The other day I was watching a non-sports TV show when a graphic titled “NCAA Basketball Scores” came on the screen in a little update. It didn’t say “NCAA Men’s Basketball Scores,” which would have been more accurate. Because, of course, it is assumed by most producers and viewers alike that the list would be men’s hoops despite the full-on, competitive NCAA women’s basketball being played right now.
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People who used to read my sports columns in the newspaper for more than a decade know that language was a big issue with me when it came to showing men as the norm, women as “other.” I beat that drum to death, week after week. Not only did I write about it, I spoke at athletic banquets, in classrooms and to female student-athletes on this theme over and over again.
So, to see that seemingly innocuous graphic on my TV some dozen years after I last wrote about it was jarring. I let out a sigh and moved on.
That is, until International Women’s Day (March 8), when I saw so many media references celebrating females. The memories came flooding back – my passion, my anger, my activism. I used to be the one writing stories geared to Take Our Daughters to Work Day (before “sons” were added to the equation) or Women’s History Month. Perhaps I am envious of the folks who still have the energy to fight the fight on an ongoing basis because frankly, I’m a bit weary.
This is not to denigrate the celebration and it is not meant to be a downer or a pessimistic view of strides made. My goodness, we can vote and have our names on mortgages now; this is big stuff. I have such respect for all the people--that’s men and women--who have helped fight this fight. It is just that for some reason this day that has existed for 100 years hit me differently than it ever has.
Scrolling through article after article on news outlet Web sites as well as Twitter and Facebook, I started thinking, when will there come a time when we don’t need to set aside a day to celebrate women? Wouldn’t it be great if that was just the silliest of notions?
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What I would like to celebrate today and tomorrow and next week and for decades to come is a secure feeling around reproductive rights that were already fought for and won. Just last week a 50-something friend -- who worries that her 30-something daughter’s generation will take for granted things like reproductive rights -- talked about her dismay at the current assault by the House Republican leadership on Planned Parenthood (in the form of two proposals targeting women’s health care programs and providers).
“Planned Parenthood is the most trusted organization in this entire country,” Gloria Steinem said on Real Time with Bill Maher last week.
Since Planned Parenthood’s intake form doesn’t--sarcasm alert--ask for political party, we’ll just have to assume the millions of women trusting their reproductive lives to this organization come from all walks of life. Most are there because they are being proactive and responsible in their sexual lives.
According to its Web site, “More than 90 percent of the care Planned Parenthood health centers offer is preventive. For six in 10 women who receive medical care from doctors and nurses at family planning health centers like those run by Planned Parenthood, these centers are their main source of health care.”
This tedious morality play going on around abortion and our precious tax dollars is reason alone to be skeptical the day will ever come when women can partake in this legal right without looking over their shoulders and that we will be celebrating womanhood in a way that feels right at our core. Correspondent Kristen Schaal had a clever take on this on The Daily Show recently.
“I’ll admit, Planned Parenthood is running quite an elaborate front for its abortion stores,” Schaal said. “But the facts are just what [U.S. Representative from Indiana] Mike Pence said. If an organization has anything to do with abortions, then everything that organization does is tainted and shouldn’t get any government money.
“Our taxes are going to abortions in ways no one is even talking about … For starters, we have to cut funding for fire departments … Hello, what if an abortion clinic catches fire and fire fighters put it out, paving the way for more abortions? Abortionist fire fighters paid for with our tax dollars.”
Schaal, in conversation with Jon Stewart, continued to make her extreme, humorous point with the Coast Guard, FAA, Mining Safety Commission, Library of Congress, NASA, and when Stewart posed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (“Jon, please, I’m getting pregnant just listening to you,” she said.).
Schaal spoke to how complex this issue is and listening to her did reignite my passion on this a bit, at least enough to write this column. I am thrilled about the idea of celebrating women, in the simplest and most profound ways. I am awed by what we have accomplished and what we can do moving forward.
“I think the fact that women, globally, can come together to celebrate is awesome,” says a male friend. “It’s a gift to be able to do that. To be able to set everything else aside and celebrate women ... how cool.”
I like that opportunity and the spirit of it. I do. But I’d still be happier to see a graphic that specifies “NCAA Men’s Basketball Scores” on my TV screen, indicating we’re anything but “other.”
Now that would spell change.