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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Engrossing: Finding the angry feminist within

Published: April 5, 2012
Section: Opinions, Top Stories

A few days ago, at Women in the World Summit hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Nobel Peace Prize-winner and Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee asked an important question: “Where are the angry American women? In all honesty, I’ve also been watching the men talk about your reproductive issues and saying: Why are these women not angry and beating men left and right? It’s time for women to stop being politely angry.”

I came across her statement last week while spending an early morning in bed, Facebook stalking as an excuse to stay in bed a few more moments.

Gbowee asked attendees of the event why American women aren’t up in arms about the women’s health legislation being proposed all over the country and, after doing a little more research on the topic, I can’t help but ponder the same question.

Take for example Terry England, a Republican State Representative from Georgia who is a strong supporter of HB 954, which makes it illegal to obtain an abortion after 20 weeks even if the woman is known to be carrying a fetus not expected to live to term. In other words, this legislation restricts women’s right to choose an abortion even if they know that their child will never make it into the world.

As a part of his defense of the bill, Rep. England treated his audience to an antidote from his childhood.

The politician reflected: “Life gives us many experiences … I’ve had the experience of delivering calves, dead and alive. Delivering pigs, dead or alive. It breaks our hearts to see those animals not make it.”

While it’s nice to know that England is sympathetic toward women who struggle with reproductive health issues, the legislation he proposes is completely inconsiderate of the physical and emotional strain it could put on the women it controls—also, I’m pretty sure that he just compared them to farm animals.

Turn your attention to the cases of Rennie Gibbs and Bei Bei Shuai, two women who were charged with the murder of their children; Gibbs after miscarriage due to her cocaine use and Shuai after attempting suicide and losing her child in the process.

Or, consider new legislation being proposed in Arizona that enables employers to request proof, from female employees using insurance to buy birth control, that they are being prescribed the birth control for a medically viable reason other than not wanting to get pregnant. With this information, employers have the right to refuse to cover the contraception and even to dismiss their employee. Even married women and those in monogamous relationships who are not trying to have children will not be granted coverage unless they can produce (or fabricate) another reason for the prescription.

This legislation restricts women and their doctors from making necessary decisions about their health, body and sex lives. It paints us as being animal-like in our incapability to participate—or at least, irrelevant—in the making of decisions about our bodies.

How can we continue to promote laws that discriminate against half of the population?
More importantly, why aren’t more women angry about it?

As if listening to men talk about reproductive issues isn’t upsetting enough, consider that these statements aren’t being made by crazy fringe organizations, but the individuals who have been popularly elected in this country to represent the interests of their citizens. Because they are mouthpieces of the public, their words are broadcasted for all to hear and the hate within them does not stay contained in the discussions of individuals.

One need only look to our country’s newspaper to see this ignorance bleeding into the lives of Americans.

Consider last Sunday night’s attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Grand Chute, Wis., in which a small bomb exploded outside of the clinic.

The most recent statistics released by the National Abortion Federation recorded 114 violent attacks—including one bombing, one case of arson, eight burglaries and 27 counts of vandalism—against abortion providers in 2011.

When looked at in isolation this statistic may seem shocking but it is perfectly understandable when we consider the messages being publicized by our officials.

It’s time we see that by filling our society with announcements of women’s irrelevance, we are allowing individuals to sustain this judgment in their lives.

It’s time that we pay attention to the correlation between officials who produce sound bites comparable to hate-speech and violence against women’s health providers in our country and understand that the only way to put a stop to the latter is to end the former.

More than anything, it’s time that we answer Gbowee’s question and show her—along with the rest of the world—that the angry women are right here and we’re not going anywhere.