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The 19th’s 91st

August 26, 2011

Today is the 91th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, providing women the ability to vote alongside their male counterparts. August 26th has since been named National Women’s Equality Day to further promote equanimity of expression and treatment between the sexes.

One appropriate action today is surely celebration—because if we fail to find reasons to rejoice then those current forces of repression triumph regardless of the success of their agendas.  You may choose to celebrate extrovertedly as did women and men across the country who marched topless August 21st, literally displaying a main front in the gender battles by not just burning bras, but by removing more mundane shackles of gender identification. You may consider this demonstration extreme or maybe counterproductive, but when women are still arrested for breastfeeding, when pictures of breastfeeding women are administratively removed from Facebook, a knee jerk sensitivity to the bare female form is arguably the archaic, counterproductive perspective.

After all reproductive rights ought to stretch from head to toe. And as we push into the 21st century, reinforcing the distinction between sex and reproduction—in the form of quality health care, access to contraception, availability of abortions, and comprehensive sex education programs, should be something we’re all adult enough to discuss. But here we stand today, just a few yards out of the century’s gate, with that path increasingly barricaded by bills that attack women’s reproductive options.

In our social expectations, more remains lopsidedly placed on the shoulders of women, as they are allowed fewer resources to help carry the weight. As Eve Weinbaum, director of the Labor Center, and Rachel Roth, director of communications and foundation support at the National Network of Abortion Funds, point out in the Los Angeles Times, “The 2011 legislative session saw a record number of anti-choice bills introduced — and passed into law. In just six months, state legislatures passed 80 laws to restrict access to abortion.” Not that this molten hot wedge issue is the only aspect of the debate. Weinbaum and Roth discuss a number of other disparity—notably the continuing work/family divide that only women are generally forced to choose between.

Perhaps a more productive social and political conversation than the ever-volatile abortion debate would involve increasing the resources would-be mothers have in our country when they do choose ABCs over department meetings, resources to help them afford school supplies when they can’t pilfer them from the supply closet.  The gap between such progressive possibility and the retrograde reality illuminates another disturbing disparity from the article however: the fact that the current congress so dead set on reducing women’s right has women sitting in less than one-fifth of its seats.

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