Roeing Back the Wade...
Wading. That is what we have been doing for the last 100 years. Wading. Wading into the idea that women, more than 50% of the world’s population, are entitled to have the same rights as men. Wading. We have just dipped our toes into the pool, and I thought we might have made it up to maybe our knees now, but the recent Supreme Court decision shows me that we are, in fact, not nearly as deep as I thought. It appears that the supreme deciders of things are roeing back our wade into equal rights. I guess they forgot about the ERA. I guess they forgot about suffrage. I guess they think that us being regulated to back alleys and illegal activities for medical care that we decide we need to exercise over our own agency over our own bodies was progress. I can see it only as regression. Pushing us, all women, back into a place and time where what we think, what we need, what we decide is secondary to, well, now the law. Laws made by men.
It horrifies me in my life time that women could not rent an apartment for themselves without a man signing for them. That was still happening in 1972. It kills me that women are still expected to do the exact same work, and get paid less. This is all while juggling usually another full time job, motherhood. Often single motherhood. We show up on time and get the job done, despite the fact that we went home after work each day and cooked, cleaned, were present and available, helped with homework, folded laundry, shopped, fed, and were there for our children who needed us. And no, I will not make some sort of accommodating statement here for men. Yes, I see that many of you do that too, but it is not the same. You are touted for your fatherly efforts.
“Look at John, showing up for the practice after he worked all day. What a great guy!”
When what we as women hear...
“Can you believe she didn’t bake something for the bake sale, she is always working, too bad her kids are not as important as her job!”
There is not equality. There never has been. We were getting better, but now with this recent decision, women everywhere are being relegated to a subjugated position again. We are now being told that we are not capable of making decisions over our own bodies. That is fucking insane and I am pissed the fuck off about it.
Make no mistake the roeing back has begun...just when the water, wading into the deeper depths started to feel normal.
I will not forget that my grandmother who was a successful restauranteur, when presented the option of continuing her career, was pushed, in fact, likely arm twisted into getting married again. It was unacceptable in the 1940s for a woman to be a business owner. Well, I guess if you were a widow with small children it was ok...that is until an able-bodied man showed up and was willing to take you on. And that was how it was seen. A man would be heroized for stepping up to the plate and taking on the raising of some other man’s kids. In this case, a dead man’s kids. Which was not as lofty and touted as raising some other deadbeat man's kids. Again, all narrative designed to put the focus on men and what they were doing and take the focus off of women and what they were doing!
So let’s focus on that for a minute...
My grandmother lost her husband, a man that she probably didn’t really want in the first place. My grandmother was not a man fan. She distrusted them and likely for good reason. I will never know exactly why she mistrusted them because she died when I was nine and not old enough to ask such questions.
So she was widowed at a young age with two small kids. She and her sisters started a restaurant because they were all great cooks. And they ran it together and were able to support themselves and their families. I am sure they were not killing it. It wasn’t the Indiana version of Nobu. I am sure they worked long hours for less pay and it was hard to juggle the work/home life balance. But she did it. And she was not on the street and she was supporting herself and her kids in the 1940s. Fuck that is impressive!
But my grandfather would come in every day. He was a postman and he would come and take his lunch. He was divorced from his first wife and of course got custody of his son in that process. In a time when women usually were granted custody, he got it. I do not know why. Maybe his ex-wife didn’t want it. Maybe it was because he was a farmer. Maybe it was because my uncle insisted. Who knows. But I know that my grandfather prevailed and kept the money and the kid.
Now I am not wishing for a different outcome to this story, because my mother was the product of their union. And if that had not happened, I would not be here to observe and reflect upon it. But it strikes me, that a woman, my grandmother had found a way to be self supporting while being a mother of two in 1940s America. And I want that to just stand on its own for a minute. A big shout out to her for that. She was a badass, way before her time.
But when a man came along, she gave up the business and her making her own way in the world and went back to the life she had before: wife, mother. And I am not sure she ever forgave herself for it.
I will never forget standing in the IGA line with her as a young girl, grandma writing the check for the groceries. Her showing me how to write the check, and saying,
“Now, honey, every time you write the check for the groceries, write it for as much over as you can. Stella, how much can I write it over for?”
“$20, Mary, same as last week...” Stella replied.
“Ok, Erin, $20 over. And you keep that money and never let them know about it. It is your mad money.” Grandma would say.
“What is mad money?” I would ask.
“It is money that you keep that you never tell your husband about, it is money that in case you get mad, you have the money to leave.” She would exclaim.
“Ok, grandma, I am seven, but ok. I got you.” I would think but never dare to say out loud.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. It stuck out in my mind so much because before that interchange, I was just a kid excited for all the crap she had just bought me: candy, Boo Berry, soda. Whatever I wanted she got me. And then standing in the IGA line, my life changed. She changed my thinking forever. It began a line of thinking and feeling that continues to this day. And probably has more to do with me being single and financially independent than I would care to admit. This was her legacy to me. This idea that I should always have an exit strategy to any marital commitments. That I should always have a silent but strong plan to take care of myself and not rely on a man for that.
Well looking at my life, I learned really fucking well.
Really. I did get you Grandma. And I did you one better, I decided that I would live pretty much the whole of my life being self supporting. No need for mad money, I got an education and degrees and guess what, I don’t even have to have a man at all. I can do it all on my own. So I do.
Which has left me living a life that is rife with an internal conflict. The desire for a partnership with a man while being so fiercely independent that I quickly eliminate most men who might be in the running. And I cannot, will not change. And so far, I have yet to meet a man that is willing or able to take that on. My ex-husband did not like it. And I could not change. So that ended, and I was glad. I knew from a young age that I was not going to be a good married woman, and I was right and wrong. I was a good wife, in fact, I was a great wife...except that I was miserable. So needing that independence undercut all that I did, and resulted in me feeling subjugated and betrayed if only by myself.
Roeing back the wade into equality and women’s rights isn’t about all that I wrote above, except it is. When you, the supreme law interpreters of the land tell everyone in this country that a woman’s right to choose to remain pregnant or not isn’t completely within and under her control, we are undermined and caused to be thrown back in time to a place where getting married was prized over entrepreneurial spirit. Where supporting ourselves was only acceptable if there was no man “willing to step up.” Where we are stuck in marriages that we didn’t want to be in, with men that we didn’t love only because we didn’t have the funds to leave.
When are we ever going to progress in society to a place where our happiness, our ability to have respect for ourselves is at least as important as the roles we are expected to undertake?
When, in the fuck are we going to be given the right, the absolute right to decide whether we become mothers at all, and if we should so decide, when is the right time for us?
I have a daughter. I have a young girl who is being raised in a world that sends her all kinds of mixed messages. I have a daughter who may not grow up in the world I did, where there were options should I find myself pregnant and not ready. She has been raised in that world, until now. Now, at the time she is most likely to find herself unwantedly pregnant, she is being thrown into a world where what she needs and wants for her life is no longer up to her. What the fuck kind of message is that? And how can you be a thinking person and not see that this most fundamental question being posed, now undercuts all other messages?
If she cannot have authority and agency over her own body, what in the actual fuck does she have agency and control over?
Well, I am not getting in the boat that has begun the roe back. I will not join the supremes in their horrific decision that harkens us back by citing Sir Matthew Hale. A celebrated 17th century jurist who shouldn't be celebrated. I pose this question: What in the fuck can a man who never lived in our time have to say about abortion and a woman’s right to choose when his legacy in juris prudence was to put two women to death for being witches and the gross and egregious comment that a man can never rape his wife? What the actual fuck? Does Justice Alito really believe that stare decisis is a process where by we roe back time to a place in time where marital rape and killing women with the accusation of being witches was the law? Fuck everything that is good in this world?
The tide is turning and we who were wading so gently into the tide, must now see that the tide has indeed turned and a great tidal wave comes for us. Threatens our survival and leaves us standing in the wake of the life boat being roe’ed on without us. The time to wade is over, it is time to swim my sisters. Swim against that tide that threatens to take everything away from us, beginning with our ability to decide when and if we become mothers.
Roe, get into your own boat and roe agains this tide. The time for wading has passed.