Saturday, February 18, 2012

Women in Writing, A Woman's Rant

I don't know if you are as outraged as I am by what's going on lately with women's rights and contraceptives, but I can't believe there's a movement to take us back to the middle ages of the 1950 and before. I was a young mother then and belonged to a Child's Study Group. We had a speaker one night, two I should say, two nurses who came and spoke on an 'acceptable' topic but quickly moved to their particular cause. Contraceptives for women. Yes, Virginia, there were contraceptives back then, birth-control pills. They were just new, but women could not be told about them. If they asked, then they could be informed they were available.

But if they didn't know, how could they ask?

This was especially outrageous to these two women who were way ahead of current thinking at that time, because this impacted the women they dealt with daily, poor women, especially migrant workers who came to Michigan to harvest crops and lived in tiny little shacks with their whole families with no heat, no hot water, only the basic things such as beds, stoves and eating tables. In too many cases, they had more children than their income could support. These children were doomed from the start to be exactly what their parents were and so the cycle went on. These nurses saw first hand, the horrible conditions migrant workers and their families endured. And they saw contraceptives as a way to reverse some of their problems.

Of course the lucky women of our child study group were also outraged at the way the government was manipulating something so important to women and their lives. Well, it's come to that again. An all male panel is sitting to determine the issues about contraceptives and I'm aghast that anyone would contemplate taking us back to such a choiceless era as we once endured. Women are angry and they should be.

How does this relate to writing? I'm an old gal and I've been around for a long time, I remember back in the late eighties when journalists wrote about women who penned romance. Besides the outright snickering and snide remarks, some columnists actually suggested that these books were bad for our society because they raised women's expectations in the bedroom. Can you imagine? The real crutch of their objections were fueled by their fear for their manhood. Aside from the fact that God took a man's rib to build a better model, we've done nothing to take away from them. For centuries women have been docile, obedient, accepting of the world the men decreed, but no more.
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I remember at a book conference back in the nineties when a social worker told me that they used romance books to show battered women how loving relationships were supposed to be, to show them that men were supposed to be loving and supportive and never beat a women. I was so impressed with that concept, my pride in what I was doing was greatly increased, so when I picked up a paper and read some of those tongue-in-cheek articles about romance books, I was even more outraged. Outraged should be the title of this article, I suppose, but we should all be feeling it right now, even our guys who love us and our daughters.

The writing industry and especially the erotic market has been very responsible in presenting relationships as something between two equally consenting adults and so it should be. That means the woman has choices in that relationships and nothing should come between her and her rights. Next time I sit down at the computer to write about men and women and their coming together as equals, I'll be reminded to make clear what rights and choices women have in our society and why we're better for them.

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