To the Editor:
Shock. Denial. Bargaining. Anger. Grief. Acceptance.
So many of us have been going up and down this scale in the past week even as others celebrate.
I cannot speak for every group that is feeling fearful, despondent or uncertain in this country right now. I can only speak as a woman, a member of one of the largest groups that will surely be affected by the new administration. I am a white, educated woman with all the privilege two hard working parents could give me. If it has been this bad for me, I shudder to think how bad it is for others.
Discrimination towards women was rampant when I went through medical school and residency. Sometimes it was subtle, sometimes it was in-your-face vulgar and traumatic. Speaking up about it was not an option, as those men often held the keys to your future as a physician.
I speak to medical students now, and although it is markedly better, it is by no means gone. Women now make up more than half of the medical students in this country and, one day, will form more than half the work force of physicians. I wish I could tell them it gets better.
When a woman enters a power structure that is still dominated by men, there is plenty of lip service paid to how great it is that you are there, how wonderful it is to have your viewpoint. But go ahead and stand up for something that you believe is wrong or needs to be changed, go ahead and ask for what you need to do your job better and serve people better, and see what happens.
You are told you do not really understand what is going on – if you did you would see it differently. Persist. Depending on your age you are menstrual, possibly pregnant or menopausal. Persist. Now you are grossly misinformed and a crazy woman. Point out that you are being treated differently because you are a woman. And then be told that is not true, get patted on the head and be told that does not happen anymore, which is just another form of abuse. Then walk around with a knot of anger in your chest you must now find a way to live with.
All women who heard Michelle Obama’s brilliant speech on Oct. 13 about the ongoing issues women face everyday knows just what she is talking about. We have lived it. And we still do.
I know men, good men with big hearts and open minds, who think that this ongoing, sometimes subtle and sometimes very open abuse of women does not happen. But we all know it does. And it must stop. But it will not stop until all women make it stop.
My daughter is a junior at Smith College. It is a woman’s college known for its excellent education and its liberal views. Their motto is “Women for the World.” This student body of strong women of every conceivable talent, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identification and religion embodies the future of a world of acceptance. These women are who they are, not who men tell them they should be.
I sat among a crowd of Smithies while I waited for my daughter’s concert to begin. There were certainly male friends, partners and fathers in the crowd, but the audience was predominately young women. The time I spent in the presence of such women made me more hopeful than I have been all this week. This campus was mourning, to be sure. But already there was a sense of moving forward, of educating the world on what is true and just, and of rising. And rise, we will.
I have turned inward to find peace and a way forward for myself. But I must turn outward to find peace and a way forward for every woman, indeed for every sentient being on the planet. The keys are compassion, education and peaceful demonstration.
We can demonstrate by doing what we have always done – taking care of our children, teaching tolerance and demonstrating compassion, even when that is hard. We can demonstrate by standing in solidarity with one another, supporting one another and standing up to a patriarchal society that tells us we cannot assert our power because of our chromosomes.
I hear there is a Million Woman March on Washington on Jan. 21. I’m going. Who’s with me?
Lisa Stewart Women’s Health Center