By Dr. Donna Schaper
Call me a drama queen or call me a woman. At least call me focused: I have one thing I want changed. It is the lines at the theaters in which women stand while men do not. Unisex bathrooms don’t only help people with “non-conforming” gender identities, they help women in general too.
The right to choose an abortion may be directly akin to the way we stand in line, while a few men go in and out. Little things mean a lot. Yes, there are marvelous exceptions to the intermission sexism.
But they are exceptions. This annoying and relatively minor problem is emblematic of the major problems we face.
Women have a lot in common—and not just the right to manage our sexual and reproductive lives. A lot of people waste our time. The women’s marches of January 19th gave us a lot to think about. As one sign said at one of the rallies I attended (I attended all three), “If you are in a broad coalition where there aren’t divisions, then you are not yet in a broad enough coalition.” Bernice Johnson Regan of Sweet Honey in the Rock was listed as the author. I liked that sign a lot. Not all women want to have an abortion even in a complex or inconvenient pregnancy. But the great majority of women DO want to have that choice. These women are overwhelmingly supported by those women who want the justice of choosing. Poll after poll shows that the American public overwhelming supports the right to choose an abortion, even if the person being polled would not choose one themselves.
We have often quipped that “if men needed abortions, abortion would be a sacrament.” Why do we say snarky things like that? Men don’t even “need” all the bathrooms they get. That’s one sign of what can only be understood as blindness to fundamental inequality.
You might have seen episode one of season two of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The title character’s father doesn’t even realize his wife, Rose Weissman, has left him for a couple of days. When he does, he responds with outrage. How could she do that to him? A better version of male supremacy could not have been written. First, he doesn’t get it. And then when he gets it, he thinks it’s all about him. Whatever suffering she might have experienced is invisible to him, so imprisoned is he in his own hyper self-consciousness.
This kind of unconscious sexism remains widespread. It’s not just men in the 1950s. Many who would like to have unprotected sex with us, especially when we are all younger, is another version of this unconscious sexism. Why don’t men see their own interests in assuring the right to reproductive technologies? Because condoms are “uncomfortable?”
Just let me say one word, JUDGEKAVANAUGH to show you the size of the problem, both personally for women and publicly for the country. Kavanaugh’s heroic challenger got a third of the airtime he did, if that. What is her name again??? Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, that’s her name.
Fortunately, New York State has found its senses recently and its governor has decided to become abortion cheerleader in chief. Our laws will once again become the best in the nation—and abortion will move out of the “criminal” code (!) and later term abortions will be possible.
There is actually good news about abortion for people in the West Village and beyond. These essential rights to reproductive justice, once legally guaranteed, will let us get back to the long-term work of earning more than 85 cents on the man’s dollar and getting public venues to stop privileging men in bathroom lines.
Things could be different beyond New York State’s good news. Pay us the same as you pay men and we’ll do twice the job. With Ginger Rogers, we will do everything Fred Astaire did, in high heels, and backwards. This larger issue will come when women unite around not putting up with stupid stuff anymore, like long lines at the theater, that not only waste our time but also insult our humanity.
Our religious freedom joins our sexual and reproductive freedom in being unimportant. We are supposed to think the way Roman Catholicism and punishmentalist Christianity think about us. They know better and have controlled the airwaves and the public policies for too long. Many of us think differently about God and think God loves and respects women as much as HE/SHE/THEY respect men. We also think that women are equal “humans” to the idolatrous superiority of men. Once God and laws get on your side, even the Mr Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper s. Weissmans of the world will stop putting up with certain kinds of men.
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. She is the author of Grass Roots Gardening: Rituals to Sustain Activists.