A is for Aunt
by Kellie Overbey, New York, NY
Apr. 7, 2012
When I look at the horrors being perpetrated in Republican legislatures all over the country, I think about my nieces. I am not a mother (by choice), but I have three amazing nieces: 21, 16 and 13. I love them fiercely and want them to lead wonderful, fulfilling, joyous lives. They are all on the cusp of owning the world.
And I worry about what kind of world we are giving them.
When I was young, I understood the world in the context of Roe v. Wade and the E.R.A. and the Sexual Revolution and Playgirl. The world was a good place, Burt Reynolds naked on a bear rug notwithstanding. And the United States of America was the best place in that world to live. How lucky was I to have been born a citizen of a country that cared about women. Women’s voices, women’s power, women’s promise. My mother and her generation had been on the front lines in the Battle of the Sexes, and now I would get to enjoy the spoils. I had been gifted not only the confidence to pursue my dreams, but also the laws that protected my ability to achieve them. I was legally in control of my own procreative destiny. We’d come a long way, Baby! No telling how far future generations would go.
Well, those future generations are about to get sucker-punched. The privileges they take for granted (and should) are at risk. Thanks to a misogynistic, cultish, maniacal lust for power that has gone viral in our nation and threatens us at our very core.
Personally, I don’t care why it’s happening. Getting mired in an intellectual analysis of economic downturns and social anthropology is all well and good, but we have a real fight on our hands here, ladies. What I do care about, deeply, is that women pay attention, get outraged, and take up a battle cry that’s been quiet for far too long. I especially want to encourage the youngest among us to understand the implications of what is happening and to take up the cause. They are the ones with the most to lose.
To this end, I talk to my nieces about how important it is to stay informed. I buy them books. I send them links to articles on Facebook. I think some of it sinks in, but I don’t know how much. They are, after all, supposed to take everything I say with a bit of an eye roll. Such are the dictates of the relationship. Eventually our conversations turn to fashion or music or boys, and even I can get lulled into a sense of complacency.
“Maybe I’m overreacting,” I think. “I watch too much news. Look at how much we have. We’re so lucky. We’re so comfortable.”
It’s hard to get outraged when we’re comfortable. This latest technological boon has afforded us with comforts and conveniences heretofore unimagined. Everything is just a click away. And everything is only as important as its relevance in the 24-hour news cycle. It’s hard to focus. The brave new world we’re about to bequeath to the next generation would appear to be all sweetness and light, ephemeral and inconsequential.
But, it’s not.
While we’re busy “like”-ing pictures of puppies on Facebook, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus dismissively compares women’s reproductive rights to caterpillars.
As we hunch over our cell phones to LOL or play another round of Angry Birds, Georgia Republican State Representative Bobby Franklin introduces legislation to change the legal term for victims of rape to “accuser.”
While we anesthetize ourselves with the schadenfreude of “Reality” TV, the Republican-lead House of Representatives passes H.R. 358, a bill that would allow religiously affiliated hospitals and doctors with moral objections to let a woman die rather than perform a life-saving abortion.
Don’t get me wrong. I love puppies, my game apps and Dr. Drew as much as the next gal. But not to the exclusion of controlling my own procreative destiny.
This is a wake-up call. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generation to step out of our individual comfort zones and take a good, hard look at the whole. We need to take the Republican War on Women seriously. We need to take these nation-wide Republican strategies to dismantle, weaken and overturn The Affordable Heath Care Act seriously. We need to take our reproductive rights seriously and fight to keep them. We need to pay attention. We need to educate ourselves. We need to be vigilant. We need to lead by example. Like our mothers did before us, we need to get in touch with our inner bitch.
That means being vocal. Not just amongst ourselves in under 140 characters. We need to wake up, walk outside and have actual eyeball-to-eyeball conversations with our nieces and our daughters and our friends and tell them what we think. Tell them what’s at stake. Tell them that we stand beside them.
They will listen. They’re already on the front line.
A is for Aunt.
Kellie Overbey is a writer and actress based in New York. She is a founding member and contributor to AisFor.org