Women’s Rights, Again

By Mary Getlein

It used to be legal to beat your wife. The stick you could use had to be no larger around than your thumb. So if your husband was a big guy, he could use a bigger stick to beat you with. Does that make any sense? How does beating your wife lead to domestic harmony? If anything, it set into motion women fleeing from their abusive husbands, going out west, maybe, dragging their kids behind them. Women had so little rights: it was impossible to have a bank account, own land, start a business, buy cattle or other livestock, etc., etc. Women were locked away in rooms, away from their families, as a way to treat their “mental illness” – which of course made you even crazier.
Along came the western movement, and a lot of women were now in a leadership position and bought land, (or got it for free from the government), bought animals, put up their own houses, and established ranching businesses, which turned out to be highly profitable enterprises. Women were allowed to do anything they wanted, which included riding along on cattle drives. Women traded in their skirts for scandalous “divided” garments and set to work roping cattle, shooting rustlers, and breaking colts. Women also participated in wild west shows, like Annie Oakley, who rode wild horses and shot guns. There were also daring bronc riders who were women, who did things women had never done before. Women in the west were given the vote long before the national date of 1920. Every time I vote I think of those years when women were not first class citizens.
The situation in the world against women is sickening. Republicans in this country want to shut down the freedom of reproductive rights. They want to go back to the days when women had to ask someone’s permission to get an abortion. A medical procedure that takes place in their own body, no one else’s body.
All the advances that came with Roe vs. Wade are being taken away by men. What is their problem? It is a personal decision made by the person who is most affected by this procedure.
Going back to the “beating your wife” thing. Today women are getting raped in universities, and no rape charges are filed. Today, women are getting beat up by their husbands, and charges are dropped to save the reputation of the male.
Today, in other countries, children are being married to grown men, and being raped, night after night by their husbands. Approximately 10 million girls worldwide are forced into marriage before the age of 18, often against their will. Child marriage makes children vulnerable to a wide range of problems: they are more likely to be illiterate, live in poverty, be subjected to domestic violence, die in childbirth and experience the death of their babies and children. Many families in developing countries experience pressure to marry their daughters at an early age either to help the family escape poverty or to respect social traditions.
What can we do about it? We can push Congress to pass legislation to support the rights of women and girls to self-determination. One bill is the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA), which was introduced in the House of Representatives in late November 2013. If made a law, IVAWA would promote assistance to local groups and innovative, cost-effective programs in countries with high prevalence of child marriage. IVAWA also includes specific language that would focus U.S. diplomatic and development resources on reducing child marriage and the violence that goes with it.
Join AJWS (American Jewish World Service) in advocating to end child marriage. Visit
What about our own country? What about the young girls in universities who are being raped by fraternity “brothers”, or foot-ball players? We need to organize and demonstrate and insist on full punishment, according to the law. The men that are doing the raping (which is a violent act, not necessarily a sexual act) need to go to jail. Their crimes are often swept under the carpet, because they come from places of privilege, where a certain amount of money will make it all “go away”. We need to protect the women in this country, the same as we want to protect the women in other countries. We can’t let progress in women’s rights be trampled on by base violence and money. The more money you have, the less the chance that a crime will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. We have to fight back, by “any means necessary”. These are our children and we need to stand up and protect our women.

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