“Dad, you are going to need to scream like a little girl!”
My head whirled in Jesse’s direction and my mouth dropped. Did that condescendingly sexist remark really come out of the mouth of my beloved son?
It was all a part of the things we do for our kids. It has always been important for me to show up and participate in activities with them. I know the time is fleeting, and these are the memories that will take them through their lives. I really never anticipated that this included being strapped to a tower of human torture, specifically, a huge device of terror called the “Double Shot” at Santa Cruz’s Beach Boardwalk amusement park. Jesse was eager to go with me and I did not want to deny him this dad and son moment.
The Double Shot is a 125 foot tower on which you and a companion are shot the full distance of a 125 feet into the air within the matter of a few seconds. Did I mention that heights are not my thing? It was just after we were strapped in, Jesse leaned over and uttered the aforementioned words now etched on my mind. As I was about to protest, the machine threw us 15 feet in the air, before a few gentle bounces and then jettisoned us up the remaining 11o feet towards heaven.
Last week, the US Supreme Court also gave its own injection of controlled horror to the American public, with a jaw dropping sexist moment, when it ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby and the ability of public sector corporations to discriminate against women by denying female employees coverage for “morning after” type contraception. The nuances of the decision are being debated back and forth, including by the Supreme Court Justices themselves,
It could not help but be noticed that the decision was made by five of the male members of the court and dissented by every singe female member. Rich Lowry of the National Review rankled at the suggestion that disrespect for women could be an issue. “If you don’t see the anti-women agenda at work in this decision, you aren’t as discerning as the hysterics on the left who point out, accusingly, that the five justices in the majority are all men… (they) seem to believe that the court was deliberating in the case of Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., et al. v. The Fate of Women’s Freedom in the United States,” he snarked. As if to prove his publication’s all gender inclusiveness, his article was proudly adorned with an ad for “Pink Princess”.
Ah, pink. The designated color of all things female. Months ago I wrote an article that decried the pink designation for girls and pointed out the attempted disempowerment it conveyed. Many agreed with me, others thought it was benign. I think it is telling however, that a color that we ask all females to embrace and with which to identify, is the same one that Arizona sheriff Joe Arpalo dresses prisoners in so that he can humiliate them. It is just one of many examples of how a subtle but constant is the tone of misogyny in our country. Misogyny also creates fertile ground for homophobia as a natural extension. If women are innately disregarded, then how can men who are identified as being women-like, and women who dare to tread on male turf, expect to be respected either?
The issue of what is right and wrong in the Hobby Lobby case comes down to principle. In Rich Lowry’s view, only one side had principle, the plaintiffs who claimed the principle of “religious freedom”. On the other side, he did not see principle, he just saw a question of cost savings. “Hobby Lobby doesn’t have the power to deny its employees the drugs it finds objectionable, nor does it claim such a power. Women who work for the company can buy them on their own,” he explains to those of us who believe the principle was actually the right to make decisions over one’s body and the right to equal protections that others enjoy.
Singer Cyndy Lauper understood this. “Women throughout America know that birth control is an important factor in allowing us to contribute to the workforce, determine our own destiny, and guarantee our economic independence.
Because of birth control, a woman can stay in school and earn her degree. Because of birth control, a hard-working woman can go out on a limb and live her dreams of being a musician, or she can plan her family in a way that allows her to have the career she wants while also providing a loving and safe home for her children.
It doesn’t matter what women choose to do with the opportunities provided by birth control—what matters is that women are allowed to make these choices for ourselves,” she stated.
Another principle is far more basic. The Supreme Court noted over a century ago in Strauder v. West Virginia, that in criminal trials the jury should be drawn from a group “composed of the peers or equals [of the defendant]; that is, of his neighbors, fellows, associates, persons having the same legal status in society as he holds.” This was not a criminal trial, but American women deserve this principle to be enacted in a case where their own personal freedoms are under scrutiny.
The lack of female representation in this Supreme Court decision is only the tip of the proverbial ice berg here. We also have a male dominated legislature that brought in a 100% male authority panel and passed legislation that is supervised in the executive branch by the male Surgeon General and his male Deputy. Looking out across the country, it does not get better. The fact is that this issue and decisions around it are made by the part of the population who will never ever personally face the dilemmas in question. The pregnancy decision is not one we will ever have to face within our bodies, and the rights around it should not be our determination either.
As I emerged from the Double Shot, I found my voice with my son. “Jess, I did not like what you said about screaming like a girl,” I told him. “Why not?” he asked with sincere surprise. “I think it means that you think girls are weaker than we are,” I shot back “Girls and women can be as strong as we are, and you need to respect all people male and female and otherwise. “
“I don’t disrespect girls,” he assured me. “They just scream better than we do. They know what they are doing.”
Since the Hobby Lobby decision came down it is evident that women’s health choices and LGBT equality rights cannot be assumed to be safe in the eyes of the American Justice system. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act has to be strengthened to be universally protective against any discrimination no matter how religious based the organization is. Women’s rights need to be decided for women and their own self determination. We need to extend that protection for them as we, and until we, make sure they are adequately represented to have power over the decision themselves.
If womankind screams better than the rest of us on this, then so be it. We need to be their chorus and make that voice stronger. We need to scream “like a girl”, until all “girls” of all walks of life are empowered to scream effectively and get results for themselves.