Chances are that you did not hear about the 47 UniteWomen rallies in defense of women's rights, simultaneously held in more than 50 cities, on April 28 this year. What about the upcoming national rally being held by We Are Woman on August 18? Have you donated in support of the rally? Are you going? Hard to do either if you hadn't heard about it via some kind of kooky xx-psychic osmosis.
Does it sound old-fashioned to you? This marching for women? You know, of course, that the Constitution does not actually ensure equal rights for women? Aren't we "equal enough" yet? I mean, even if you didn't know about it, a possible 40,000 marchers must have had some effect on women's rights in April, right? Are you inclined to think it's not necessary or that "social issues" don't really matter?
I think differently (guess THAT's obvious). I think indifference creates a petri dish for the influence of radicals and causes great harm that we all risk paying a high price for. Indifference is what makes it possible that at least four out of five Republican candidates for president would cheerfully consign us to theocracy.
Indifference assumes that our rights are secure and that others will remember that we have a right to have rights. What seem like radical outliers, people who, for example, seriously think women should not be allowed to vote or to be paid equally for work, reflect a wider, more general backlash that makes it culturally and politically acceptable to say women shouldn't vote and be paid equally and be taken seriously. Indifference is what enables our rightward drift attempting to legislate our economy and health care into a mythological happy-land of father knows best -- for you, your body, your family, your money, your government.
I wouldn't have heard of either events beforehand if I hadn't gone out of my way to find the information. Hundreds spoke, as I and a dozen others did at the D.C. rally, and tens of thousands marched to protest anti-gender equality initiatives around the country on the 28th of April. The next few days my local news was dominated by the information that Kim Khardasian, though not an experienced professional journalist herself, was at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. She looked incredibly hot. Despite the fact that these organic, rapidly organized events generated attendance in estimated excess of 45,000 people, there was virtually no media coverage before, during or after. That number is a rough total after aggregating local counts. Let's say, for the benefit of the doubt, that it's 20% too high. That's still more than 35,000 people.
Wonder if any of this has anything to do with the extreme and deplorably persistent imbalance in gender representation in our media? Perish the thought!
I have to ask, along with the organizers' spokesperson Jessica DelBazlo, who who wrote earlier this week:
Since when is the act of gathering thousands of people to stand shoulder to shoulder at the Capitol and cry out for reproductive freedom, equal rights, and equal pay not a grand gesture?
For six months, volunteers have been securing endorsements, scheduling speakers, collecting donations, writing and rewriting press releases that have gone out to dozens of media outlets in D.C. and throughout the United States. As a result, we have support and participation from the likes of Planned Parenthood, the National Council of Women's Organizations, NOW, and CODEPINK, an inspiring line up of speakers and performers, a modest purse, and a lone press contact at The New Republic.
These two groups, UniteWomen and WeAreWomen, and others -- like Rock the Slut Vote (thank you Rush Limbaugh, without whom a Slut Manifesto would not have been possible), have the same goal: to raise awareness and mobilize a network of individuals and institutional advocates to work systematically to protect equal rights. The upcoming August 18 rally, and others like it, are demonstrations that complacency is not an option for women. Those who seek to return girls and women to some mythical "place" are not complacent.
What we are seeing is the long tail of conservative backlash attempting to legislate the subordination of women. It's not just irritating, distasteful and embarrassing, designed as it is to humiliate women and keep them in their place. It is dangerous. As it is, a large part of the country believes that our rights have to be mediated and distributed through men, which means they are not secure. This mediation is a core tenet of those who benefit from our inequality. As much as things have changed in the past 40 years -- and they undeniably have -- there is one thing that remains the same: women's rights are still negotiable, and until they are no longer negotiable we have to actively, vocally, defend them. It requires getting up and taking action.
Which brings me to the name, We Are Woman. It sounds gender exclusive. I applaud the efforts of the founders and organizers of this movement, but am not a big fan of the name. Yes, it speaks to sorority -- something we are culturally inclined to discourage (you know, with all the apartment-dwelling bitches you can't trust, the pretty little liars, the gossip girls, the angry black women, the trash talking, backstabbing metropolitan housewives, et al). But, this is not an undertaking for women alone. This inequality is not just unjust and harmful to girls and women. It is bad for families and imposes unreasonable and harmful responsibilities on boys and men -- everything from oppressive "masculinity boxes" to the pressure to perform as money makers to the need to be protectors of superhuman ability. Patriarchy only benefits a very few "first born sons" after all -- something that is particularly poignantly evident in 2012 America.
If you want to participate, take a look here. I will be speaking at this event along with many others and holding an umbrella in defense against the deplorable Washington heat. The organizers have buses scheduled, posters printed and t-shirts at the ready. On the 18th, the group will be tweeting live using the hashtag #WAW.
Oh, also, if you do come, make sure you wear a bikini under your clothes -- women can't take their shirts off if they're hot -- even when it's totally legal. It makes some people all hot and bothered. And you don't want to inconvenience them too much.
Follow Soraya Chemaly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/schemaly