Today I am going to do something preposterous, and possibly presumptuous. Then I am going to ask you to do something that, on first glance, may seem unfathomable or simply repulsive.
First, to the preposterous/presumptuous: I am going to try to represent, and speak to, the so-called "51% minority," to which we belong.
And the unfathomable/repulsive: I am going to ask you to vote for a longtime pro-life Republican Congressman from Texas who has called Roe vs. Wade "a terrible decision." What’s more, he’s gone on record as opposing affirmative-action legislation.
By now, some of you think I’m a traitor to my sex (not to mention this country and the human race) or worse. I guess that’s just an occupational hazard of trying to speak for, and to, high-society debutantes and "butch" lesbians, homeschooling moms in Michigan and childless university professors in Massachusetts, Ivy League alumnae ensconced in Wall Street firms and teenage mothers living in public housing in the Bronx, or transgenders as well as the vast majority who were born with two X chromosomes.
At first glance, it may seem that such disparate women have as little in common as I have with an Evangelical (or other religious fundamentalist) stay-at-home mother or with recent college graduate or dropout who’s moved to Bushwick, Brooklyn and pierced or tattooed every visible orifice of her body. However, we all — most of us, anyway — have shared experiences and values that should motivate us to at least think outside of the box bounded by Hillary, Obama, Edwards and All Other Candidates.
I’m not going to say much about Paul’s anti-war stance, even though it was the first aspect of his campaign that drew my attention. For one thing, most of us want the troops brought back from Iraq and Afghanistan, the sooner the better, and many of us already are on board with his plan to bring the young men and women home from Germany, Korea and all those other places in the world that have become America’s garrisons. If you are not already convinced that these are necessary moves, I don’t know what will sway you; if you are in agreement, there isn’t much more that I can say.
More important — especially for us — is Ron Paul’s opposition to what the military represents and how it affects our economy and society, all of which are detrimental to our individual and collective well-being as women.
Last year, I had a female student who had recently retired from a career in the Air Force. She said that the reason she joined, back in the late 1970’s, was that “there were opportunities. You know, Affirmative Action had just begun.” Even today, she says, there are probably “better chances for advancement” for women in the military than in other areas of society. What she says is not merely anecdotal; the increasing role of women in the military has been noted by the media and academia.
This former student credits the Air Force not only for the career opportunities that it gave her, but also for the chance to “travel the world and meet different people from the ones I grew up with.” And, of course, the Air Force is paying for her current schooling. But, she says, “You know, I really wish I didn’t have to enlist to do all the things I did.”
I think nearly all of us can sympathise with that last statement. For all the hoopla about how we’re gaining equality with men, the sad fact is that we’ve made most of our employment and monetary gains in the public sector — which, of course, includes the military. Some may argue that “peaceful” employment in governmental social service departments is more necessary and honorable than enlistment in the Armed Forces. However, they have the same results, all of which are detrimental to this society — and to us, as women.
All jobs that comprise governmental payrolls are part of a vicious circle of welfare, taxation and legislation, warfare, more taxation and legislation, nation- and empire-building and ever-more-oppressive taxation and legislation. They may give some of us the means to subsistence, but can never lead us, or anyone else, to economic self-sufficiency. They keep us in the thrall of government, and the high taxes that must be levied to finance them discourage or even prevent entrepreneurs from starting new ventures or expanding pre-existing ones. This is not good, whether you’re looking for a job with the entrepreneur, or whether you want to be that entrepreneur yourself.
Furthermore, our dependence on government employment and programs has left us in a kind of economic apartheid: Those jobs are associated with us, and us with them, and because those jobs aren’t as highly esteemed as those in the private sector, we find ourselves saddled with accusations that we can’t make it without government mandates. So, while laws are passed and workplace policies are changed to allow us more leave time and such, we find that employers don’t accept more absenteeism from us; they expect it. In the end, this can only help to reinforce the gender stereotypes against us. And that can’t help more of us to advance, socially and economically.
Among the candidates, Ron Paul alone understands why federal affirmative-action laws don’t help us, or any other “minority” group they were ostensibly intended to help. Instead, the cuts and outright abolition of taxes and regulations that he proposes will open up the opportunities that we’re ready to take. After all, studies have shown that, all things considered, our overall level of performance on most jobs is nearly identical to that of men, and that we do better on jobs that require more interpersonal skills. In spite — or maybe because — of our increasing dependence on technology, more jobs will require greater communication, motivation and team-building skills: in other words, the things we do to get through the day.
Now, you may be convinced, as I am, that Ron Paul will remove at least some of the roadblocks to our economic advancement. But you may also be put off by his remark about Roe v. Wade. However, the comment is a good place for us to use another ability that many of us have, out of necessity, to a greater degree than men: reading between the lines and discerning the meaning behind the words.
Ron Paul has said that the legality or illegality of abortion should not be a decision of the Federal government. Just as he, a foe of abortion, opposes the Roe v Wade decision, he also opposes a Federal ban on abortion. Such a ban would be, as the Roe v Wade decision is, an abrogation of both the letter and spirit of the Constitution. While that is his primary, if not his sole, reason for his stance, we should also think about our situation 35 years after Roe vs. Wade and what many of us fear would happen if the decision were repealed. According to a study released in 2003, 87 percent of all US counties did not have an abortion provider. About one-third of all American women of childbearing age live in those counties. This situation at least hazily reflects the voting patterns of this country: Those counties are mainly red; the more densely populated metropolitan areas, most of which have abortion providers, are blue. One would expect that if the Federal government had no laws supporting or banning abortion, this scenario wouldn’t change much, if at all.
Too digress for a moment, I want to point out that those sparsely-populated areas without abortion providers also don’t have very many lesbians or gay men living in them, at least not openly. So, whether or not Federal laws prohibit the practice, not many same-sex marriages will be performed in those areas. Likewise, whatever the Federal government does or doesn’t do, those unions will be performed, if surreptitiously, in San Francisco and Massachusetts. Why not leave everyone to do whatever he or she needs to do to pursue his or her happiness — whether that happens to be as a single advertising art director in New York or a pastor’s wife in Oklahoma?
Finally, I realize that some of you are wondering what would happen to our health if the Federal government were to stop providing for our care and abolish the FDA and other agencies that are supposed to protect us from unsafe drugs and the like. You may think that this country will revert to what Upton Sinclair depicted in The Jungle. I am sure that unscrupulous manufacturers and marketers will continue to make the equivalents of snake oil and push them on us; that has always happened, whether or not there were agencies charged with preventing it. However, we are much better able to deal with those who disguise their greed as a wish to make us healthier and more comfortable than people were a hundred years ago. For one thing, more of us can read the labels on the products we find in the local apothecary or supermarket. And, for another, we have — especially with the Internet — faster and more convenient means of finding and sharing information about a product, its manufacturer and sellers. But most of all, we get out of our homes more than women did a century ago. When we go out and see each other, we can use a talent that we’ve possessed, from time immemorial, in greater degree than men have: our ability to communicate with each other. Yes, whether we’re in the groves of academia or the local nail salon, we talk to each other. There has never been anything in the Constitution to stop us from doing that, and Ron Paul does nothing to get in the way of the Constitution. Which means he won’t get in our way, either.
So, in brief, we don’t need laws to protect us; we need opportunities to do what we do well and be rewarded for them. Of all of the candidates for President, Ron Paul, in his strict adherence to the Constitution, will allow those opportunities and won’t get in the way of our pursuit of them. So forget the rhetoric and labels, and vote for him.
Justine Nicholas [send her mail] is the deputy director of the Office of Academic Achievement at York College in Queens, New York.