A friend who is sharing “fun facts” for Women’s History Month reminded me of how recently women gained some basic control over their lives. It was only in the 1970’s that women were allowed to obtain mortgages and buy homes in their own names. (She’s reading When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins. I’ve just added it to my own reading list.) It made me recall that my mother had to explicitly apply for a credit card in her own name in the 1980’s, as previously, she’d only been listed under my dad’s credit. This was despite her having a job and bank account since she’d started working in her teens in the 1940’s.

I also heard a great deal over the past weeks from politicians and Catholic bishops and their supporters who believe that contraception used to prevent pregnancy is wrong and should not be available as preventative care without insurance deductibles, or at all. A law student who testified to the need for such coverage before Congress was vilified as a “slut” and “prostitute”, among other things. I was also reminded yesterday that there are people who think that women should not be able to choose to abort a fetus under any circumstance, and would take that control away from women.

All this adds up to increasing vicious attacks on women’s rights to equal opportunity and benefits in this country. When reminded of just how recently some of these benefits were won, it makes me angry – and I am not going to remain silent, on this or other social justice issues. I was a student at Wellesley College in the 1980’s, when we took these gains for women as won, and expected that society would continue to move forward. It makes me angry to see people take politicians seriously who would walk us backwards.

A few weeks ago, I was inspired by Gloria Steinem, who helped lead the effort to gain some of the rights women have today, and she isn’t resting on her laurels. She knows there is more to be done, and I now see more dramatically the need to fight with her. As she said, all social justice issues are connected, so I won’t be fighting only for women or feminism.
When an acquaintance posts on Facebook a one-sided statement, I am going to present my opposing viewpoint. I will attempt to do so in a way that is respectful but that makes it clear that I disagree, and why. I may not be able to take on all such views, but I will do what I can. The extremes in public dialogue continue to get worse as people listen more and more only to what they want to hear. I am going to try to do my part, so I cannot be silent.

So, if you’re someone who sees me wading in to a dialogue with someone in what appears to be a losing battle, now you know why I’m doing it.

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