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Reproductive Rights: How I Failed My Granddaughter

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Dear Kyla,

I want you to know, darling granddaughter, that I tried. So many of us worked so hard for so long that I confess to getting a bit cocky. And cocksure that our daughters would inhabit a world where no man would dare speak for them about their reproductive rights.

But your mother's most sacred private space, her body, is even less safe from political interference than your grandmother's was. And now here you are, a tiny pink bundle of trust, and I am left with nothing to say but "I'm sorry." I'm sorry that as you grow up I will beseech you, dearest girl, to carry the mantle, when, after more than a century of women's rights activism, your generation should be able to relax.

Fifty-one years elapsed between 1869 when Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton founded the National Women's Suffrage Association and 1920 when the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote, was ratified. Ninety-six years have passed since Margaret Sanger was arrested for running the first birth control clinic. NINETY-SIX YEARS!!! What is taking so damn long for women's bodies to become sacrosanct?

When it comes time for Mommy to teach you about the private parts of your body, she might have to add our government to the list of perverts she will caution you about. I'm so sorry. The funny thing is, some of the very same people who want our government to stay out of our wallets, our workplaces, and our windows, think it's just fine to invade our uteruses. When women protest the idea of being forced to look at pictures of the fetuses we've agonizingly decided to abort, we're told by a United States governor to "just close our eyes." And when the matter of whether or not insurance for contraception interferes with religious freedom comes up for congressional debate, not one woman is invited to sit on the panel.

Soon you will learn to speak. Speak up! Choose your words carefully because words have infinite power, but don't ever be afraid to voice your opinion. And be warned, little girl. Some men may call you awful names when you speak your mind. That is something that has not changed. Some of the men who insult you will do it on the radio or television so millions of people can hear them spew their vitriol. These men won't simply disagree with your opinions, Kyla. They may call you a slut or a prostitute simply for having opinions that diverge from their own. You don't even have to be political to get insulted.

Here's the really bad news. Sometimes even men whose opinions you AGREE with will use bad words to describe women. There was a vice-presidential candidate not too long ago, whom I never would have voted for in a million years. And there is a male comedian who called her the "C" word even though that word has nothing to do with her politics or ideas or even about how smart or not smart she was. That comedian is on MY side of the political debate! You never know, sweetheart. You just never know.

The fight isn't over, baby. Not by a long shot. It's true that things aren't as bleak as they once were. We have a woman secretary of state, for the third time! Women are entering male-dominated professions in greater numbers every year. Still, we earn only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men. And worldwide, only 2 percent of the 4,200 companies analyzed by GovernanceMetrics International, are chaired by female directors. Go to work, Kyla. Contribute.

But again, be warned. If you work outside the home, people like Rick Santorum won't like you very much, and will accuse you of undermining the integrity of the American family by being part of "radical feminism's misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect."

So you see, honey, Grandma's generation didn't get the job done. Neither did Mom's. We have let you down and now we are passing the baton. Please take your time growing up. Enjoy the blessed life you have been granted. But when the right time comes, seize the moment to seize the day. And I will be beside you every step of the way. Together we will mouth off, and write letters, and support pro-woman candidates. Together we will cling to the hope that the daughters of your generation will be able to relax.

I love you,
Grammy