made for the ongoing transformation underway worldwide for women, and for humanity. Women getting together with women and calling for change and taking on the openings provided to women with Affirmative Action was the action taken.  Led by the voices of the women in the movement, but achieved by the women who stepped forward into the potential for liberty brought on by the social revolution.  It was each women who chose to take on whatever part she saw for herself to achieve her place, her position of being a free woman.  The brave actions of these barefoot frontrunners brought on the markers of feminism we find in the world today.  The role of fathers, the definition of family, the high representation of women in professional and political positions of power are all the work of the women who came before.   Feminism has always been about social justice and social equity, and we find  today the work of Civil Rights undone is where the energy of feminism lives in Black Lives Matter.  Sexism and racism begin always with the exclusion of the other seen as a threat to prevailing power.    Marriage Equality in 35 states is a major win for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights,  But those left behind, the women and the people of color, may be the next level of identifying and bringing the needed light and attention to the wounded people abandoned by unsustainable economic dynamics .

  New family patterns have emerged that include a variety of ways in which people hold and define their lives.  Who people marry and if they marry are new questions with new answers as we move forward.  The dignity and individual expression of living life as we choose for men and women is the move toward a better world most agree.  And yet, there is a serious attempt to take women’s rights back to restrictions and limitations lived through before women’s right to choose and birth control.  Guttmacher Institute described in 2011 as the War on Women’s Reproductive Rights.   In 50 states, there are 1100- reproductive revisions designed to restrict access to abortion and birth control services in in 24 states.  Republicans in the house are waging a war on women through attempts to deny birth control in the Affordable Health Care system; their efforts are to take not just women but the law itself back to what was gained by Roe VS Wade in 1973.  These legislative proposals from Georgia, Texas and Pennsylvania as well as Louisiana, Ohio and North Carolina are designed to take women back, not forward and ultimately society back not forward to the future we’ve left behind.

Knowing how we have come this distance considering the magic and the mastery that directed the course of women’s liberation and civil rights brings a stark recognition of the value of these past fifty years.  And an urgency  to keep what has been attained, and reach deeper and harder for those left behind.  Affirmative Action ended in 1984, but there is talk of bringing it back.  There is also a movement to train and teach women and young black boys and girls to code and enter the tech world with its cavernous need for workers as unlimited potential is the direction of that world.  Yes We Code is such an organization with Start Ups all over the country bringing inventors and youth together unleashing the imagination and competency accessible in this union.  Further the goal of feminism has always been since Seneca Falls in the 1920’s a solution to the people thrown away in prisons.  Prison Reform is at the front of the work going forward for  those who aspire for a world that represents the goals of humanitarianism, peace and justice.   That is the power we discuss in this book.

This work is dedicated to all the women making the effort to include themselves, bring their talents, desires and wants to their world and our world.  The new woman today is an expression of bringing their eyes and heart to meet the unmet challenges for humanity. Their power to language and shoulder the means to free themselves, and in turn to free others.     To all the women and men who work  to lift the corners of darkness and fear in the glaring light of racism and sexism, this is the new world we require.   Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland, New York City are not the exceptions, the people there have exposed the substantial work left to do to fulfill the goals of the Civil Rights Bill, and free men and women from the bigotry that robs them of their own peace.   That truly is the power we will need to meet the challenges ahead.






World War II-birth control and the New Deal

Against the State, AGainst the church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.

 Margaret Sanger 1940 

WORLD WAR II-the New Deal and birth control

For the women born in 1940, sex was dangerous.  There was no support for choosing to be pregnant or not.  Sixteen million men and women were in World War II and 8 out of 10 high school graduates were in the military service.  Jobs needed at the shipyards, in the farms and the family businesses, such as my grandfather’s gas and oil business, were managed and run by  600,000 women until the war ended and the men returned.  The New Deal had not come about by President Roosevelt, and so the women and children depended on the extended kin and family and the church as support to them.  There was 4% divorce at that time, and mostly the husband, occasionally the wife left the family and disappeared and were never heard from again.

After the war, 28.6% women worked out of the home, and there was a mixture as people lef their families of origin during the war and then after with the use of the VA loan and the VA  bill for college.  Under FDR and the New Deal, the single family credit and social welfare gave a basis of support for the nuclear family that emerged post World War II.  In general, women did not go to college, drive or own property, serve on juries or lease apartments.  But for the women who did attend college, Home Economics was a major and a minor course considered appropriate.  Feminism, if identified or spoken of, was not a thread throughout the culture and its meaning to most was ambiguous, related to a few women and men who held a standard of equality as a social good, as well as an advance for women.   The pejorative word attributed to women at the time was to point out the lack of what was considered feminine graces and value.

Sexuality studies

It would be the case that Freud studied  the sexuality of women relative to their function in producing children and being a responsive partner to their husbands.  Kinsey and Masters and Johnson took the study of the function of sexuality in the lives of men and women, using scientific methods to measure effects of sexuality, function and dysfunction for both male and female.  But the topic of women’s desire and the  emotional content relative to women and their sexuality would be considered much after women had access to birth control in 1964, Civil Rights and Roe VS Wade in 1973.

The Mystique and the pill

The consciousness and the history of women’s sexuality evolved from the early days of Margaret Sanger raised the issue of comstockery.  Women being used to bare children to work on the farms providing their own free labor.  Then in 1951 at age 72, Margaret Sanger got a small grant for Gregory Pincus and the Worchester Foundation to research the process of ovulation with injections of progesterone that prohibited ovulation and pregnancy.   G. D. Searle also engaged in the process of the study of progesterone to address birth control.  However, it was Carl Djerassi in Mexico City who created the progesterone pill.  Again, the focus for women to be in control of their ovulation to manage their family size was a new idea whose time had come because of the relentless and passionate work of Margaret Sanger for over 40 years.  For most women, the issues around their sexuality were contained in the effort to be pregnant when unable to conceive, or the attempt to get help from their family doctors to monitor their cycles and pregnancies.

By 1961, birth control was still illegal in Connecticut but Dr. C. Lee Buxton, the Chairman of the Yale Medical School of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but finding a way to help women conceive was very much the effort of the medical community.  In the process of identifying the means to enhance potential pregnancy through progesterone, the unintentional consequence was the established knowledge that ovulation could be monitored and managed.   Women talked to their doctors to get the news of the availability of birth control pills.    By 1963, 1.2 million American women used the pill.  By 1967 12.5 million women world wide would use the pill for birth control.  It would be in 1972, that the federal government ruled that the states could not prohibit unmarried women from the use of the pill for birth control.

But what did women want in the bedroom and out of the bedroom was the question that now came up in the conversation.  In 1963, the best seller book written by Betty Friedan, “The Feminine Mystique” began a conversation among women, in pairs, in groups and ultimately in a movement about this intimate part of their lives  and how it connected to their personal liberty.  Cheryl Hite and the Hite Report, Erica Jung and Fear of Flying also created a new awareness for women about themselves.  They talked with each other and validated experiences about their own sexuality, their desires, their feelings about their sexuality.  They did not take this conversation to  authorities such as doctors and experts.  Even in the realm of sexuality, the communication between women about their lives has been a basis for changes in the identity and behavior chosen by some.  Always woman to woman there has been the igniting and inspiration to fulfill their commitment to liberty, deepened by their exposure to each other  from the days of the Suffragettes to the world we live in today.

This shift in culture, in knowledge and practice of  women determining their choices in their area of their sexuality was not entirely welcome by all women and a great deal of society considered the consequences of this social change.   Newspapers and magazines featured articles about the threats to the family in giving women more choices about their sex lives. The perceived threat was that women would be like men with this new freedom and would in their freedom challenge current morality and standards.

The New Deal also changed the family structure. Prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s social security, aid to children, and social services, family and only family and church were responsive to concerns, difficulties and finances of how people took care of themselves. With the New Deal, and World War II’s Veteran’s Loans, a new middle class would result with new homes and the ability to gain access to middle class through the VA educational benefit. The individual could function outside of the group, and mobilize toward a new concept of the single family unit.


While concern for a new society that might result from freeing women of the constraints prior to birth control,  a deep divide  among women who didn’t identify with the strident provocative tone of the Women’s Movement in the late 60’s provoked a schism, and had the women’s movement ultimately lost impact over time.   The polarities among the women, in families, in social groups, in colleges drove the national conversation further into conflict.   1973 would widen the gap even further with the Roe VS Wade decision.  Just as today in the current political atmosphere, there is challenge and conflict over the value of Planned Parenthood over 40 years later, and women choosing their destiny.  Further, the freedom of women and their choices are being challenged in over 40 states within the nation who are attempting to go back in time and bring back the constraints, restrictions to women’s ability to choose to bear children.

The new family, the new woman and the new social consciousness resulting from the 1970’s has 41% of women being the breadwinner in their families. Women are now able to conceive with a donor rather than a partner. The choice to marry is not a necessity for survival, parenting or sustaining a livelihood or being part of a community. Clusters of communities based on interests are a common core to many lives, not at the exclusion of family, but in addition. 2013 was reported by PEW research to be the first year that the majority of the population held the status of not married.   A new group identified are individuals who live with one or more unrelated people. The future has taken power not just to women in life choices, but clearly to men and women of all ages. The New Deal and birth control opened these doors to individual choice and destiny.






1973 ERA and women in power and politics



1970 brought about the Equal Rights Amendment, followed in 1973 by Roe vs Wade which allowed termination of unwanted pregnancies.   The link between political power and sexual choice were once again afforded to women in this new world of feminism.  Even in the dissension and uproar within families, social groups and society, these actions signaled  unequivocally that women would find the support they needed in their work place and in their homes.  The backing of the state and federal government to support their choices about their bodies and their family size was the turnover of soil that brought a new future for womankind.  The Equal Rights Amendment embodied in the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 was the other powerful director of that future.

Any  conversation about the Equal Rights Amendment has to include the work of Ruth Ginsburg.  In 1954, being one of eight women in a class of 500 at Harvard Law School, Ruth experienced as did the other women the direct admonition of the Dean who considered the women as taking the place of qualified men.  Ginsburg’s response was to be the first female member of the Harvard Law Review. Ultimately she graduated from Columbia Law School in New York City first in her class in 1959.   All through her career, Ruth Ginsburg argued for gender equality.  President Bill Clinton appointed  her to the Supreme Court in 1993 after she had been appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in 1980. Ruth Ginsburg  has maintained a presence for gender equality and workers rights throughout her tenure. The second woman confirmed in the Supreme Court in 1993,  joining the first woman appointed  by Ronald Reagan in 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor.

Equality of gender was a part of The First Womens World Conference in 1975.   As well,  a basic premise of that conference was that  world development was not possible without the full participation of women and that women held a vital role in the promotion of peace.  A reflection of the world change that was happening at different levels in different places in the world surely.  As we know there are many parts of the world where women have no rights politically, socially or sexually.  The progress, however, began with the understanding that female liberation and security was attainable, and chosen in many countries of the world.

Women progressed in the United States.  By  1975, women working outside the home went from 4% to 49%.   By 1978, more women more women entered college than men.  From 1980-84 women came into political offices.  In 1980 Elizabeth Dole became Secretary of Labor, 1984,  Geraldine Ferrara was the Vice Presidential candidate.  Janet Reno and Madeline Albright were given posts in President Clinton’s cabinet in 1992.  The Equal Rights Amendment would pass in 1997, and the Paycheck Fairness Act would pass in 2008 because of Lily Ledbetter.

From the 20’s where women had worked for health reform, prison reform and ended child labor, those efforts by Mabel Vernon and Sarah Bard Field were the beginnings of the frontrunners who came to public office and brought forward the advances from the 70’s onward.  It’s important to see the spectrum of time has not been that long. These were the women who found themselves in the front of the line fostered by women behind the lines in groups and individually.   They found themselves able to make choices and decisions that their mothers did not and the path for them was not that clear.  Out of the chaos and contradictions,   a new model of what it was to be a women began to emerge, the context for modern feminism – about humanism, the dignity afforded to all people to have access to choice and responsibility.

Sexuality and Politics


For the years prior to the birth control and Roe VS Wade, the study of women’s sexuality was specifically about their ability to procreate.  Freud and Kinsey in 1953 and later Masters and Johnson looked at female sexuality from a biological stance, without a focus on desire and emotional content.  The focus of their work was to create the best conditions for pregnancy to occur.   As the right for women to choose was approaching legal status,  the aspect of sexuality from the perspective of positive value for women also came into existence.   Betty Frieden in The Feminine Mystique in 1963 gave a perspective of the experience of female sexuality that had women engage with each other over the topic of their own personal experience.  There was a new question:  Are women enjoying their sexual lives and what does that look like?


Even before the pill in 64,   the Margaret Sanger Center in New York had made available diaphragms to women as a contraceptive and educated women to the notion of limiting family size.  Margaret Sanger, for providing this source of birth control had been put in jail for this offense more than once.  Within the group interviewed for this book, there were reports of getting diaphragms from the Margaret Sanger Clinic in New York in 1920.   There were few women who had the means or the ability to choose abortion by going to Juarez, Mexico and other secret places, special doctors compassionate to women with unwanted pregnancies within the United States.    The birth control pill was first designed to assist in creating ovulation by regulating the cycle of menestruation.   Recognized for its birth control effect, some smart mothers took their daughters to their gynecologists “to regulate their periods,” knowingly reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancy.


  Roe vs Wade offered the choice for women to  take or not take pregnancy to full term.  That same year, unmarried women were allowed to get birth control pills from their doctors. It is no coincidence it would seem that the question of value and desire then became a part of the conversation for women around that time.   Sex as a function of fulfilling the biological function for women was replaced by the emergence of pleasure and orgasm as a priority for women.  The Hite Report in 1976 gave a view of the  intimate experiences relative to their pleasure and gratification, orgasm and masterbation were reported by women in the research of Cheryl Hite for this book.  Women began to talk to each other about their experiences, their expectations and their desires.  It stirred up questions women had never before been willing to reveal about their sexual lives.

John Bancroft work at the Kinsey Institute in the 40’s was the tip of the iceberg in bringing up the scientific question of what lay behind the behavior of women relative to their sexuality, as reported by Julia Heiman, current director of the Kinsey Institute.  But it would be the impact of the national conversation among women about their sex lives that was stimulated by the Hite Report that had the topic gain ground among women in the 70’s.  The  ladies bridge club tables in the late 60’s, early ’70’s and other ladies’ gatherings often provided the place and time for those discussions by women about women, the topic of orgasm had come into the conversation.

Not all women identified with the strident voice and emerging presence of the National Organization of Women, the word feminist was not taken on by many.  In fact, within the National Organization of Women it was well reported that a split had occurred between the newly emerging and highly vocal gay rights activists and the interests and positions causing dissension and confusion for a purposeful direction that all could support. Meanwhile, most women were aware of and not directly participating in the process of feminism or the woman’s movement in any form.  But they were taking women’s studies in the local junior colleges, moving on to the colleges and universities made available by Affirmative Action.  They also reported entering into therapy and the self awareness studies and programs and talking to other women, forming women’s groups that allowed the women to assimilate the new choices and options available to them.


Now the pressure was on in a new way:  women undertook the study of their sexuality and sought to have a fulfilling sex life.  Helen Singer Kaplan, a sexologist working with women who wanted to expand or understand the limits of their gratification in their sexual lives.   Kaplan in the 70’s developed a study on the physical response of women measuring those responses in the release of serotonin, heart rate, dilation of the eyes and lubrication.  Her findings were that the emotional or cognizant awareness and the physiological response of women did not correspond .  That is, the biological physiological changes in the body that corresponded with desire for sex were apparent but were not detected or reported by the women as they occurred.  It was reported that the “split” -separation of feeling and physical response did not show up for men.  When there was biological physiological change in men, men were aware of the desire that came with those changes.  The obvious conclusion was that the evidence for physical response by men was observable and validated by erection.  But as well, the standards around  sexual response that are part of the education and experience of men and women as they enter puberty and adulthood had been very different.   Men have historically had more approval of overt expression of interest in sexuality than women.  Part of the identity shift in the times of sexual liberation for women was to change their opinion about their own experience to allow recognition and connection with their own body.  Being aware of one’s own body and its desires for women is as recent as the social and political changes for women in the  past forty years of western society.

When you consider the amount of pressure on women up until the mid to late 1960’s to withhold themselves from sexual activity for a variety of reasons, including pregnancy but most specifically relative to their value and inclusion as “good women,” it makes sense that there would be a denial to those experiences.  The rules socially adhered to by the majority of men and women prior to the sexual and political shift of consciousness of the 6o’s and 70’s  did not include enjoyment overtly expressed by ‘good’ women.  The women were the gatekeepers of sex and took the fall if unmarried sex occurred and definitely was blamed for unmarried pregnancies.  Not that different from parts of the world we see and hear about where women are stoned, burned and abused for any signs of such an expression publicly or even privately with her husband.  Those concepts about women still live in the halls of congress where recently a nameless senator suggested birth control would not be needed if women kept their knees together.  Hard to believe those attitudes  prevail.

The dramatic change from the mores that discouraged, limited women and even punished women relative to their expression of their sexual interest and appetite to expression and fulfillment are a new age phenomena.  Around the world today, there are countries and nations that still punish women for any overt expression of their sexuality and  limit the women’s access to responsible care of themselves through the use of birth control.  The late 60’s provided the beginning of women owning their own sexual lives.

In 1976,  Cheryl Hite  presented her book The Hite Report.  Nationwide the book offered women a whole other aspect to their sexuality.  This book presented intimate sexual research on female orgasm reported by the women themselves.  It caused a sensation for sure and broke the taboo of open discussion by women about themselves and their sexuality.  Books about women’s sexuality had been by doctors, priests, psychologists, but this was the women themselves discussing their appetites and desires now revealed in this best seller.

Corresponding with the dawning of sexual liberation of women into a new context of modern feminism, there were the changes in the sociopolitical structure around them.  The connection seems significant between sex and politics as we entered the next entry of feminism; women taking public office.

1978 was the first year there were more women entering college than men.  1980-84 brought women into political offices.  In 1980, Elizabeth Dole became Secretary of Labor.  In 1981 Sandra Day O’Connor became first Supreme Court Judge and in the election of 1984,  Geraldine Ferraro was the Vice Presidential candidate.  Janet Reno and Madeline Albright were given posts in President Clinton‘s cabinet in 1992, he also appointed Ruth Ginsburg  to the Supreme Court in 1993.  The Equal Rights Amendment would pass in 1997, and the Paycheck Fairness Act would pass in 2008 because of Lily Ledbetter.

Elizabeth Warren, Hilary Clinton, Gabby Gifford 

These are the women we look to for leadership in our world today.  Each woman has shown the world their ability to stand for the ideals of feminism/humanism as women with a deep passion and commitment for equality and equity for those outside the benefit of power.


How significant is the question of desire for women in the context for modern feminism?  The question of gratification is new ground, new identity and new definition to what it is to be a women.  We have come through the past fifty years, but poverty and lack of education are as much the determinant of the exploited, the mutilated and the excluded in any society.   Many women world wide come from conditions that far exceed those from which women have been liberated in the past fifty years.  The changes necessary to restructure and reallocate power in any group are not easily come by.  Some of the changes that have come with the past fifty years of redefinition of what it is to be a man, what it is to be a woman bring confusion and chaos long before clarity.  But no one wants to go back, in fact women world wide want to bring their sisters forward and into their own power.

Meanwhile, we continue to be students to this life long pursuit of knowing and expressing our power and our sexuality.

Meridith Chivers of Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario directed her research in 2009 to “Discovering What Ignites Desire for women,” in the Archives of Sexual Behavior Anthology.  Those studies and those of Lisa Diamond, a Sexologist at the University of Utah, also studied women’s desire in her sexuality study.  The Diamond  study revealed that women’s desire is more receptive to and dictated by need for intimacy and emotional connection.  She measured the oxytocin as a factor in asserting that female desire was reliant on estrogen- and the cause of desire for women.

Marta Meana, Professor at University of Nevada, also researched in her study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, and her findings were that it wasn’t the closeness or communication that created the oxytocin that released desire, but  that “being desired is the orgasm.”   Meana attributed that to narcissism.  Her study suggested that  sexual response was a “yearning for self love.”

  Meridith Chivers of Queen’s University of Kingston, Ontario directed her research in 2009 to “Discovering What Ignites Desire for women,” in the Archives of Sexual Behavior Anthology.  Those studies and those of Lisa Diamond, a Sexologist at the University of Utah, also studied women’s desire in her sexuality study.  The Diamond  study revealed that women’s desire is more receptive to and dictated by need for intimacy and emotional connection.  She measured the oxytocin as a factor in asserting that female desire was reliant on estrogen- and the cause of desire for women.

Marta Meana, Professor at University of Nevada, also researched in her study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, and her findings were that it wasn’t the closeness or communication that created the oxytocin that released desire, but  that “being desired is the orgasm.”   Meana attributed that to narcissism.  Her study suggested that  sexual response was a “yearning for self love.”

How and under what conditions do women experience their desire is a new question.     Many countries continue to keep the constraints, sanctions and prohibitions that limit and control women through lack of education and birth control; poverty in this country or any country limits and victimizes girls and women to reduced options in determining their sexuality.  Planned Parenthood has for all the years since Margaret Sanger opened the doors of her Clinic in the 40’s been a source for young women taking responsibility for their  wellbeing with education and prescription for avoiding pregnancy and sexual diseases, a response serving the clients and their community.  All the more alarming is the movement to close the doors of Planned Parenthood, and limit the education and services they provide.


Incredulously, corresponding with the attacks on Planned Parenthood, in 40 states,  there is an attempt to take women back to that societal and legal constraints limiting women choosing to take a pregnancy to term.  As women gain more power of choice in how they live their lives, take on head of the household status with jobs and income, opt to make their own choices in terms of marital status, women have become more powerful politically.  The last Presidential election data suggests that women, single women in particular had a great impact on the results that voted in President Barack Obama.
The correlation between the power to express their lives sexually and politically seems to have caused a backlash against women by at least 40 state legislative bills attempting to reduce women’s ability to choose to be pregnant and to bring pregnancy to term.  But ultimately the intention clearly is to limit the power of women politically through attempting to send the women back to the choices available in 1950.