Last week Joyce Banda became the second woman to become a head of state in Africa by succeeding to the presidency of Malawi after the death of the former president. She joins Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, already president of Liberia in line for the women’s bathroom at OAU gatherings in the future. Consider last year’s Nobel Peace prize going to Johnson Sirleaf and two other incredibly admirable women, and it is so impressive that we are seeing dynamic women around the world coming to power largely due to the effectiveness of women’s movements in developing countries.
Here is my view: The women’s movement in this country is effectively dead. Seriously. It is lifeless. There is nothing there. I think that the 2008 presidential campaign killed any fledgling trace of it. Aside from Hillary Clinton, can you name any one single American political woman who is admired and revered by any segment of the population larger than 10% (I am not talking about wives of people or pop music stars)? There is no meaningful talk in our country about the power of women as a real political force. We are atomized into our little interest groups and if we do anything, it is argue with the others and judge the people on the other side. Take this whole faux Ann Romney – Hillary Rosen nonsense. Yet another way to dredge up some psuedo war of stay-at-home moms versus working mothers for political season so everyone can judge everyone else and claim their own political allegiances. Nonsense.
Now some might say we have no mass women’s movement in America because women in America have got it so good that we don’t need to be politically active anymore. Am I right? Ladies, we’ve got it made! Now others will say that those women who think that are idiots because we are more entrenched than ever in some repressive patriarchal hetero-normative culture that we don’t even see our own oppression. To that group of women, the former group of women that I described will say “You are a bunch of ugly, man-hating kooks!” This argument has been going back and forth for a while. In these successive rounds of going back and forth, a few more women drop of the boat of caring each time, until we get to what we have in our country today, a few people still scream at each other while the rest of us take the kids to Target to stock up on whatever cheap designer collection is up next (By the way, does anyone know who is next on the schedule since the Jason Wu stuff has long been sold out?). Note: This is also my partial explanation for why these materialistic mommy blogs are so popular with people. Nothing like buying pretty things to distract you from having to think about your own political alienation…
Anyway, there are many examples of the fact that most of us are just checked out on even caring about the status of women anymore. I just am going to just talk about one here, because it is the one that has affected me personally.
Remember that week when everyone either loved or hated Rush Limbaugh because he called that Georgetown student a slut for saying that she thought birth control should be covered by health insurance companies? Well, you probably already forgot about it or it just morphed into this whole phrase the “war on women” that some political strategist created, tested, and then packaged up. And I realize, not all women care about whether or not birth control is covered by health insurance, but here is a shocking statistic: 100% of women have reproductive health issues at some point in their life. Guess what! Our reproductive anatomy is something that we all have in common. Rich or poor. Black or white. Liberal or conservative. Now granted, there are health anomalies that differentiate us, not everyone still has a uterus or a properly operating one. Some don’t have functioning ovaries and there are a million other things that could be wrong. But that is my point. We all have health issues tied to our reproductive organs! Shocking! For some of us, birth control serves a medical function even apart from its stated role of “birth control.” And so since reproductive health issues are something that all of us encounter at some point in our lives, can we just cut each other some slack and say everyone should have the ability to do what is best for their own reproductive health under the direction of a doctor? And shouldn’t that also go for requiring our health insurance to actually treat women’s health issues seriously and not discriminate against providing coverage for those things that a woman and her doctor believe are appropriate for her health? I mean, is that really so controversial? My view is, women advocating for the government to require insurance companies cover birth control does not go far enough in making this a woman’s health issue. What about providing coverage to women who need medical assistance to conceive and carry babies? Last time I checked, problems with infertility mean that there is something functionally wrong with a woman’s body too. If it is her choice to want to have kids (the same way if it is her choice to not have children by using birth control), then why is it okay for that to be excluded completely from insurance coverage as well? Why, when I go to my pharmacy to fill a straightforward prescription of chlomid, which has been prescribed because my doctor has diagnosed me as anovulatory, does my pharmacist get to tell me that “special insurance authorization is required” and that my doctor has to fax a letter to my insurance company and it could take up to a week or longer to fill my prescription, all for a prescription that costs $18? Why must I have these conversations in the middle of a pharmacy with every stranger to eavesdrop upon it? That’s crazytown, America. And yes, I realize that some people will say well, you don’t care about privacy because you are comfortable talking about this on your blog; but this is partially my point, because crazytown America has decided that my problems don’t matter enough, we have to talk about them in public. And that is wrong. My doctor and I should be able to talk about something, he should be able to prescribe a course a treatment, and my insurance company should pay for it all without me having to convince the pharmacist, the insurance company, or the president of the United States that it is medically necessary. Also, I realize I can pay $18 for a course of chlomid out of my pocket, but if I have to get more intensive treatments, then, maybe I won’t. And what about poor women who would like to have kids, but they can’t without medical intervention. Is that just the price they pay for being poor? Now some may say that you can’t force insurance companies to pay for infertility treatments, because where is the line? But the slippery slope argument is dumb, because as with all things that you are seeking a legislative prescription for, you draw the line somewhere that makes reasonable sense. But America, where is the movement for having all these health issues that women face covered by insurance? Cause, I don’t seem to see it. And it seems like this could be something that women could all work together on – like, I will be happy to advocate for your medication to keep you from having babies if you will agree to advocate for my medication to help me have babies.
Look, I am not arguing that my issue is the most important, pressing thing going on in the world. But I am using it to illustrate a larger point. There is no effective mass women’s movement in this country anymore. If there was, then we could all manage to find common ground on something that we all have in common – namely our own health issues. So I will continue to look for inspiration in the work of women of other countries. As to our own country, I am not particularly optimistic because I feel like the severity of our political discourse in this country will continue to keep women from coming together in their differences and learning to value each other and improve all of our lives. This classic Lord of the Rings quote pretty much sums up how I feel about it.