Women's Equality Day Challenges
The celebration of Women’s Equality Day in the U.S. tomorrow comes with a special urgency this year, 2013. Women’s rights are under attack, especially from the right wing of the Republican party, with their so-called reasoning often based in religious doctrine.
On this Women’s Equality Day, both the right to vote and women’s health care are among the issues backtracking to what seems to me like the middle ages, but is probably more accurately the early 20th century for voting and the mid-20th century for health care. In the wake of the recent SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act, Republican-led State actions, such as curbing voting hours and requiring photo IDS, impact not only minorities and university students but also women. In addition—and more specific in its aim—health care for women is increasingly imperiled by a growing number of laws in a growing number of States aiming to get around the 1973 Roe v.Wade SCOTUS legalization of abortion. Among other things, these State actions set up impossible-to-meet requirements that result in the closing clinics which include safe and legal abortion in the health care they provide to women. The anti-abortion advocates often give biblical scripture as source for their sometimes violent actions, and for the imposition of tests such as transvaginal ultrasound, which, when performed without the patient’s consent as these proposals require, fits the definition of rape. In general, this maltreatment of women can be seen as an outcome of the interpretations and doctrines particularly in fundamentalist religions that give men dominion over women, and insist on speaking of deity in masculine/male-only language. The impact of fundamentalist religion has caused a backtracking on a trend to more egalitarian language in public prayer and references to deity. For example, I don’t remember ever hearing William Jefferson Clinton, while president, referring to deity by gender. He used the term God, but did not combine it with “he” or “Lord” or any other gendered term. This is not true of President Obama, whom I have heard use masculine pronouns when speaking of deity when he could have easily just left off the pronouns. Others seem to be following the President's example. Yesterday, in the speeches at the commemoration of the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights, in the prayers I heard, all god-language was male/masculine, including prayers by women. This use of exclusively masculine-gendered words for deity reinforces, empowers, enables the ongoing political actions imperiling women’s rights.