“I long to hear that you have declared an independancy – and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”
- Abigail Adams, 1776
As I watched the election results roll in last Tuesday, I couldn’t help but think of this quote by Abigail Adams. While Tuesday was not what Abigail Adams had in mind with that quote, the 2012 election is definitely the election that remembered the ladies. Over the past couple of years we saw overreaching laws against women’s rights emerge at the local level and attempts by lawmakers to redefine biology, rape and take away a family’s privacy in the form of explaining/justifying contraception usage to employers. As I’ve mentioned previously, we are witnessing Evangelical politics’ extinction burst before our very eyes, and it is wrapping its mangled claws around anything it can to stay relevant and keep women “in their place.”
Judging by the election results, I was happy, relieved, proud and hopeful to see not only a push back against these ideas, but to see an unprecedented number of women elected to federal office with a number of “firsts.” Some notables are:
- Consumer watchdog and Daily Show favorite Elizabeth Warren replacing Scott Brown in Massachusetts. This is the first time Massachusetts elected a female senator.
- Democrat Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Republican Deb Fischer in Nebraska are also first-time female senators for their respective states. Baldwin will also be the first openly lesbian senator.
- Democrat Tammy Duckworth from Illinois will serve as the first female member of Congress who was injured in combat.
- The two wins in New Hampshire by Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter mean New Hampshire’s entire delegation is made up of women.
- Arizona’s own Kyrsten Sinema, the first openly-bisexual member of congress, and personally one of my favorite Arizonans. Anyone who has seen Kyrsten in action knew she was going to go places. I can’t wait to see her take on Washington.
I mention these women because I hope this indicates a trend where these wins will no longer be notable, but commonplace. We have quite a way to go but this seems like a big step in the right direction towards diversity.
Beyond electing a diverse group of women into Washington, voters sent a message to candidates who proved to be apathetic and uneducated on rape and women’s rights: The man who said women’s bodies had a way of “shutting down” a pregnancy from rape, the guy who equated rape to having a baby out of wedlock, and the guy who said a pregnancy from rape was a gift from God were all defeated. Exit polls indicated that 61% of those who voted against Akin attributed their vote to his comments about rape. It would appear that men and women in this country who believe in both science and the separation of church and state understand the dangers of electing those who believe in neither.
Does this mean “we’ve won”? No; this fight is far from over. When dealing with ideas that people hold dear to their hearts it would be foolish to think that they would simply put their tail between their legs and hide in a corner. History shows that quite the opposite occurs – the belief becomes stronger and the voices become louder. We saw this most recently in 2008 with the fanatics who screamed, protested and accused the president of being some Kenyan-born, Muslim, Hitlerwannabe extremist, Manchurian, OrlyTaitified, Militant Christian Extremist, Witch Doctor, Angry Black Man, Middle-East Apologist, Abortion-Loving, Drug-Dealing, Intellectual, didn’t earn his admission to Harvard, unAmerican, vegetable-growing, NOBAMA, OBAMINATION, dictator freak with big ears.
Did I miss anything? Wow, that seriously felt like I just performed a seance and was possessed by one of the superPACs recently killed in this election cycle. Shudder…
Anyway…point being, history and psychology show when someone’s belief system is challenged they don’t fold, they double-down. What does this mean for the ladies? Expect to see more ballot measures and bills introduced on the state level limiting a woman’s right to choose or access to contraception. Expect to find additional ballot measures and bills disguised as one thing (“protecting women’s health” is a popular red herring) but have an underlying effect of achieving these goals. This is what is going to happen, and for those of you who “sent the message” last Tuesday, know that your work isn’t done. Smaller off-cycle elections are coming up to try and undo some of the work of this election. Additionally, states like Arizona and Mississippi simply do not have the votes to stand against these intrusions. What can you do? My advice? Be loud, be active, educate yourself and provide support in whatever way you can to continue the efforts you believe in. Whether that is for reproductive rights or simply for rape education is your choice. Whether it is donating your time or your money to causes that align with your views is also your choice. These things sneak in when we are complacent – the only way to fight successfully is to never be complacent.
Remember the ladies.