Friday, April 29, 2011

Femmes of ALL

SMilnor: Susan, for some months now, it¹s felt like a war has been waged on women's health care and reproductive rights. But one particular development sent me over the edge.

SMinasian: Edge? I feel like I am just off the edge already.

SMilnor: Apparently, the Republicans are set to pass a bill in the House of Representatives that would require Internal Revenue agents to investigate how American women have paid for abortions. They would, essentially, be able to demand proof of rape or incest. What the heck is going on? Am I losing my mind, or is the worst kind of invasion into our privacy? Aren't these the same people who want government to stay out of our lives?

SMinasian: OK. Šo let's talk about sin. This is sinful. You are not losing your mind. I cannot believe how far back we have gone. How could they possibly expect a person to provide proof of rape or incest in that context? I think they hate women, and I think they want to have power over women. This makes me wonder if we have gotten further ahead than I thought and it's scaring them. Listen, they don't want government to stay out of our lives; they want the government to stay out of their pocketbooks. That¹s all. It comes down to money, power and control.

SMilnor: Oh, I think you just said it exactly, my friend, about our lives and our pocketbooks. It is so true. But I want to go back to what you said about these acts being sinful. Granted, my concept of sin is always evolving, and frankly, sometimes skating around on the ice, but it seems to me that sin is what we choose to do that both hurts other people and makes us less whole, more alienated from the force of good. I can't understand why the people who launch these attacks can't see that when they deny women maternity care, they are hurting the children they claim to care so much about. And why would anyone want to deny women pap smears or testing for sexually transmitted diseases or breast exams?

SMinasian: Susan, you have heard the phrase "It's not about the trash." It's used to describe those moments when the thing people are arguing about it NOT what the real issue is. It's not about any of these services. It's about power and control. I think the fact that women have become more powerful and we are now in a season when some younger women don't even know what all the fuss is about is all a part of this. In some ways men in general don't know what the rules are any more. They don't know what it means to be a man. There are also women who are afraid. If they have more choices or more of a sense of agency, then that means there is more responsibility. Let's face it: a world of nothing but black and white is easy, oppressive but easy. So our sin is our fear, abuse of power, and our desire for control. In the meantime people who are in the margins and people who are poor will pay the heaviest price.

Smilnor: I'm not sure I agree that our fear and our desire for control are the sins. I've been thinking a lot lately about what constitutes sin and whether feelings (fear, desire) ever do. But I sure agree that the use of fear to manipulate people for selfish interests and the use of power to control people out of greed are sinful.

SMinasian: Exactly. That's it. It's what those things lead to. When it comes to how our government legislates policy about and around women's bodies, fear and control are what oppress people.

SMilnor: And you know what? I think these legislators and advocates for restriction never contemplate that they themselves (if they are female) or their wives or daughters or mothers or sisters could be affected by these draconian policies and laws. They are the "haves," and they are confident that they will always be the haves. But now what was it that Jesus said. . ."Do unto others. . ." "Treat your neighbor. . . "

SMinasian: Well, I agree again! They don't think they will ever be in the situation to need the very policies they destroy and the people they do not protect.

SMilnor: This is related to what I was thinking about with our title "Femmes for All." What happens to women -- their welfare, their health – affects everyone. Hillary Clinton often says that countries in which women have rights and are accorded justice are countries that do better, countries that progress. It applies equally here. If we do not insure equal protection under the law and basic health care to women and children, everyone, including men, will suffer.

SMinasian: Don't you think it's interesting that we always hear politicians talk about how we go into other countries because they are so behind, and they always pull that "women need access to education" card? Then when the women get an education and make choices for themselves, then say...well...maybe we have gone too far. Let's pull the reins back.

SMilnor: Yes...that is so true, Susan. Education is fine until women get it and try to do something with it, try to change the world. On an even more fundamental level, though, consider how important it is to give women health care because we are, to a considerable extent, the ones who care for the children. And it's also women who bear the brunt of caring for extended families. I'm not saying that we deserve reproductive rights and health care just because we take care of others. We deserve health care because we are people, and we deserve reproductive rights because as full human beings, we are the ones who should control the choices with which we are most intimately and morally involved. But still, it's stupid policy not to take care of the caregivers.

SMinasian: Equal care for all. That's what "femmes for all" means to me Susan: a world in which we care for all people equally. What would our country look like if classism, racism, sexism and heteronormativity did not have the unhealthy and destructive hold it has on us? I want women AND men to feel valued and cared for. I want women AND men to have access to what they need for health care that protects, heals, and supports them. I want children to grow up knowing that we all care about the value of their bodies, minds and souls. Femmes for ALL. Yes...for, women, children.

Smilnor: Well, Amen to that. And on this one, Susan, there can be no backward motion. The ONLY way is the way forward.

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