by Siobhan Carroll
Guest Blogger, Braevehearts Blog
“As governor of Massachusetts, I chose a woman lieutenant governor, a woman chief of staff. Half of my cabinet and senior officials were women. And in business, I mentored and supported great women leaders who went on to run great companies.”
– Mitt Romney’s Republican Nomination Acceptance Speech
I’ve been mulling over the above part of Mitt Romney’s speech for a few days. The RNC did a great job of showcasing an impressive bullpen of conservative women leaders like Nikki Haley and Mia Love. I don’t doubt that those two in particular will be voices we will hear from for decades to come. I may not agree with their stated policies or beliefs, but as women are underrepresented as it is I am always happy to see female leadership in politics.
Something about Romney’s comments coupled with these promising young faces wasn’t sitting right with me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Until, of course, at 3 o’clock this morning.
That snarky voice of mine emerged from my subconscious and verily shouted:
“Mitt trusts women to be leaders in his companies, the state and federal capitols, and arguably his own home, but yet they shouldn’t be trusted to make decisions concerning their own bodies?!”
Needless to say, I was pissed off. Mostly because I was woken up at 3am by Miss Snarkatude, whom I usually try to silence with copious amounts of wine and Xanax so things like this don’t happen. But of course what she was saying was true- if you trust women with your sons, your business, your public policy and legislation, why don’t you trust them to make decisions about their own reproductive health?
I have a college education. I am 35 years old (coming soon to a Senate race near you!). I am married, I have a good job, I have two children, two mortgages, a car payment, and a mildly embarrassing purse collection. What of the above criteria disqualifies me from deciding how to best plan for my family? If you say it’s the purse collection I have a Coach leather carry-all that I might fill with rocks and swing in your general direction.
But seriously, at what point am I “allowed” to decide to terminate a pregnancy? To seek permanent birth control when we have decided our family is complete? To make sure my daughters have access to scientifically accurate information about their bodies and their health?
Forbes magazine reported in June that between 2004 and 2008 companies in the top quartile of boards with women directors outperformed those in the lowest quartile by 26%. If the warnings of Coleen Rowley, FBI field agent in Minneapolis, about men training to be pilots who had no interest learning how to land a plane had been heeded perhaps September 11th would be just an ordinary day to us. Madeleine Albright, Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton have each made extraordinary contributions to US efforts abroad as Secretary of State.
Yet despite these powerful examples of intelligent women making inroads in business and politics by using good judgment, we are still not allowed full governance of our bodies and reproductive health. It is important to note the connection between successful career advancement and the ability to plan one’s family. Having access to birth control, family planning assistance and basic healthcare is key to not only to a woman’s professional success but also to her family’s health and financial security. Nature’s timing is such that our most fertile years correspond with our most promising educational and professional opportunities, and being able to successfully manage our 20s and 30s is what leads to prosperity and health in our later years.
Let’s pause a moment to consider our male brethren as well. In a world where stay at home dads and female breadwinners have become more common and where fathers are more involved in domestic life than ever, we are short-changing men when we don’t give their female partners access to birth control and options to terminate a pregnancy. How can any man be a full partner in the decision to start or enlarge a family if his significant other can’t procure even the most basic contraceptives, or even accurate information about abortion?
I wonder when this infernal “debate” will come to an end. I’m thinking of instituting an exam where I get some sort of uterus license like my driver’s license if I pass (what would the picture on the uterus license be? Think on THAT one for a moment). It often feels like the only qualification for getting to decide want to do with my female reproductive organs is not to have any.
We’ve come a long way, ladies, but in order to end this misogyny we have to make it clear to business and political leaders that if you want my brains in your boardroom and my profits in your pocket, you need to keep your hands off my hoo-ha.