RBG died last night. I don’t know where to begin. I first saw it in my girls’ group chat. The cry went up. But I couldn’t believe it, even though it is so believable. More, I couldn’t accept it. I couldn’t even turn to tell Bob, because I went blank. Or, I went rigid. He told me moments later instead. I could hear his panic.
We watched live coverage on MSNBC as the anchor fumbled through the change in the evening lineup and spoke about RBG. The anchor and I, and all women, made eye contact last night and we’re all scared and we’re all ready to fight, and we’re all ready to crumble and we’re all a mess, and we’re all being strong for our friends and families, and we’re breaking and we’re broken and we’re not ready and we’ve been ready and things just got a lot harder and we’re tired.
Roe is probably going to get overturned. I hope it doesn’t, but I think it will. I have been worried about it for years, but RBG held up the dam, refusing to cower before these people who genuinely believe that women are better if they’re legislated, that they can’t be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies. It’s masked as concern for babies, but these are the same people who want to cut funding to programs like welfare and WIC, so they also demonstrate their hate for babies (who, I am told, grow up into adults) continually. As a country, we have very clearly outlined, documented, and executed a true hatred and contempt for women, especially poor women, and especially especially women of color, and especially especially especially LGBTQ women. Imagine being all of the above. Would you trade places with such a person for a year? A week? A day? I think you would choose not.
I don’t know what to do next (that’s not true, I do, but I am emotionally at a loss and need time and space to process it). Women have been working through our grief and our exhaustion and our fear forever. We don’t have a choice. So even though I am tired and scared and fragile, I’ll keep trudging forward. I will do that for me, for my daughter, and for my sons. And for all the babies and kids out there who have no one to trudge for them. We all work for them.
My kids are privileged white kids. They have game systems and cool kid clothes and sneakers that fit. They have full bellies every day (unless I, like, forget to feed them), and sleep in warm, comfortable beds every night. They’re pretty clean, and they’re healthy. They have everything.
Henry, Eleanor, and I talk openly about racism and misogyny. They see signs around town that are pro-choice or anti-woman or say Black Lives Matter, and ask about them. They see protestors and ask about them. So I tell them. I don’t want to scare them, and in many ways I can protect them, because I don’t have to tell them how to protect themselves from the police, but I want them to understand the seriousness of the state of our world. And I want them to know their role in it.
It’s incredibly important that Henry and Grant grow up understanding that women matter, that as white men they have an obligation to make space and find ways for all people to have equal access to opportunity.
This past week, Henry almost started crying when we were talking about racism in America. He’s (unbeknownst to him) an intersectional feminist. He rails against racism and segues seamlessly into railing against misogyny. He gets so mad that people think that women can’t make decisions about their bodies just because they’re women. He says “It’s not FAIR that women can’t choose what to do with their bodies. They didn’t get to decide to be born girls! It’s not Eleanor’s fault, and no one should be able to tell her or you what you can do, if I get to do whatever I want with my own body just because I was born a boy.” He says “racism is so mean, why would anyone not like someone just because they look different or come from a different place? It’s so dumb and I hate it.” He’s learning. I can see how he empathizes with being in a place of not holding power, and he’s dumbfounded that anyone agrees with the imbalance, even though he is set to inherit that power.
Kids have a finely tuned sense of fairness… as it relates to themselves. They will scream and cry over perceived injustices to themselves. They have to learn to be upset over injustices to others. The little boy gang in our neighborhood sticks up for each other but also demand fairness for each member. They didn’t think it through, but I see it. If one of them acts badly to another, they don’t let it stand. They talk about it (and usually talk to the moms) and make sure they’ve all said sorry and accepted apologies so they can move on. This is a good start.
There was a study years ago about chimpanzees (I think), where a troop had a very aggressive set of males in power. The theory went that removing the aggressive males from the troop would improve matters only temporarily, because the next chimps that filled the leader role would themselves become very aggressive, since that’s what they’d seen. When the aggressive chimps were removed, new chimps did take over leadership. They never became aggressive. The troop lived peacefully from then on.
We can make change, and we’re going to have to continue to make change, by voting, campaigning, and donating, but we also have to prepare our next generation and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that.