(Note: I wrote this post in early July 2022, about two weeks after Roe v. Wade was overturned. I didn’t have the courage to post it then. I guess I do now.)
I went to a women’s rights rally yesterday.
As I was waiting for the speaker to start, it occurred to me that it was exactly the sort of event an ultraconservative incel might target for a mass shooting. I did not feel safe. I might never again feel safe in a crowd. It didn’t help that we had to drive through a gauntlet of people, determined to force us all to live by their religious beliefs, who lined up with their signs of damnation along the only route to the event.
But that isn’t this post. This post is about who attended the rally. Lots of people with edgy haircuts and color. A lot of people who don’t adhere to body image shaming standards (lots of ample flesh was on display, which totally made me cheer inside). Same sex couples holding hands (I love being in spaces where all couples can show affection safely). Trans women and men. Even a few cis men, one carrying an “I’m with her” sign like this one.
But you know who wasn’t there? People like me. Other than volunteers, I only remember seeing one older white woman.
Sixty-six percent of the people in Fairbanks are white. There are 2,148 women in Fairbanks over the age of 60 (same website), so if my math is correct, there are nearly 1290 white women about my age. I’ll give the women over eighty a pass, but that still leaves 1175. And I saw exactly one other than me.
Mine was a generation with privilege. Roe vs Wade happened when I was in middle school. My peers were the first for whom an unwanted pregnancy didn’t force them to choose between 1) a potentially stifling or abusive marriage, 2) social damnation and career suicide, 3) birthing in secret and giving up the baby, or 4) risking death via an illegal abortion.
We knew … for our entire adult lives, we knew there was a last-resort, last ditch option if we got pregnant.
We knew how hard our mothers and grandmothers fought, first for the vote and then for the privacy to make our own medical decisions.
We knew what happened to the women before us too. We watched our aunts and grandmothers—forced to marry and give up all financial dependence—get divorced and live in poverty. We heard the stories about the ones who disappeared for a year, then spent their lives searching faces in the crowd. We knew about the one who died young, after a “procedure”, often leaving behind young children to be farmed out to relatives or the county poorhouse.
I would have thought that we—the first generation not trapped by an unwanted pregnancy—would have been most vocal and most visible fighting for our younger sisters to also have that right.
I get that some might have been scared to attend. Heck, I was scared to attend. After all, sixty-four percent of Alaskans own guns. And an estimated ninety percent of them have an AR-type rifle, the most popular style of firearm used in mass shootings. And we are a red state: thirty-four percent of Alaskans are conservative and another thirty-seven percent moderate (both groups predominantly evangelical or mainstream protestants, the very groups most vocally anti-choice).
But these are our daughters and granddaughters. I expected my privileged group of white peers to show up.
I was wrong. And I am disappointed.