Turn on your television and you can see it raging on MTV and VH1 and CMT, where rappers, rockers and even country crooners spew misogynistic lyrics while provocatively dressed women degrade themselves with their dancing. The war is on in Hollywood, where the most common role for an actress is that of hooker with a heart of gold, and where at least one movie out of three includes a completely gratuitous scene in a strip club. It rages in the entertainment media, which delights in getting women to take their clothes off for the camera. Why do we have such a hunger to see accomplished, talented, beautiful women naked? Because it devalues them.
The war on women is waged in the tastefully appointed offices of plastic surgeons, who reap the rewards of a culture that values only large breasts and unlined faces. Did you know that most breast implants will leak or break over time, with sometimes devastating consequences? Should it matter? Does it?
Does is matter that hormonal contraceptives – the Pill and its descendants — are indisputably linked to increased risks of cardiovascular disease, cervical, liver and breast cancer, blood clots, elevated blood pressure, decreased desire, sexual dysfunction and stroke? The Pill began its war on women in Puerto Rico in the late 1950s when it was tested on unsuspecting women – some of whom died. “Why would you want to put a Class 1 carcinogen in your body three out of four weeks, when you’re only fertile 100 hours a month,” asks Angela Lanfranchi, a New Jersey oncologist. “The Pill is bad.”
The war is carried on in the media, where female politicians – liberal and conservative – are subjected to endless critiques of their clothing choices and hairstyles that no man in the political arena has ever faced, except perhaps John Edwards and his $400 haircut.
The war against women is particularly vicious in strip clubs and on porn sets, where many of the women twirling on poles or being violated in sometimes unspeakable ways have been trafficked from distant parts of the world—places where desperation trumps common sense and women accept a stranger’s offer of a good job, only to find themselves enslaved, abused and addicted. Brothels and nude bars are full of women whose right to choose, if they ever had one, was surrendered at the border crossing, and men whose sense of entitlement enables them to overlook the humanity of the women they are victimizing.
While battles are raging on many fronts, abortion is the nuclear weapon in the arsenal of the war against women. Nowhere is the war waged as effectively, and as horrifically, as it is in the abortion clinic, where there is no “doctor-patient relationship” and where every abortion stops one heart and breaks another.
The women’s movement of the 1960s and 70s set out to prove that women can do anything men can do, and in many, many ways, that’s true. But somewhere along the way, women began to devalue their unique gift, the ability to conceive and give birth to new life. They have thrown it away in exchange for sexual liberation and a “get out of jail free card” if an “unplanned pregnancy” should intrude.
What a terrible trade-off that has turned out to be for millions of women, and their babies.
“I wish that in the 70s, when I was pro-choice and believed the jargon ‘My body My Choice’ that someone would have told me that ‘my choice’ would haunt me for the rest of my life,” said Leslie Brunolli of San Diego, a regional coordinator in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign. “That choice left a devastating imprint on my life that no other choice I have ever made compares too.” Thousands of women join Leslie every year to say they regret that choice, and millions more still suffer in silence.
The diabolical tragedy of this war on women is that we wage it, very often, on ourselves. Like Chinese women in an earlier age insisted on binding their daughters’ feet, even though they themselves were crippled; and women in some African cultures still hold their daughters down to allow the same barbaric genital mutilation they endured, many American women insist that abortion be kept legal and accessible for their daughters.
We would love to stand with our sisters on Saturday to fight this war against women, but the truth is, we are on opposite sides of the battle line. A grass-roots effort known as UniteWomen.org is rallying troops for nationwide rallies, but for them, the enemy is the GOP, Christians and Catholics, paternalistic white men who want to keep women barefoot and pregnant, and pro-lifers. They see an abortion clinic and they think choice. We look at the same clinic, and we see the ultimate exploitation of women.
Until we can all recognize the true nature of this war, we will remain a nation divided.
Here are some of the organizations that are part of the UnitedWomen.org coalition’s “War Against Women” activitites:
Americans United For Separation of Church and State, Catholics for Choice, Feminist Peace, National Equal Rights Amendment Alliance, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, National Organization for Women, Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Rock the Slut Vote, The Silver Ribbon Campaign to Trust Women, This Slut Votes