By Kathie MM
Last Saturday, June 17, 2017, on a miserably wet day, multitudes of women marched in New York City.
Their purpose? Rallying for a United Nations ban on the use, development, and sale of nuclear weapons.
Support for such a ban, like support for efforts to deal with climate change, may be essential to the survival of most of the remaining species on earth, including human beings.
However, effective banning of the bomb faces enormous obstacles. Foremost is the opposition of all member countries already possessing nuclear weapons—including the United States.
Fortunately, many courageous women—and their male supporters—have faced daunting obstacles in the past and have overcome them.
Step back. Imagine what it must have been like for women in this country when:
- they could not vote,
- advocating for a right to vote could mean a term in prison or an insane asylum,
- divorcing an abusive husband meant losing your children,
- distributing contraception aids or advertising safe abortions was a criminal offense,
- higher education was pretty much out of bounds, and
- while poverty was rampant, nearly every kind of job was closed to women except domestic work and prostitution (which was more lucrative but also a pathway to prison).
Perhaps you have heard the names of some of the women (e.g., Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Victoria Woodhull) who worked, often at great personal cost, to challenge these injustices.
If you want to immerse yourself in the lives of those women and others (e.g., Susan B. Anthony) as they struggled against widespread oppression and persecution (personified by the smug zealot Anthony Comstock), read Marge Piercy’s Sex Wars.
The novel is riveting, with rich and well-researched characterizations of Cady Stanton and Woodhull–courageous, passionate, sometimes conflictual, flawed, admirable human beings–and the nefarious Anthony Comstock (who devoted his life to sending uppity women to jail ), as well as the inimitable fictional immigrant, Freydeh Levin.
Read it for an intimate and engrossing engagement in a culture awash with violent prejudices, run by a cabal of rich and powerful white men able to postpone but not prevent the protest movement for women’s rights.
Read it, be grateful for the progress that’s been made,, and ask what you can do for…
- Survival of the earth, and
- Human rights.