May 09
Lorraine Berry lives in the Fingerlakes region of New York, although it's her transplanted home. On weekends, she can be heard throughout the area, cheering on her beloved Manchester City F.C. When not writing at Does This Make Sense? or Talking Writing, she can be found hiking with her two dogs, hanging out with her two daughters, eating what her beloved Rob has cooked for her, or teaching creative writing at a small college in the area.


Editor’s Pick
MARCH 6, 2012 9:54AM

We Told You So, Democrats

Rate: 40 Flag

In some ways, my own silence on the issues of the past several weeks has surprised me. I have a reputation for writing about feminist issues—by which I mean anything that pertains to the notion that women are entitled to the same inalienable human rights that men are.

Nothing less.

For a while, I felt that I—along with some other prominent feminist bloggers—were voices crying in the wilderness. While other folks were focused on the "big" issues, I could not stop talking about Plan B, abortion rights, contraception, whether women were entitled to buy sex toys in places like Texas and Mississippi—essentially anything that pertained to women and control of their bodies.

I have this fundamental belief—and yes, on this issue, you can call me a fundamentalist—that women cannot be truly equal in a culture unless they are allowed to control their own bodies. That they can control what enters their bodies, what they choose to carry within their bodies, that they can make decisions about their sexual needs and desires free of government interference. For me, these issues are so bedrock, so fundamental to what it means to be a human being in this free democracy we so proudly proclaim to the world, that I have privileged this belief above other issues that some folks have told me are more important.

And so, given my reputation for speaking out about these issues, one would think that I would have been one of the first ones to voice my objections to the various bills in front of state legislatures, and the outrageous pronouncements of the Republican candidates, which no longer even pretend that they're about protecting the rights of fetuses, but which are, without apology, direct attacks on a woman's right to be anything other than a baby-making factory.

You'll forgive me for my lack of outrage. If anything, I'm exhausted and angry—along with many of my feminist allies—that some folks refused to see this coming. Of course, the issue was about controlling women, keeping them out of the public sphere, denying them any access to real power. It's obvious: how can you function as a political creature if you are perpetually pregnant?

We were told we were overreacting when we tried to hold Democrats to account when they allowed G.W. Bush to appoint to the SCOTUS men who were actively opposed to women's reproductive rights. We were lectured by people we thought should be our allies—people like Dan Savage—who told us that we should hold our noses and vote for candidates like Casey in Pennsylvania. We were fed the myth that even though Casey holds radical views about women, that, once in the Senate, party discipline would keep these types of Democrats under control. Well, guess who one of the Democrats who voted for the Blunt Amendment was?

We were scolded for being "single-issue" voters, for failing to see the big picture, for being selfish.

Well, you know what?

We knew what was coming. We knew that these "little" issues were part of a much larger social agenda that would seek to put women back in their place within the home. We knew that what was at stake was our basic humanity. And again and again, we were told that we were focused on boutique issues when more important issues should be occupying us.

Of course, we were capable of thinking about reproductive issues and other issues before us. We are capable of doing two things at one time. But I am fighting with myself because my gut reaction to all the folderol that the Republicans have produced in the past few months that seek to deny women their humanity is I Told You So. Not a mature reaction. Not a constructive reaction. But I feel as if some of us have been begging politicians to pay attention to what was happening to the erosion of women's rights in this country for the past couple of decades.

I apologize for feeling that way. I apologize that I haven't been able to muster the energy to get galvanized around the new issues before us. Because they're not new. They've been there for years. And I just find myself feeling angry that it took the sort of high-stakes attacks on women's rights to get some folks to pay attention.

Especially the Democrats. The Democrats, who seemed to spend the entire Bush administration breaking my heart with their refusal to take this stuff seriously. And now, suddenly, the Democrats want to proclaim themselves women's best friends—oh, and by the way, will I donate to the party now as it seeks to finally do its job and stand up for women?

I will do what I have always done. I will make my contributions to Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the other women's groups who never lost sight of these issues.  I will remind all of us that women matter. We have always mattered. We welcome you into the tent.

But I warn the Democrats. If this is temporary, if you are going to take advantage of the cold-blooded attempts by Republicans to strip women of their rights only to get distracted as soon as the heat is off, I will not forget.

I will continue to argue, to work in the ways that I can, to argue that women are humans, too. I'd like to believe that this is a real turning point, that folks are finally going to get what has been at stake all this time.

But I'm angry that it took what has amounted to the nuclear option to finally get someone's attention.

Because, you see, I told you so.


This post was cross-posted at Does This Make Sense?

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Lorraine ~ in total agreement here with all of your points! The word frustration doesn't begin to describe my feelings on this.
"You'll forgive me for my lack of outrage. If anything, I'm exhausted and angry." I hear that...and nothing will change, because we'll never vote for a woman, because she'll be too ___(add whatever belittling comment you can think of here)___. Women caused this- on both sides.
The Democratic Party has become the Republican Party of Bob Dole. Expect the worst. I believe there is a woman running for President.
Peter, more than just one (possibly much more are running and I am just not aware)- Jill Stein and Roseanne Barr are candidates, but not a single female candidate has a real shot. I honestly wonder if a woman will break that ceiling in my lifetime.
Excellent post. It's so hard to lose sight of the innate hostility many conservatives of a certain stripe have towards women voting, working - doing anything but tending hearth and home. In my first professional job, I worked with a man who was a Rush acolyte conservative. A young husband and dad, he argued with me constantly that women should not be in the workplace. I was amazed that anyone - anyone at all - could think that in the enlighted year 1994. Now that this guy is a boss running a consulting division, I can't imagine he feels differently.
Baltimore Auerole. Given the anti-choice laws in many states, including the law that Irin Carmon writes about today in Big Salon, Roe v Wade may become irrelevant. And if you think that the past 25 years haven't seen major changes to reproductive protections, you haven't been paying attention.
Women are worth fighting for. Don't ever back down. Be vigilant. When you're exhausted, take a break, recoup and come back full force.
Thanks so much for this reasoned, terrific piece.
So good to see a post from you here.
wrote a piece at DTMS last yr, I believe, expressing my concern that there as a lack of urgency as to these issues. I am delighted they are back to the fore now.
since the 60's, if more women who believe as you do voted for the candidates most likely to support their rights, we still wouldn't be fighting this battle, and i don't think that means they would vote republican.
I see a theme here the last couple of days. Surprisingly I think I'm the only writer here who tackled the "pre abortion sonogram" debate that is going on in multiple state legislatures. You're making a similar point. Conservative forces are slowly, inexorably whittling away at the right to privacy at the right for women to control their bodies to the point where eventually these rights may become meaningless and it's all being done just a teeny bit at a time. Jon Wolfman writes today about Fascism and this is how National Socialism was "successful" 8o years ago. Excellent post.
Excellent piece, but let's not forget the Lilly Ledbetter Law , DADT, and the defeat of the Blunt Amendment, among others, not enough, I know, but way better than the GOP. I have no doubt that most Dems are on the side of women and that the differences between Dem and GOP on these issues is pretty clear. But I get your disappointment and frustration too.
What is it George Clooney said the other day about Democrats eating their own? Many of us can't or won't see beyond our own particular interests, aren't willing to work with others who might be championing different interests, don't accept compromise. Until it's too late and then we can whine about why we lost once again. Or, worse, blame the other Democrats who didn't support our particular interests even tho we didn't support theirs. We eat our own.
There are two major parties which only represent the interests of corporate money and whatever else they might need to get elected. Both parties are run by professional hacks whose only interest is in accumulating power for themselves. Any issue which is assumed to be controlled by one party will be ignored. Democrats are so busy becoming Republicans in order to win the "middle" anything the party ever stood for is now being jettisoned.
Matt and John,
I understand your need to defend the Democrats. But, I'm sorry, my "self-interest" is the interest of over half the population. John, you at least seem to get it. Matt, apparently it's your party right or wrong, and those of us who want to criticize the party for refusing to defend half the country's population are just being whiny and self-indulgent. Oh, if only you could have a uterus for a day. Things might look different when the threat is staring you in the face.
While reading you post and the replies I have developed a question and would like you to clear something up for me please. Would you please tell me how we know something is a "right" and when it isn't?
Politicians only pay attention when they fear they will be thrown out of office. People of principal will never be the majority in a legislative body.
I completely agree. I have been saying it too, fighting it too, speaking out about it too. I am not surprised. I am completely disgusted and I warn these women out there who are compliant, go be the stepford bitch if you want to, but my daughter is not going to go down because of your stupidity. I will continue to be the unpopular bitch with the conservatives that I am, I will not go quietly into the night. I am fighting for her.
I gave you the wrong impression, Lorraine. I'm not a member of any party. I vote Democratic despite knowing the party's not a helluva lot better than the Republicans because the Republicans are a helluva lot more dangerous. I vote Democratic to keep Republicans out of office. If they have a majority then all hope of compassion and progressive thinking is lost. At least with Democrats in office there is hope. The only way to keep Republicans out of office is to vote for the lesser of evils. That's what I mean by compromise. Those who think we can "send a message" by voting for independents or a third party are naive. The only message that sends is one of joy to the Republicans. Those who think the only way to go is to let the troglodytes take complete power because then the fire will be lit under the butts of the enlightened and ve vill haff rrrrrevolooooshun, ja!!!! might be right, but do we really want a violent revolution? Because that's the only kind of revolution that would accomplish a change in the system - violent. I don't want that, and I doubt if that's what you want, either. The next best thing is what we saw this fall with OWS, a consciousness-raising movement that can bring about real change at the polls if the blue-collar and tea party constituencies realize the Republicans are serving their corporate masters and don't give a sh*t about anybody else. Of course, the Democrats have their corporate masters, too, but the Dems at least are more responsive to a wider demographic and know that issues such as women's rights are part of their core values.
I vote Green (for most, not all) posts because they hold the same values that I do. The Dems, as a whole, don't.

and you sold a shirt by the way :D
When the economy gets bad, there is reaction against women and minorities. Soon we'll hear how women should stay home and let men have the jobs.

I like to think this is a one step back in the two-steps-forward movement.
Democrats only look good because Republicans look so bad.
To me this goes beyond women's issues; to me this is about nothing less than the insidious move to adopt Christian sharia as the law of the land. I have been preaching about that for some time, and have been similarly dismissed as an alarmist.

Wake up, America. The real sharia movement has infected America ever since the Southern Strategy first reared its racist reptilian head, and it has been in full de-flower since Richard Nixon first appealed to the Silent Majority.

That "majority" was never a majority, and it was never silent either. Now its shouting from the rooftops and the television and vomiting from the mouths of Presidential candidates, each seeking to outdo the other with wingnut, racist rhetoric. It's already running the show in DC from the closeted confines of Street.

If those who value liberty don't awaken soon, it's all over but the shoutin' Hosannas to the New Pharisees.
amsterdam slotenmaker Van huisdeur tot kluisdeur alles
wordt 24uur p/d vakkundig en snel geopend, geplaatst en herstelt .
I don't know if this will help or hurt, but now that throughout the country we have thousands of bills aimed at our wombs we have a woman legislator who will introduce a bill that any man who seeks a viagra prescription will have to seek therapy for sex addictions or something to that effect.
It's sad that people can't feel unless it happens to them.
These are tough times and I am so glad your out there keeping watch! Bravo!
.........(¯`v´¯) (¯`v´¯)
............... *•.¸.•* ♥⋆★•❥ Thanx (ツ) & ♥ L☼√Ξ ☼ ♥
⋆───★•❥ ☼ .¸¸.•*`*•.♥ (ˆ◡ˆ) ♥⋯ ❤ ⋯ ★(ˆ◡ˆ) ♥⋯ ❤ ⋯ ★
I'd like to take a stab at Catnlion's question, though at 3 in the morning, it will be somewhat superficial. There are several sources for what we believe to be rights. Some things just feel like rights, in a sense more universal than culture. Most people in the world feel they have a right not to be killed or robbed or raped. Sometimes safety is elevated to the highest right. In come political systems, security is a substitute for freedom, but the population still feels they are benefiting from a right.

Rights are generally established through political action, from democratic action to revolution. The most obvious case is that when a populace is feeling oppressed in a particular way, they fight to relieve that oppression and define that relief as a right. So, no taxation without representation, no deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law. In order to maintain the balance of power between the public and the government, we define as rights those things that shift power to the people, such as freedom of press and freedom from state religion.

The types of oppression that result in the definition of rights are the basic threats to survival which come from government, and also from other people. These are obvious. We have a right not to be killed by either our neighbor or our government, maybe of us believe at all, but at least without a powerful reason. But threats can be financial, such as having your property taken or being excluded from earning a living.

Rights are not in any real sense "natural" but they make intuitive sense in that they fit with cultural perspectives. So, in another culture, the right of a parent to pick a spouse for their child might be sacrosanct, whereas in our culture, we deem the individual to have the final say about whom they have an intimate relationship. Cultural values have resulted in the codification of such rights as the right to marry and to procreate. Cultures also focus compassion, so that we might base things like the rights of the accused or the imprisoned on our sense of what is fair to average people. A critical case in establishing the right to procreate actually involved a prisoner scheduled to be castrated. Culture changes. As Justice O'Conner put it, there are evolving standards of decency. We used not to think children had a right to be protected from parental violence; we now think they do.

Then--the part Catnlion might be questioning--there are rights that are obvious for some groups, and which other groups object to being excluded from. An obvious example is the right of heterosexuals to marry, while homosexuals can't. Ultimately, rights must be validated by the judiciary, which is increasingly finding no justification for this distinction.

Foremost among unequally distributed rights is the right to control your own body, a right which is unquestioned for men and eternally challenged for women. But of course, the question has to be examined in its practical sense. Does the right of a woman to determine what happens to her body mean that she has the right to insurance coverage? Are her rights outweighed by the embryo or fetus's? Ultimately, no right means anything if there are serious financial or procedural obstacles to exercising it. Like it or not, the courts have had to deal with the question of whether a right in the abstract is truly a right when there is no practical way of obtaining it.

So, there is no one place where rights come from. We decide what our rights are, and we attempt to make them universal, if only because our fundamental document, the Constitution, insists it has to be that way.

Some rights arise from strong cultural aspirations, so
Where the heck is everyone? Has there been a rapture and I have been "left behind?"
One can ALWAYS count on democrats to be complicit in the most insidious ways, when they aren't committed to unabashed malevolence, themselves.

AND I have never voted repugnican't in my life.

I hear you; I'm tired of watching women lose ground on some of our most fundamental rights. We need to keep talking about this or we will lose everything we've gained.
We need something withing the Democratic Party to pull it back from its present, center-right, position; something like the Tea Party within the Republican Party. The Democratic Party establishment complains that the party would be finished. If so, so be it. There has to be a party of the all of the people.
And, of course, I agree that women can only be equal when they control their own bodies. Rush Limbaugh's recent "No means yes" comment is emblematic of the attitudes of members of the "Elite White Guy" party. R