WOMEN'S RIGHTS: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY?

by David Sisler

The Women's Rights Movement marks July 13, 1848 as its birthday. On that day, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a young housewife and mother, had tea with four women friends. The conversation gradually turned to the situation of women. Stanton noted that the American Revolution had been fought just 70 years earlier to win freedom from tyranny, but women had not gained freedom equal with that of their male counterparts. Stanton's friends agreed with her, and these women placed a small announcement in the Seneca County Courier, convening the world's first Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY, on July 19 and 20, 1848.

Mrs. Stanton drafted a "Declaration of Sentiments," framing her arguments with the words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

Her link with the "Declaration of Independence" was complete when she added 18 grievances, areas where she believed that women were being treated unjustly. Among the specific injustices listed were: married women had no legal rights in the eyes of the law; women did not have the right to vote; women did not have the right to work where they chose, and when women did work in a traditional male area, they were paid only a fraction of what men earned.

The convention passed 12 resolutions unanimously. Surprisingly, the call for women's enfranchisement was not one of those. In the end, it passed with a bare majority. It would be another 72 years before the campaign would succeed on a national level.

From the deserved success of the suffrage movement, and the emphasis on equal rights too long delayed, the Women's Rights Movement, led by its political arm, the National Organization of Women, has moved into areas which, while proclaiming freedom, inflict bondage, and worse.

In 1936, the Supreme Court declassified birth control information as obscene. Finally, in 1965 married couples in all states could obtain contraceptives legally. But the drive for a woman's right to practice birth control degenerated into so-called abortion rights an all-too-widely practiced method of birth control.

Bonnie Eisenberg and Mary Ruthsdotter, of the National Women's History Project (to whom I am indebted for the details of the history of the movement) write, "Women health care professionals opened women's clinics to ... offer abortion services for low-income women. These clinics provided a safe place to discuss a wide range of health concerns and experiment with alternative forms of treatment (emphasis added)." An abortion clinic is a safe place? For whom? Certainly not the unborn baby who will die in that clinic.

Ladies, you took a giant step backwards when you began to fight for "the right" to murder your children. What if your Mom had made that choice?

The battle against sexual harassment is a battle well-joined. No man (or woman) has any right, in any form whatsoever, to force his attention on any woman (or man), and subject her (or him) to treatment which she (or he) clearly wishes to avoid.

A group of women working at the Ford Motor plant in Chicago told "Dateline NBC" that they kept their jobs by sleeping with their bosses. Marianne M. Jennings, a professor of legal and ethical studies in the College of Business at Arizona State University and director of ASU's Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, writing in The Wall Street Journal said, "These women defined their ethical dilemma as most people who make poor decisions do: Either I stay here and get harassed, or I leave and take another job for less pay but keep my sanity and virtue. To put it another way, the supervisors' brutish behavior was awful, but for $22 an hour the employees were willing to put up with it."

Sexual harassment is wrong. Period. No woman should be forced to choose between her job and her virtue. But if she faces that decision, and chooses the job, she has made the wrong choice. It is a moral choice and must be supported with a moral decision.

Additionally, when those who cry harassment create an atmosphere so foul that those they accused are declared guilty until proven innocent, it is time to stop and take another look. In such an atmosphere, we will all be soiled, including the Women's Rights Movement, which started with such grace and promise.

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Published in the Augusta Chronicle 7/18/98

Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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