Today is International Women’s Day.
I will admit that I did not know that until I looked at my Twitter stream this morning. My lack of awareness about it, and the apathy of a handful of women in my Twitter stream towards it, could be considered as a triumph for International Women’s Day:
I, and the three or four other women, live in Ireland – a society that legislates against discrimination based on gender. We can vote, we can go to University, we can stay in a public-sector job after we get married! Clearly, in the 101 years since the first International Women’s Day was called for, Ireland has made huge progress for Women’s Rights. But, as the well-worn phrase goes: “a lot done, more to do” (one area of which I have discussed previously: “Over-educated; under-valued“).
It is amazing to consider a society where International Women’s Day is irrelevant. That should be the aim of our society – of any society: that all of its citizens could take “parity of esteem” for granted. That rights are “a given” not something “to be given”.
For the past few weeks, through the power of the Internet, I have become aware of a worrying threat to the rights of women. It comes from a surprising quarter, too – the United States of America. If you would like a quick, and witty, overview of recent events please read this article from Times magzine by Jessica Winter: “Subject for Debate: Are Women People?”
One of the more odious developments, to my mind, is the State of Texas requiring a woman to have a vaginal ultra-sound prior to allowing her to have an abortion. [To read more go to: “When States Abuse Women” an article by Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times] To simplify: she must choose between having a medical device inserted into her or have an unwanted baby come out of her.
A similar law was also *nearly* passed in
West Virginia and Alabama, but was muted to requiring abdominal ultra-sound instead. After the ultra-sound the woman is required to go home and sit-out a 24 hour waiting period before the abortion can be performed. This woman, who has presumably suffered at least eight to ten weeks of mental anguish already about her pregnancy must listen to the foetal heartbeat, listen as all of the organs are described to her and mull it all over for another twenty-four hours. Quite far for being supported in her time of need a woman must be preached to and lectured as though she doesn’t quite understand what being pregnant really means.
As I read all of these developments – the War on Women, as it has been called – a growing sense of despair overcame me. Butting in on Donna Druchunas talking to Annie Modesitt about the article I posted above, describing the legal procedure in Texas I asked:
when will women in US start chaining themselves to railings/ burning bras? Or are we less feminist than sisters of old?
As you can see from the screen-shot of the twitter conversation, within a few tweets a new Women’s Movement had been born (deliberate pun!):
@druchunas: Snatchel Campaign: Let’s knit a uterus for each male rep in congress. If they have their own, they can leave ours alone!
In no time at all a Ravelry group had been set up and I have become a surrogate womb-knitter for a knitter with tendinitis who (co-incidentally) lives in Texas. What serendipity?
You may well ask: what on earth am I doing worrying about legislation being passed on the other side of the Atlantic? (ETA: especially considering how far behind we are in Ireland e.g. abortion isn’t legal Ireland except in extreme circumstances – good point, R!)
To which I say: Let’s re-cap…
This procedure is not happening in some back-water of Africa or China or Afghanistan. This is Texas. These laws are not being passed in countries renowned for their Civil Rights abuses. This is coming from the birth-place of Civil Rights. This debate on whether Women are People is a reasonable question in the 21st Century.
The United States of America has long been an influencing force globally and, for most of the past 100 years, a positive force. I would argue that the ripples caused by Rosa Parks when she sat on the “wrong” part of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 1, 1955 ultimately led to the over-throw of aparteid in South Africa in 1994 – almost 40 years later. Certainly, for Ireland, the Civil Rights movement in the US led to The Contraceptive Train in May 1971, when women travelled by train to Belfast to buy contraceptives and smuggle them into the jurisdiction of the Republic of Ireland.
“The reason Rosa Parks’ stance was so huge in the civil rights movement is because it challenged something many just took as a fundamental rule of society. “
The fundamental rules of Modern society are drastically different now, almost sixty years after the Civil Rights movement and over 100 years since the first International Women’s Day. We should be able to take those hard-earned rights for granted. I believe we need to take a stance to resist this erosion of Women’s Rights in the US before the subjugation of women becomes – once again – the fundamental rule of society.
Thank you for reading.