Sunday, April 24, 2011

Warring on Women

I've read The Handmaid's Tale.

Maybe that's my problem--an English teacher who's thought too much about how language is manipulated in 1984 or how women were stripped of their power in the 1985 dystopian novel.  In one day of coordinated mass firings, coinciding with ATM cards that suddenly showed a zero balance, Margaret Atwood's women lost all of their freedoms.  (ATM cards did not even exist when Atwood wrote her novel.)

It can happen fast, apparently, when the leaders decide to disenfranchise a whole group.  The Iranian revolution of 1979 flipped a monarchy to a theocracy in just months.  Protests that began in August 1978 ended with the Ayatollah Khomeni in charge - and modern women forced into burkhas and out of work--by December of 1979.

The formula for disenfranchisement is simple: take away jobs and access to power through economic security, and hand all that power and access over to a ruling class.  Once the power is shifted and discrimination becomes law, as happened to the Iranian Constitution, returning to levels of equality is an uphill battle by a greatly weakened constituency.  The Ayatollah is long gone, but the laws remain.  In 1998, the parliament rejected a proposal for equal inheritance rights for women. A woman is only entitled to half that of a man.  No indication of changing back to more equal status for women.

So maybe I'm a little paranoid when I read about:

  • Outlawing collective bargaining for unions serving mostly women - the teacher's unions.
  • Zeroing out funding for Planned Parenthood that provides health care to women exclusively.
  • Reducing funding to WIC by as much as 10% - a program that provides funding for healthy food options for women and infants.
  • Cuts to literacy programs for children like RIF that have been proven to boost literacy for the poorest children.
Why are women and children being targeted for cuts?

Let's face it: poverty is primarily a woman's issue since women with children comprise the majority of the poor. National arguments are centering the blame on victims and removing the few supports that get children and their mothers through the first year's of life.  Simultaneously, the women who rear those children are facing cuts to their livelihood, placing more children at risk and ensuring a divided nation.

This is more than a woman's issue.  This is a "what kind of future can we look forward to?" if over half our population is stripped of the ability to improve their lives.

Who benefits?


  1. Outstanding!

    Thank you so much for reminding us how this all fits together, from a feminist perspective.

    Gamal Sherif, Teacher, TLN

  2. Keep it up, Mary! I'm worried too.