Here’s a little anecdote.
It’s late November. My mother and I are driving by a Planned Parenthood clinic, near Boston University, a hip and densely populated neighborhood located in the middle of liberal Boston. We pass by it almost every week, and every time we do, I’ve always felt a faint but visible sense of pride. To me, it is symbol of affirmation that people continue to stand for women’s right to control their own bodies.
Now, I’ve seen this clinic countless times before; its metal-plated exterior and conspicuous location(in the middle of a busy street) makes it almost impossible to miss. This time, I see something unusual. There are picketers on the sidewalk, chanting and holding signs. The signs say “Abortion is Evil” and “Defund Planned Parenthood”.
It’s frigid. The protesters are wrapped in scarves and parkas and rubber boots. They look really cold. They’re also all men. Seeing this, my mother jokingly says, “Where do these men get the time?” We drive away.
What I saw was just a split second window. Yet, I felt as if I saw a glimpse into 2017.
In this moment, women’s reproductive rights are in danger. It seems that after the elections, more states had passed limiting reproductive health bills. They are proposed by men, endorsed by men, signed by men. In mid-December, Gov. Kasich signed a bill that would prohibit abortion after twenty weeks, with no exceptions on rape or incest. In the same month, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott revealed plans to defund Planned Parenthood, going against federal measures. To the 27 million residents of Texas, this announcement means that cancer screenings, contraceptives, and treatment of STIs among many other services of Planned Parenthood may become off limits.
Restricting access to healthcare is the most primal way of controlling large numbers of women.
Instead of writing about what womanhood means in 2017, I’ve only written about reproductive rights so far because I believe that this is one of the biggest struggles women will face in the next year-in the next four years. I also wrote it because it identifies with other obstacles that women face daily. In the bottom line, pro-life isn’t about saving lives. Pay gap isn’t about the economy or the inability to pay workers. Sexual harassment is really not about a woman’s “revealing” outfit. It should be blatantly clear by now that society is not an ideal place for women. Some men speak for us, even though they are aware that they are doing the opposite of what we want. In the least bit of sense, I don’t think they care for women. I don’t think women who speak against women care for women. The mystery of the reason is shrouded in denial and hatred-or it is the reason itself.
I retain the bitterness of 2016 to enter 2017. As a woman and a teenager in this turbulent time, I am constantly reminded of the drawbacks we face as we begin the new year, not just pertaining to reproductive rights, but for the roles of women in society. However, I wish to start 2017 with more hope and less bitterness. I want to remember 2016 as a defining year of change. I want to remember it as the year that a woman almost became president. I want to remember it as the year that awakened bravery. I want this for other women and men. It is crucial to remember this past year as not an overall loss for women, but as a reminder that there is a lot to be done.
In order to bring on 2017, recognize 2016 with courage. To me, this is what womanhood is.
And lastly, thank you for all the people running the Boston area Planned Parenthood clinic. You rock.