Life

The battle cry of women

They say if you put your ear to a shell you can hear the ocean. They say tossing a coin into a fountain seals your wish and if the groundhog sees its shadow spring will be a while longer.

I read the other day that birds chirp every morning as a way to let their partners know they made it through the night. It’s their version of the “good morning text” or “I poured you a cup of coffee.”

I’ve read a lot of headlines in the past few months that talk about the raging war on women and other headlines that say there has never been a battle after all. It makes my hands heavy with a rage that forces my fingertips to push down on the letters on my keyboard as if they are the gas pedals for my thoughts so I can write these words because woman before me fought countless battles for my right to do so.

Sometimes I hear people talk of oppression and control of women as if they were just as wild a myth as the Loch Ness Monster and it feels like I’m shouting for help into a gust of wind whose only intention is to knock me down just to prove their breath is stronger than mine. Times like this make me wonder what woman before me, like Deborah Sampson, felt like.

To her Revolutionary War colleagues, she was known as Robert Shurtliff, but to history books as the first woman to serve in the front lines. Her secret was safe until she was injured during the war and taken to a hospital where it was discovered she wasn’t who she said she was.

Sometimes I think about Mary Quant and the British Society for the Advancement of Miniskirts. In 1964, Quant invented the miniskirt because she wanted a way to feel liberated, not dress like her mother and was tired of oppression as extensive as ankle length hemlines.

At the 1966 Christian Dior fashion show, he refused to raise hemlines on the runway and a group of women protested outside, calling themselves the British Society for the Advancement of the Miniskirt. They grabbed their pickets, showed off their knees and were finally taken seriously.

In 1973 Norma McCorvey became equal parts the most respected and the most hated woman in the world when she was revealed as the plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade case that split the nation and would for decades to come.

I wonder if the first woman allowed in combat in 2014 picked up a gun and heard the voice of Deborah Sampson whispering the way waves whisper from a shell representing the ocean it belongs on and saying, “I did it. So can you.”

Or if teenage girls who are told they cannot wear tank tops that expose their collarbones or shoulders in school because it might be distracting, pick up that coin, toss it into the fountain and see Mary Quant catching it saying, “I wish you would pick up your signs. I support you.”

Do women who get abortions hide in a shadow of fear that it may take longer than six weeks for spring to come and the sun to come out and winter be forgotten?

I wonder a lot if these women I mentioned know the impact they made, or if they realized the impact they would have. The battle cry they would sound off and we would never stop listening to like the first cassette tape bought with allowance money from pushing dust from one pile to another.

When I wake up in the morning, I hear birds chirping and letting each other know they made it through another day. I tell my dog good morning, my version of the “good morning text” and I make my own coffee.

I turn on the TV and on the news I see headlines about the war on women. It makes my hands heavy, but this time not with rage. This time, with a solidarity that makes my fingertips tingle, apply the brakes on anger and curl up to squeeze tight around the love at the hands in mine because I know women like Deborah and Mary and Norma are standing next to me, holding my hands and saying, “We didn’t fight these battles for you not to continue this war. We support you.”