MY BODY, MY VOICE: You need more than a uterus to be an advocate for women

And you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

MY BODY Gwhints Composite
Photo credit: JEWISH WOMEN’S ARCHIVE: “Pamphlet by the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage.”
ANTI SUFFRAGE PROPAGANDA: “Control of the temper makes a happier home than control of elections.”

In early December, Governor Brian Kemp appointed Kelly Loeffler to succeed U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who is retiring at the end of 2019 due to health concerns. Governor Kemp was proud to point out that this appointment makes Loeffler “Georgia’s first female Senator in nearly 100 years.” He went on, “But, more importantly, I’m excited to appoint a lifelong Republican who shares our conservative values and vision for a safer, stronger Georgia.” And there’s the rub. 

Turns out, being a woman doesn’t make you an advocate for women. Loeffler is a perfect example. In her acceptance remarks, Loeffler said, “Contrary to what you might see in the media, not every strong American woman is a liberal. Many of us are conservative and proud of it.” She went on to assert that — in addition to being “pro-Second Amendment, pro-military, pro-wall, and pro-Trump” — she is also strongly anti-choice and would support a federal ban on abortion. 

Despite that, anti-abortion groups have questioned Loeffler’s conservative bona fides and tried to tie her to Planned Parenthood. Loeffler is co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, Atlanta’s professional women’s basketball team, and the connection seems to stem from a WNBA promotion in which a portion of ticket sales was donated to six nonprofit causes, including Planned Parenthood. To clarify: Kelly Loeffler is not an ally of Planned Parenthood and she is no champion for women’s rights. 

In her own words, she will “make no apologies for [her] conservative values and will proudly support President Trump’s conservative judges.” The same conservative judges who are poised to gut Roe v. Wade and turn back the clock on reproductive rights. 

Women waging the war against women’s rights is nothing new here in Georgia. You may remember last spring, when State Senator Renee Unterman sponsored Georgia’s six-week abortion ban in the Senate. The morning the bill passed, Unterman posted a telling photo of herself, propped up in front of the 33 male, Republican colleagues who helped her pass the bill. Unterman is in the foreground of the photo with her closest male colleagues at least six feet away. Drowning in a sea of distant blue and gray suits, Unterman looks like she is in the proverbial mushpot — a position befitting of the token woman leading the charge against reproductive rights. 

This tradition of women working against our own best interests goes far beyond Sen. Unterman and Kelly Loeffler. In fact, in the early 1900s, many of the people who led the movement against women’s suffrage were women. The leading organization in the anti-suffrage movement was the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, and it was founded and run by a woman. If you research this movement and its leaders, it’s eerily similar to the modern anti-abortion movement. Anti-suffragettes were called “antis” for short. This is particularly fitting, because that is exactly what anti-abortion protestors are called today. 

Many people are surprised to learn that women often led the charge against women’s suffrage. But as Corrine McConnaughy, author of The Woman Suffrage Movement in America: A Reassessment, has said, “In short, they were women who were doing, comparatively, quite well under the existing system, with incentives to hang onto a system that privileged them.”

Sound familiar?

Kelly Loeffler and Renee Unterman benefit from our patriarchal, racist system, so they choose to reinforce it. When it comes to abortion, women with means — especially white women — will always be able to access the care they need, and no amount of anti-abortion legislation will change that. A world without Roe doesn’t scare them. Just like a world without voting rights didn’t scare their predecessors. 

The good news is, 100 years ago this year, the antis lost, and women gained the right to vote. Now we have to exercise that right to make sure the antis lose again. Renee Unterman is currently running for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District. In November, Kelly Loeffler will face a “jungle primary,” which means that all candidates for that Senate seat compete on one ballot — Republicans and Democrats — and if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two will compete in a runoff. We have the opportunity to elect real champions for social justice up and down the ballot, but let’s be very clear: Just because they have a uterus doesn’t mean they’re qualified to represent women’s best interests. 

I’ve said it before: This was never about abortion. Before this, it was contraception. Before that, it was the right to vote. Before that, it was the right to own property. Ultimately, this has always been about women’s civil and human rights, and women have always been on both sides of the resistance — which side we’re on is often dictated by race, class, and privilege.

If we do our part, one day, our children’s children will be surprised to learn that the anti-abortion movement, now a thing of the past, was often led by women, just like we were surprised to learn that the anti-suffrage movement was led by women. Loeffler and Unterman will become forgotten blips in the history of women’s rights and the history of this country, just like the self-loathing, self-serving women before them. Because as is so often the case, men will take center stage in this tale of women’s systematic oppression, whether they deserve the glory or not. — CL — 

Just like a uterus doesn’t qualify you to be a women’s advocate, not having a uterus won’t disqualify you either! If you are a man who wants to support reproductive rights and access to health care, check out www.men4choice.org

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