Friday, February 01, 2013

A chance to hear an icon

I’ve been missing from the blog for a couple of days because life got in the way—lunches with friends, dinner one night at a local high-rise retirement community followed by my presentation on writing mysteries. I tried to make it a workshop but with minimal response. Still the audience of abot thirty was attentive, and I was pleased. Took dinner the next night to friends—he has just had a hip replacement, though doing remarkably well, and she has run herself ragged taking care of him. Still, she insisted on putting everything out on nice serving dishes-I would have served the meatloaf in the pan I cooked it in! And then last night my weekly dinner with Betty—fun but I was in an off-mood and an off-appetite all day. I did get my yoga done two of those days and my thousand words all three. But today was the capper.

My friends, State Representative Lon Burnam and his wife, Carol Roark, had invited me to sit at their table to hear Gloria Steinem at the Planned Parenthood Annual Luncheon. Who would turn down an opportunity like that? Even though the luncheon was, as Carol predicted, a mob scene. We parked almost three blocks away to avoid valet parking, which was going to take forever.

Hearing Steinem and seeing her at the distant podium and, much better, on a large screen, was awe-inspiring, just because she’s such an icon for the women’s movement and because we remember all the risk she took, all the barriers she broke down. I was fascinated by her hands—extremely long, thin fingers which she used in a most expressive manner. She tailored her speech a bit to Texas, giving a nod to Sarah Weddington and Barbara Jordan and saying at one point she looked forward to coming back when we have a worthy successor to Ann Richards—who doesn’t wish for that day? She was witty and clever, but she didn’t say much new we hadn’t already heard.

Statistics about violence against women: since 9/11, more women in this country have been killed by their husbands than by the 9/11 attacks and the Afghan and Iraq wars combined—pretty appalling. She issued the usual warning that if women don’t have control over their own reproductive rights, we cease to be a democracy. Kind of comforting to think almost 500 people in this city, the only major Texas city to vote red in the last election, turned out to hear that message.

But Steinem lost me when she listed how having children limits a woman—in education and job opportunities, pay scale, health care, and other areas. I know a lot of women have experienced these limitations, and I feel fortunate that I have been blessedly free of them in the workplace, but at the same time I thought she was diminishing the role of motherhood and overlooking the tremendous benefits that come from raising children. I should know—my four look after me.

Today, while I was at the luncheon two of my chldren got all upset because my home alarm went off and they couldn’t find me—for more than two hours. My daughter and my tenant knew where I was, but nonetheless they alarmed the neighbors and the police came—there goes another $50 call for a false alarm. Still it’s nice to know they are so concerned.

As we walked into the hotel where the luncheon was held, a handful of  protestors carryied signs saying, “Adoption, not Abortion,” and “No Taxpayer Dollars to Planned Parenthood.” I did manage to tell one that I was the mother of four adopted children, but I don’t think she got the point. It’s too bad these folks don’t recognize that women’s health care, not the dispensing of abortions, is that primary goal of that organization—mammography is a big part of it, providing health care to the indigent, picking up what the states, particularly Texas, won’t, providing counseling on birth control to avoid abortions. You’re right, Gloria, come back when we have a worthy success to Ann Richards.


LD Masterson said...

I also appreciate all the barriers for women that Steinem help bring down but I've always had a problem with the way she devalued the role of mother, especially any woman who chose to make that role her career, as I did when my boys were little.

Judy Alter said...

Well put, LD. Sort of sums up my feelings about hearing her.