When one is asked to give a short reflection on a big topic, it is difficult to figure out what is most important. When the topic is Women and the listeners are very savvy politically—it is really tough.
Back in the late sixties when I was part of a “consciousness raising” group, ours was mainly an issue of being able to assert oneself in a world that we had been taught was naturally and rightly male dominated. All of the women in this group were from the struggles for community control of schools on the Lower East Side, New York, and we were a seasoned, and we thought, tough crew. Later, you would have thought from the tears that flowed at these meetings, that we were from the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) or Junior League—girlie girls!! Because, you see, we found the commonality of our experiences—incidents we thought were personal decisions made from our worst motivations, participation in soul destroying “training” by the patriarchy, and many more—made us understand that there were plans afoot. If we shared so much negative brainwashing, what was it about? We realized that of course, it made life easier for the oppressor—both as an individual and societal—but that it wasn’t what we were willing to settle for. Our bonds strengthened and we were all better able to cope with and confront what has now been called “sexism” as it affected us personally.
What was not so obvious in those days was that not only were we going to have to re-educate our partners, and our comrades in the struggle, we had unmasked the ugly underpinning of the personal and reveled its societal origins. We not only had to deal with men who were near, dear and basically sympathetic—we were going to have to deal with generations of men preceding—old goats and Pharisees. My dear partner Ralph Poynter has remarked many times that all the religions, ancient and modern, have as their goal old men controlling young women. It is manifesting itself in our time with great immediacy through the campaigns to eliminate or limit reproductive rights. Decisions that are so very personal, they believe they have the right to make for us. Bully boy tactics—must inform the parents, must watch an ultrasound, must wait 24 hours. The very tactics they use show their misogyny and view that we women are all children in need of paternal guidance. We cannot make decisions; we don’t know what we’re doing! The patriarchy will make these decisions for us!
Another aspect of this abortion debate, and one that has been part of it forever is the very immediate question of exactly what these guys, who want above all for us to reproduce, are prepared to offer that child? Back in those days of consciousness raising, one of our true “Sheroes” was a Black woman lawyer named Flo Kennedy. She queried in her usual acerbic tone, “Where are all these friends of the fetus after babies are born?” Are there better schools, better healthcare, more safe housing? No, of course not, and this reveals the underlying perverse motivation is not to bring forth beloved babies. It is to make sure that the mothers (women) accept a certain bondage while providing and dedicating themselves to those children. The worst “terror” is not being able to provide and shelter these little ones from the evils of the consummate corporate society. And the same men that howl for abortion rights to be eliminated, do not provide one iota, not a drip, not a dab, of real help to mothers, financial or otherwise, for these now born fetuses.
When any topic surrounding women is scratched, the ugly patriarchal controls are revealed. How about the military? Want your daughter out there killing Third World people for an imperial U.S. greed that has never been matched? Even worse than becoming a Condoleezza Rice or Sarah Palin is what women in the service are subjected to by their “fellow” soldiers and “superiors.” Yes, I mean rapes, sexual assaults, improper touching of all kinds, bullying and ultimately murder. This is documented and the loneliness, self-hate and despair of these young women make this one of our highest feminist priorities.
Our movement must be dedicated to the end of the wars that make these women into cannon fodder, throwaways; and to building awareness everyday, in every way that these atrocities to women cannot be tolerated—not from a superior officer, not from a boss, professor, doctor, prison guard, teacher—not from the guy who “loved” you and married you. Consent, a basic human right, must be respected. Romantic love is used to distract us—hello? Falling in love isn’t the reason women were created! We were created to fight back and to join others likeminded and to fight together for a society of equality, on every level.
Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you that this is a big topic and one that naturally gets me riled up. Before I finish I must say a word about women in prison. Of course it is a microcosm of the control exercised in the real world—guards with arbitrary authority in charge of hundreds of women who are docile for the most part. Some are victims of the “war” on drugs and are suffering ten, twenty, thirty years of prison usually due, again, to bad choices of love and loyalty. Also we all suffer a tremendous level of disrespect here and sympathy is non-existent for the most part. All that basically protects us is other women—roommates, friends—who will speak out if there is a medical problem. Unfortunately, many of the women are from a lower stratum and are used to being ignored or stonewalled. Even I, a mouthy New Yorker with lawyer connections and a tremendous supporter base (thank you thank you) have been waiting since October for surgery. Could it be my age? Could it be that it is “just” a woman thing? I always assume the worst while I still exist in this patriarchy. It also brings to mind when I was first arrested that a friend shouted at me “If you don’t think you are singled out as a woman, you are crazy!” ’Nuff said.
To finish this rambling I want to say that the problems confronting women as women are as various and serious as those confronting the movement as a whole, and that we can never forget our loyalty to both causes. We are dedicated to changing the world, and resolving the “woman question” is still prime on the agenda. Without that resolution we are only moving the shells in a shell game. Change must be fundamental—-from the root—and re-order of the society as a whole.
Write to Lynne Stewart at:
Lynne Stewart #53504-054
Unit 2N, Federal Medical Center, Carswell
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127
Write to Lynne Stewart Defense Committee at:
Lynne Stewart Defense Committee
1070 Dean Street
Brooklyn, New York 11216
For further information:
718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759