"Woman must not accept; she must challenge. She must not be awed by that which has been built up around her; she must reverence that woman in her which struggles for expression." -Margaret Sanger
Today I went to one of the most perfect places I know. The North Kingstown Library. It’s a truly perfect place of books. When I was a kid, I regularly was thrown out of the library because I was too loud…but I kept coming back. I always think that librarians are smarter than most people. I revere them like I am with someone famous, someone incredibly accomplished more than say Lady Gaga or Desmond Tutu. They are around books all day long. It must be such a pleasure.
Anyway, today I was on one of my “obsessive errands.” (I get obsessed with things. It’s completely unintentional but it happens.) So right now, I am obsessed with: lavender, learning how to build a garden, learning more about dachshunds, Etta James and books for 11-year-old girls.
What is perfect about libraries is I could have been there for any of my latest obsessions.
However I was there for Lucy. Maybe you know her, or someone like her? She is a smart, creative spirit. When she was very small (maybe three or four) I babysat her and she was not one to go to sleep easily. I looked in on her and there she was, tucked in sweetly – eyes wide open. She just didn’t want to miss a thing. I completely understand. So, now at 11 years old, Lucy is the voracious reader that I used to be. I am in a book war with her, trying to find a book to give her that is really good that she hasn’t read. (Anne of Green Gables? Harriet the Spy? The Secret Garden? Matilda? Yes, she has read it.) An excellent obsession for a rainy March Saturday.
While I am on my search I see two littles: my term for kids ages 8 or younger – girls that are dressed in tiny Ugg boots and charming raincoats. One little is on the counter with a purple raincoat watching her dad check out. She has a round face with tips of curls showing through her hood. The other little is in a pick raincoat she steals a look at me. She is standing next to her father. I smile greedily the way women of a certain age do at children when those women happen to be childless.
She curls into her father and then she reaches up to touch her sister and then takes her pointer finger to gently tap her sister’s ring finger, as if she is holding a delicate piece of silk on her special blanket. She steals looks at me unsure if I am friend of foe. She makes a small comfort game of tapping her sister’s finger as she looks toward and then away from me. It was one of those moments when you get to witness connection the kind that doesn’t need words or explanations. (I know about this connection because I too have a sister.) These too girls also were here for books. I try to see what they are reading over their dad's shoulder...
So, all this time with these little girls got me thinking…about Rush Limbaugh.
Mr. Limbaugh who, in his disagreement with the views of a Georgetown student Sandra Fluke (who had advocated before Congress for insurance companies to fund birth control), called her names like “slut” and “prostitute.” He made other incendiary comments I prefer not to list here (we are a family Patch) but I encourage you to inform yourself on media sites such as: www.mediamatters.com.
It is more than fine with me that Mr. Limbaugh disagrees with Ms. Fluke. I also have no problem with him speaking about his views on his radio show. I believe such free speech is one of the best freedoms with have as Americans. In fact, I am using this freedom right now. What I find disappointing – and let’s face it, despicable – is that Mr. Limbaugh thinks the words he used are reasonable words in a debate of social issues. (Well, he did until many of the companies who advertise during his talk show suspended their support, then, and only then, he issued a very weak apology.)
They are not. These words offend me. First, as a person I am bothered when any hate language – whether or not I am a member of the group. (So language that is derogatory in race, gender, sexual orientation, physical/mental needs , age all of it.) And also because I happen to be a woman. I love the debate. I was raised by two “vote-in-every-election” parents – one on the right and one on the left. I know debate! When I took debating in junior high, one the main constructs was to never use “coarse language” because this lacked dignity and, frankly, intellect.
Ironically (and I think this is a true example of irony because so many use this word incorrectly) it happens to Women’s History Month. Yep. We are celebrating what women have contributed to our country. Aw jeez.
I celebrate many women – right now it is Ms. Lisa Bloom and her great article “How to Talk to Little Girls.”
She urges all of us to talk with little girls not about their beauty, bodies or looks but instead that we ask them about what they are reading. What are they interested in? In the article Ms Bloom notes:
“This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America's Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they'd rather be hot than smart.”
I am guilty too: didn’t I just describe the two little girls at the library by their “darling raincoats,” i.e. looks? However, I am part of the solution too, because I was there to see if I can find a book to challenge the smart curious mind of a future woman – Ms. Lucy – who will be able to vote in a mere seven years!
I can’t blame Mr. Limbaugh for all this, can I? Well…no I cant. However, this is why what we say about women is so serious. I’d prefer he not speak that way at all. There are girls growing up right now. They are listening. What are we saying?
Please comment!! I’d love to hear what you think of the situation of the words used by Mr. Limbaugh, Ms. Fluke’s view on birth control, the article by Ms. Bloom or the smaller issue of what I can find for Lucy to read. Or, is what Lucy – an 11-year-old growing girl – reads really a smaller issue? Happy Women’s History month to all of us who benefit from the strides of women. (All of us.)
(Oh come write with me - looking to start a new group in April: www.explorewritingworkshops.com)