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Guest Post: Reproductive Rights and Amy Coney Barrett’s Confirmation

By Glee Violette

Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was even buried, her replacement was hand-picked by the conservative patriarchal religious backers of this administration, and Trump rubber-stamped her through, just as he did when he made her a judge less than three years ago. Today after McConnell rammed through her confirmation, and another victory celebration is held in the Rose Garden, we need to remember RBG, and the rights she won for women, which Handmaiden Barrett will obediently take away.

Before I graduated high school in 1966. Abortion was outlawed then, of course. But even though birth control pills were starting to become available, only married women could get them, and only with written permission from their husbands. Many doctors refused to prescribe them. Taking them was a moral offense that would get you excommunicated from most religions. Many pharmacists would not fill the prescription. And when they did, whispers went around the drug store, and the pharmacist and the clerks would treat you with contempt. It was a big freaking intimidating deal. 

If a girl or woman got groped or raped, she usually kept it to herself. She would be blamed, always, for wearing the wrong thing, being in the wrong place, and acting the wrong way. Always. 

Even if she was a minor, and the offender was an older relative. Men were praised for being sexual. Women were shamed. Even married women could expect leers and slurs about her condition if she was pregnant. That's why maternity wear was so concealing and prudish then. It was considered disgusting for a very pregnant woman to be out in public. In most jobs women quit immediately when they found out they were pregnant. Or they would be fired. And there would be no unemployment benefits. 

Women had to take the oath in the marriage service that she would "love, honor, and Obey". It was even in secular marriages by Justices of the Peace. It was taken for granted. Women had the relationship to her husband that a child had to his mother. Subordinate. Obedient. There were laws, but "slapping around" or spanking a wife who "got out of line", "forgot her place", and "tried to wear the pants in the family", was actually regarded as appropriate by most people. And even when a wife was beaten to the point of needing hospitalization, usually, her husband was merely warned by police to "take it easy on her", and it was the wife who faced interrogation by her clergy, the police, and the hospital about what SHE did to "set him off", and was counseled to change her attitude. She was NEVER to deny a husband his conjugal rights to her body.


Because women could not control pregnancy, even by choosing to abstain, she had no control of her life. The fact that her employment depended on it, meant that no financial institution could take a chance on her being to repay loans. She could not get credit, buy a house or a car, or take out a student loan, unless her husband or her father, somebody legally "responsible" for her, co-signed the loan.

Because she could not control pregnancy, she was denied most jobs in management or training. Companies did not want to invest in temporary employees. They did not want to have to rebuild organizations when key people left. 

Colleges denied most applications from female high school graduates. The attitude was that girls were only there to find a husband, and that they would drop out when they married and had babies. (And girls and women who became pregnant out of wedlock were expelled from high school and college immediately). Colleges felt that every time they accepted a female, she was taking the place of a future male breadwinner. It was considered almost immoral in their eyes. 

Besides, "everyone knew" that women were not as smart as men, anyway. The silly things had no common sense. They needed to be guided and protected. They were the weaker sex, both physically and mentally. Television and movies made constant fun of them, especially of women who were clever and tried to rise to the level of men, and do their jobs. Those who succeeded were called horrible names, and came to bad ends. Unless, of course, a man came along to put her back in her place and she smiled and went happily back to it. Ah, true love! 

Because of all that, her temporary availability, her subordinate status. it was simply unthinkable to see women in positions of authority. Women in the police and the military wore skirts and heels and did not carry weapons, and mostly did secretarial work, or support work as drivers, communication messengers, crossing guards, etc. Women did not appear on media as experts, or host the nightly news. In business, women did not appear in the board room, except as secretaries, serving coffee, passing out papers, and getting touched inappropriately. "Working girls" were fair game.

Look at old video and you do not see any women in orchestras, except as the singer, or on any film crews except as the script girl, or on any newscasts except as the weather girl, in a perky revealing outfit to reflect the weather of the day. 

This was the world I grew up in. Where little girls were admonished to pretend to be weak and clumsy and stupid so the boys would feel big and strong. So they would LIKE us. So that someday, one of them would choose us, and marry us. 

Our only goal in life was to be a housewife and mother, after a temporary stint as a nurse, teacher, telephone operator, store clerk, waitress or secretary. We were discouraged from "racy" choices like airline stewardess, model, actress or musician, because people would get the "wrong idea" about us. (A girl who became a cocktail waitress or nightclub singer might as well just put a scarlet A on her chest.)

So when Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated high school in 1951 and was accepted at Cornell University, that was a big deal. When she got accepted at Harvard University after marrying and becoming a mother, that was a HUGE deal. When she graduated TOP of her class at Columbia Law School, that was nothing less than astounding. And THEN, she became a PROFESSOR at Rutgers Law School in 1963 (where she was told she would be paid less because her husband had a good paying job). She was one of only 20 female law professors in the entire country.

She was also a volunteer attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the ACLU, and participated in more than 300 gender discrimination cases, and argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court between 1973 and 1976, winning five of them. She joined the ACLU board of directors and in 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, where she served until her appointment to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton in 1993. 

In the 54 years since I graduated high school, the social role, the opportunities, and the rights of women changed, thanks to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and other pioneers like her, from basically that of a child to that of an adult human being. We have almost gained equality to men in business and so many other fields. We still have a ways to go to be equal in pay. (And of course, women of color still are kept back at a much lower level than white women). We have only a tenuous hold on control of our own bodies. The same men who claim a mask is a violation of their civil rights to govern their own bodies, have no problem claiming the right to decide every aspect of ours. 

The primary goal of McConnell and Trump, and the religious organizations that back them, is to overturn Roe v Wade, and LGBTQ rights, and then every advancement we have made in Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and Voting Rights in the Courts. They want to roll back the clock and re-establish white supremacy and religious authority to where they were in my day. In Ruth Bader Ginsburg's day. 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg showed us that anything is possible if we are willing to put the will, the time, the effort, and the work into it. This tiny woman overcame every obstacle and achieved something for ALL of us living in this country today. We ALL need to step up now, and carry her torch forward. We stood on giant's shoulders. We must not fail her. We will not fall, but climb higher, to the place she led us to, the place she wanted us to go. 

VOTE. Get everyone you know to vote. Everything we ever fought for and won, is on the line.

Glee Violette is a musician and former journalist and radio host. 70+ and pissed we have to fight this crap all over again." People can contact her through her storyteller website


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