Hear Me Roar

I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
’cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again.  from the song I Am Woman

It was 1972 when singer Helen Reddy recorded that song, and the sentiments were considered mighty militant in those days. I was barely into high school, but was proudly waving my little teenage flag for Women’s Rights.  I had big plans to roar in those days, to be something my mother and grandmother never had the opportunity to be.

No one was gonna keep me down, that was for sure.

The Women’s Movement (as it was called back then) sparked the kinds of changes in society that allowed women of my generation the ability to walk into courtrooms and operating rooms and board rooms carrying tools of the trade instead of cups of coffee. It gave women control over their bodies and the power to make decisions about their physical and mental health. In the space of one generation it became “normal” for women to work outside of the home at any career they chose. It became legal for women to maintain control of their reproductive system. The women of the 1960’s and 1970’s extended the work of their Suffragette Sisters and took women’s rights several bold steps into the future.

That’s a lot of change in one generation. And because I saw how quickly that occurred, how it began with a lot of “big talk” by women intent on taking control of their lives for once, I have to admit I’m more than a little frightened by things that are happening right now which could force the pendulum back in the other direction. There’s a lot of “big talk” out there again, but this time it’s not being spoken by women but instead by men who would like nothing better than to put women “back in their place.”

And while it’s easy to slough off comments of people like Rush Limbaugh, who have no real power other than the power we give him by listening to his pompous drivel, it’s not so easy to disregard the sentiments of people like Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney. These are men who have the potential for great power, who have huge followings and huge bank accounts, and legions of people willing to do their bidding. Give these men a foot in the door and it could set in motion the kind of change that would destroy everything women have gained in the past three decades.

The young women of my son’s generation – those in their 20’s and 30’s – have never lived in a time when women didn’t have the opportunities they have today. They can’t imagine the kind of work life my mother-in-law had as an Executive Secretary in the Ford Motor Company World Headquarters, where she referred to herself as “Mr. Smith’s girl,” and was required to wear dresses and high heels to the office each day. They can’t fathom being denied admission to medical school on the basis of gender.

It’s easy to take those kinds of freedoms for granted and become complacent about changes in society that have been to your benefit for so long.

But society changes all the time, and something that was deemed progress by one generation can just as well be deemed regression by another.

I’m thinking it may be time for women to start practicing their roar once again.

We really do know too much to go back and pretend.

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8 thoughts on “Hear Me Roar

  1. I’m sorry. I have no patience for the kind of whining that showed up in the person of Ms. Fluke. Any thirty year old Georgetown law student who can’t either find her own contraception or get her boyfriend to help foot the bill had better not show up on my doorstep begging for pills.

    In the first place, she’s been an activist for gender reassignment coverage for years. She came to Georgetown with the declared intent of changing their policies on contraceptive coverage. And the story she told about her friend who felt “powerless” when she discovered insurance didn’t cover her pills made me sick.

    I didn’t go through what I went through during those years of change for a new generation of women to begin treating the government like “Daddy”, hoping someone else will take care of them and their needs.

    It may be that a new “war on women” has begun, and it may be that some want to “put women in their place” but as far as I’m concerned, the danger comes more from the left than the right. The misogynists like Bill Maher, Ed Schultz and Mike Malloy need to do some apologizing, too. Limbaugh’s words were wrong, and shouldn’t have been spoken. But they pale in comparison to the filth coming out of the left. If you’re not aware of what’s being said, YouTube is your friend.

    I’m sorry to rant so, but I’ve just about had it with this whole topic. The fact is that women are being whipped up in order to divert our attention from real issues that need to be addressed. And I don’t intend to be diverted.

  2. Becca, as a man, let me say, “well said.” To me, nothing is more attractive in a woman than a woman who is independent and who is successful at her career. And I am saying that as a Christian, center right conservative. That being said, the one thing that really bothers me is society’s willingness and acceptance to bash men in public. I think that is a direct result of the women’s right movement. Watch commercials closely. Women are portrayed as beautiful and sexy; men are often portrayed as blithering idiots. Perhaps that is backlash we deserve for treating women so poorly for so long. Nevertheless, I wish we could get to a point were each of the sexes treat the other with respect and kindness.

  3. I like what you say: Practicing our roar. Last weekend I happened to sit next to a law student on Amtrak who was being interviewed by media outlet after media outlet for her activism in women’s health at Georgetown U. She was supposed to speak at the hearings regarding birth control coverage at the univeristy and, instead, was dismissed last minute and replaced by an old male Bishop (if there is ever an example of what you speak of, this is it). She was roaring. She made me want to roar. I do fear this regression. And I remember an old college Professor, very active in the gay rights movement, who warned that once a movement ends, that is when the real work begins. It is easy to think that women’s rights or civil rights have been won but once it is not loud and proud and in the headlines, it is harder to see where the battle is, where you need to be.

  4. Right on, Becca. Or should I say “Write on!” I listen to what’s going on and it scares me. And I can’t help but think, “what are these folk scared of?” Is it scary to have women take responsibility? I don’t think so. I should think it would be a relief. I was never the hard-core “women’s lib” person, out there burning bras (which I sorely need — or else then I’m really sore!). But I’m an advocate. The words you write are powerful ones to add to that or any arsenal. Splendid.

  5. I live in Virgina and we’re in the thick of it here. Finally stepping away from the vaginal probe, Virginia has adopted a revised bill that still requires doctors to perform an ultrasound on women before they have an abortion. Women will also be “offered” descriptions of the fetus.

    This has been the most unusual primary I’ve ever seen. I’ve long accepted that the battle over abortion would rage on in this country, but this discussion about birth control has brought some of the most amazing public statements. It has definitely taken the mystery out of what some folks are really thinking.

    Most of our state is still pretty conservative except for Northern Virginia. NV has definitely changed the political picture for national elections around here. We’re up for grabs now. I believe Governor McDonnell can kiss his ambitions for the Republican VP slot good bye. It’s hard to believe, but he’s too controversial even for Santorum.

    This is a great post, Becca. I’m glad you wrote it and hit publish. Nothing wrong with discussion.

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