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Last night I went to a panel at the Dell Jewish Community Campus called “Is there a War On Women in Texas?”

As people trickled into the room, I heard an older woman say that her husband had stayed home because he said, “they aren’t going to say anything we don’t already know.”

Was that true? Maybe. I looked around the room. There were two hundred chairs. Only half of them filled up. I’m told these talks can fill the 200 chairs, so why not  last night?

The panel was moderated by Alberta Phillips from the Statesman and was comprised of Doctor Michelle Berger from Travis County Medical Society, John Colyandro from Texas Conservative Coalition, Anne Dunkleberg from the Public Policy Program, Christie Garbe from Central Health and Ryan Valentine from the Texas Freedom Network. Everyone leaned to the left, except John Colyandro who was the only conservative.

It was 106 in Austin today and I could feel the heat rise in the room as Colyandro said he does not believe there is a “so called War On Women.” Not surprising. Of course he said that. He’s from the GOP and that’s their line. Following Reince Priebus, “it’s a fiction.” We all could have predicted that. Okay, nothing new yet.

Ryan Valentine says Texas is passing laws that hurt women, there’s no denying that. The sonogram bill was brought up and talked about. It was noted that Texas has been a leader in trying to make birth control not accessible for women. John Colyandro asks why doesn’t the current administration make birth control pills over the counter which I’m still not sure how to take, but shocked the audience. You can’t even get the prenatal vitamins I was taking over the counter. Birth control pills aren’t safe for everyone and there are different ones, some which may match up to certain women at different stages of life better than at others. We’re making such a big deal about birth control that why don’t we just have it be over the counter, like bubble gum, so you can buy it and get it whenever you want. Strange idea in my opinion. Not entirely sure where that came from or where it was going. Maybe to make women think we have choices about our bodies, when all others are taken away or possibly there’s some way to ban it when it is an over the counter medication rather than prescription only?

Doctor Michelle Berger settled the topic when she said it would be unsafe to have the pill be sold over the counter.

Other things that were brought up:  Abstinence. Health care. Teen pregnancies. Texas has the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation and first highest for second pregnancies as teens. Yikes.

It was a great exercise in thinking, but really looking at it, there wasn’t a lot new. Who knew? Apparently the people who stayed home.

But that’s the problem. It has become predictable and almost a joke. And yet, all the while, things are actually getting more dangerous for women. More rights are being taken away and women are being viewed as inhuman and there is increasing violence against us.

Here is the predictable crap people stay home for while laws are passing under our eyes:

1. Republicans say there is no War On Women, it’s a joke, a fiction. If you think there is one, you drank the Koolaid.

2. Republicans say ‘we love our women. We’re not sexist, we have mothers and wives.’ BUT laws are being passed regularly by Republicans that take away women’s right to make choices for their own bodies.

3. When choices are eliminated as a human right, but only for women (and it will only be for women because Republicans have chosen an issue that only affects women) women are made to be inferior.

4. When women are seen as inferior, they are more in danger of violence (rape, sexual assault, intimate partner/domestic violence, street harassment murder) 

5. The idea that women are inferior is reinforced within the society by name calling, like Rush Limbaugh calling women sluts, by banning women from using correct terms for their body parts when they are being discussed in government legislation (vagina- Rep Lisa Brown in Michigan), by acting as if women are being ridiculous when complaining about injustice, (like by saying the War On Women is a fiction and saying there is one is as ridiculous as saying there is a war on caterpillars).

6. When women are seen as inferior, so is their work and they are underpaid and their work is not valued. When women are paid less than men, traditional gender roles are upheld by financial necessity. 

7. Women are told they can’t “have it all” with the intent of having women believe they are “having it all” (whatever that means) to keep them from speaking out about rights that are being taken from them and the fact that some positions and levels of pay are inaccessible to women.

8. Still women are in significantly fewer positions in government and higher level positions in corporations. Still women are paid 70 cents to every dollar men make. Still violence is being perpetrated against women and there is no mass societal movement to make that change because women are seen as objects, inferior and not fully human.

I don’t think we already know this. But this wasn’t said at the panel. Was it a good panel? Yes, it had many valid points, but those points are the very reasons some people didn’t go.

The stuff we don’t know, the underlying message of oppression that puts women at greater risk of being silenced, having rights stripped, and violence.

Girl Code: All of us- We must continue to show up and to speak up!

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