Girl power

And now, a word about women. 

Specifically, the power of.

As I watch Serena Williams steamroll her way through another Wimbledon  - while announcers feel the need to discuss her "roster weight" of 150 pounds - I think of the women making headlines in the past few days.  

I think of Texas Senator Wendy Davis, in her back brace and her pink tennis shoes, filibustering against legislation that would endanger women while purporting to protect them. I think of U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, ripping an entitled little gnat a new one during a Congressional hearing.  

I think of my friends, Sam and Jenny.  And I think about sports.

Sports, at its core, is opportunity. The playing field, when feet - male or female - first step onto it, is inherently level. The basketball goal, the tennis court, the football field, the soccer pitch - none of these care about your gender, your looks, your political affiliation or your sexual preference. These objects only measure how you can perform.

Now, these things are not allowed to exist in their natural egalitarian state, of course. People get involved, and make rules and distinctions and pointless legislation, and soon enough, "real life" fights have to be fought on the playing field, too. Like the middle school girl - and starting defensive tackle - who had things explained to her when she strayed too far from her role. Girls play girls sports, the athletic director at her school said.

Oh. OK.

Tell me, is a basketball court, concrete shimmering invitingly in the summer sun as the twine of the net is brushed by the faintest breeze, by its nature male or female? Is a swimming pool, turquoise water beckoning to the parts of us that still live in the ocean, a boy or a girl? Do the universally recognized, no-translator-needed pentagons on a soccer ball have penises or vaginas?

I am not a fan of gender roles (see Barbies and John Deere reference in Daddy's (tomboy) girl blog). Beyond stirring anger, telling boys - wear blue, be good at math, play with toy soldiers - and girls - wear pink, don't ask too many questions, dress your dolls - what they should do because of their gender is harmful. Both to children and to society, which may stunt the next Madam Curie or Calvin Klein without even knowing it or meaning to. 

I am also not a fan of politicians who insert themselves into the complicated and personal realm of women's health - and do so with more far malevolent intent. For example, the Texas bill that Davis spoke against - for 11 hours - would, along with banning abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, also have required all clinics where abortions are performed to be graded as surgical centers, with all doctors required to have admitting privileges at hospitals. 

The expense and red tape meeting such standards would take means that nearly all of the state's clinics would close. And these are not just 'abortion clinics.' These are women's health clinics. They distribute affordable birth control and provide reduced-cost screenings for things such as cervical cancer. 

Standards that would legislate such places out of business would protect women by ensuring their welfare and safety, say the supporters of the bill, as they light their pipes, polish their glasses and scratch their hunting dogs by the fire in their wood-paneled studies.


You know what's a hazard to women's health? People who aren't doctors trying to dictate what it should look like. You know what else is? Desperate women, in situations that aren't anyone else's business, taking desperate measures when available, LEGAL options have been all but eliminated by people concerned about their welfare.

This is not a political blog, and I'm not trying to make it one. But it angers me when the power of women is threatened, legislated against, mocked or denigrated. And the reason is as sad as it is infuriating: Fear. 

The thing is, Gov. Rick Perry and your icky ilk, is that the world is changing. That's just a fact. It's why life exists at all, whether you believe in creationism or evolution. Either way, if the world had stood pat, we, humans, wouldn't populate it. And in this case, in this age, the change is that those who have traditionally held power - white, landed males - are not going to continue to hold it, forever and ever amen.

This doesn't have to be scary. It can be awesome. Think of the possibilities when other voices, other faces, other experiences are heard and validated and even written into law - itself a changing organism, like language.  

Language is ever-evolving, thank God. Language used to have words such as "nigger" and "half-breed" and "fag." Those words, like all things that cannot adapt, have died out (at least among those who could spell them). Now, the definition of other words - "family," "equality," "justice" - is expanding.

This is not a defense of politically correct terminology. It is a celebration of morally correct nomenclature.   

Which brings me to the other women who've been on my mind so much these last few days.

SamandJenny are more of those fabulous one-word people. They're funny, generous, giving people, the kind who, once you've met them, you've known them forever, the kind who, if you need anything, will do everything in their power to help you, the kind whose laughter makes you warm and and whose words wrap you in their arms.

They've been SamandJenny for 14 years, and are as devoted to one another as any couple I know - more than most. To be in their presence is to see and feel the physical manifestation of love and elevation of another above one's self. 

The fact that they're both women was immaterial in every aspect but one: Until the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, their love was deemed unworthy of a legally recognized document. 

Within hours of Wednesday's historic ruling, Sam posted a monumentally lighthearted question on Jenny's Facebook wall: "Hey, wanna get married?"

I hope they do. I hope I'm lucky enough to witness it. I'll take my stepdaughter and everyone I can think of so we can celebrate love and the constant - if sometimes glacial - change that created life and sustains it. 

I'll celebrate the power of women, and of love, and of the power of words - and of the power they gain, and lose, over time, because that's the only way they can continue to exist at all. 

None of this has to be scary. It doesn't have to require knee-jerk - emphasis on jerk - legislation or ham-handed comments or condescension masquerading as concern or offhand asides about ultimately inconsequential and potentially hurtful things.  It shouldn't have to require 11 hours of trying to talk sense - and compassion - into those who refuse to harbor either. It means a double-amputee war veteran and Congresswoman shouldn't have to point out - after repeatedly telling him to let her speak - to a little cowardly troll that he should be ashamed.

We can all be free - as free as you felt the first time you heard a basketball swish through the net, or managed something like a spiral on a football, or heard the crack of the bat split the summer air, or did or heard or saw something that made you think of all that was possible and disregard everything that wasn't - to be the truest, most authentic version of ourselves that we can manage. 

And that will make us all more powerful.