Remember 1968? No? Well, a lot of us do. We have children who are 48 years old because there was no birth control available to us, not birth control that worked, anyway. There was foam that failed half the time. There were condoms, if you could get your partner to wear them, and rape victims were out of luck. The pill was new, but if you were an unmarried woman you couldn’t get it legally until 1972. Many doctors refused to give a diaphragm to a woman unless her husband signed a consent form. There was the so-called “rhythm system” encouraged by the Catholic Church, which failed most of the time. Having sex for women was like playing Russian Roulette. You were gambling with your life and your future, let alone the possible life of an unwanted child. And yes, women did die in childbirth, and they still do.
Oh, there were back alley abortions to be had if you only knew where to go, which most of us didn’t. We did, however, have friends and relatives who tried their own versions and wound up sterile, bleeding to death, or getting the kind of infections that were life-threatening. Or we read about their sad deaths in the paper, to the shame and horror of their families. Fun, right? And sex itself was less than enjoyable for women when all we could think about was whether or not this meant child number 7, or the pregnancy that would end our careers or educations, or would disgrace us for the rest of our lives. Of course, this meant that we were ‘frigid.’ Sure we were. Terrified of the consequences, more like.
We were blamed for getting pregnant, too. A girl who believed her boyfriend when he told her that he loved her, then wound up pregnant and asking for marriage to protect herself and the baby, was accused of ‘tricking him’. What, he was bound and gagged the whole time? He seemed to enjoy it at the time, but he couldn’t be expected to live up to his promises, now, could he? Boys will be boys. Eve was responsible for the apple and the Fall, right?
Girls and women were reluctant to report rapes because they themselves faced blame for being raped, much as women in Islamic countries today are stoned and killed for being victims. “What were you wearing at the time? How short was your skirt? Had you ever had sex before this happened? Did you move provocatively?” Right, that 82 year old great-grandmother and the 10 year old girl all brought rape on themselves. If you wound up alone in an office after hours with your boss while taking dictation and hoping to get paid for overtime, and he pinned you to the desk, you had “brought it on yourself.”
Think back to “those thrilling days of Yesteryear,” as they used to say at the opening of The Lone Ranger, and you’ll see that they were a lot less than thrilling for women of all ages. Repeal Roe V. Wade? Outlaw Planned Parenthood? Over our dead bodies, thanks!