Yesterday afternoon I got in my car and immediately wished I hadn't quit smoking five months ago. I had nothing easy and obvious to soothe the hand gestures and curse words that typically characterize me in high dudgeon. I ended up just sitting in the car curled over the steering wheel, sweating and furiously typing on my phone.
I was at the Capitol, and I couldn't leave. I wanted to put the car in drive and maneuver straight into the largest glass of wine I've ever seen. But, for some reason, I just couldn't drive away. A few hours before, I had watched the House pass a bill that I knew would cause low-income Mississippi women to lose access to health care.
I almost felt like it was a battlefield, that I had dead soldiers I couldn't leave behind. Eventually, I did drive. I made it home, where my beleaguered husband went silent at my answer to "How was your day?" He knows when I say things like, "I fit the criteria for an inpatient admission," it means one of two things: I'm either homicidal or suicidal.
"Suicidal?" He asked.
He breathed a sigh of relief and went into the kitchen to pour me a glass of wine. I am nothing if not chock full of hyperbole on most days. That day it was mixed with a whole lot of sad and a whole lot of tired.
About a year ago, I wrote a column that will probably get lumped with this one because I mention "putting on my boots" and "getting ready to march" in both of them (don't say I didn't give you fair warning). But I find myself on the other side of that year knowing that I am different for it. I am a little more whole. I am a little less naïve. And I suffer a lot less nonsense.
This past year, lobbying against Initiative 26 started eating up any life I had outside of work. Every weekend for months there seemed to be something we needed to do to get out the word. Then we voted. Then we won. It was awesome.
But I cannot say that I was not angry at the people who forced me to take time away from my life, and my family, to keep rights afforded to me in the U.S. Constitution. And that anger carried forward. As I talked to The Women, I began to notice that they were all still pissed, too.
They were also vigilant.
These women are pretty awesome. I can't thank Initiative 26 enough for the women it caused to cross my path. They are amazing—smart, strong, educated, loving, independent women (and a few men, too!). I count them as my friends now. And right now we are all angry. Angry that The Men on High Street decided they weren't going to listen to us—their constituents. And more so, angry at the entire tone the country has taken toward women in general. Because, unlike some, I know that anti-woman rhetoric actually increases the odds that my daughter will be raped in her lifetime.
I grew up in a world that had a place for women—beside the men. Even in the Mississippi Delta in the 1980s, things were not as strange and backward as they are now. I was told that I could do and be anything I wanted. I was taught to love other people. I was taught to take care of people who had less than me. I was taught to be kind to people. I was taught to treat other people the way I want to be treated. And I was told that being a girl was good—that I could do anything a man could do—anything. I was also taught to stick up for myself and handle my own business.
I don't come from weak stock. And I like to think I was raised a lot like other Mississippi kids.
Today, the Mississippi Legislature is discussing several bills that are germane to women in this state retaining access to reproductive health care. Lawmakers introduced 32 bills this session that deal with regulating or restricting women's reproductive health care. Yes, 32. The number of bills introduced concerning denying men their constitutional rights? None. The number of bills about one of their "highest priorities" this session, charter schools? Six.
And, yet, people keep saying women aren't under attack.
Legislators are not talking about the economy—unless we count unconstitutional immigration bills. They sure aren't talking about jobs—unless its restrictions to unemployment (in a state where the unemployment rate is higher than 10 percent). In short, I'm going to make the charge that they aren't listening to us at all.
I think it's time to finally pull out the boots, ladies. Because I am just done. I am done with people wanting to put probes in vaginas and men not allowing women a seat at the table and mothers being prosecuted for accidents and the elevation of embryos above flesh-and-blood humans. I am done.
On Thursday, March 29, I will be putting those boots back on. And then I'm going to wear them as I march to the Capitol so they can see that I mean what I say. I'm bringing The Women with me. And I want you to join us. Bring your boots.
Mississippi W.A.R. (Women Are Representing) will march from Smith Park to the State Capitol in silent protest (signs welcome) starting at 9 a.m. on March 29. Come join other Mississippi women—and women across the nation—as we tell our Legislature to represent all of us. Visit http://www.facebook.com/groups/WOWMS.