Newton’s third law of motion, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, extends from Mother Nature to human nature. Any mass movement will attract a large number of nay-sayers. Just as Phyllis Schlafly opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1960s, some women have staked out a position for why they chose not to join the Women’s March of January 21, 2017. Not to participate is their right, of course, and many didn’t. But I draw the line at strident attacks upon those who did. “I do not feel I am not provided opportunities,” says one who rose in opposition. “I can work if I want .. I control my body, I can defend myself…” Life for American women, she reminds us, is nothing like what it is for women in countries like Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. Women in the United States are spoiled, she asserts.
The insecurity behind this woman’s protest escapes me, though I’m sure there is a story. Nonetheless, when she insists she is free, the pronouncement is so contrary to fact, it impugns her judgement and places her in the same delusional bubble as our president. Has she forgotten Roe V. Wade hangs by a thread? “I can defend my body,” she goes on. If true, she is a member of a rare breed for everyday the news is rife with stories of battered wives, victims of rape or of women who spend their working hours fending off sexual predators, like the women of Fox news. What does she mean by her statement that she can defend herself? Does she imply that victims bring violence upon themselves? That they want to be abused because if they didn’t, they’d put a stop to it?
We may live in a country where those of our gender aren’t beheaded for adultery or have their genitals mutilated, but the inequalities women face in other countries in no way justifies the inequalities in ours. Progress doesn’t aspire to the lowest standard but to the highest. If American women are to be set apart from our sisters overseas, it isn’t because we are spoiled but because prejudice in this country is subtle and difficult to oppose.
My regret is that a few among us will read this woman’s manifesto and be weakened by it. Any impulse, any spark of resolve to make the future better for themselves and their daughters could be extinguished by doubt. They might decide it is better sit passively in their chains than to suffer the bruises struggle might inflict.
This woman who beats her breast about freedom stands, unaware, on the bones of many who were jailed, force-fed, spat upon and demonized as society’s pariahs. Her ingratitude is the unkindest cut of all. She exhibits no knowledge of the past and little insight into the future. But her fear will not smother courage. Women will continue to march for the freedoms she images already exist. One day, she may come to understand the mission. On that day, those who assemble in the name of women’s rights will be ready to welcome her.