My Turn

Opinion: Don't call me a backseat driver

By Johanna DeBiase, Taos
Posted 4/3/19

I am writing in regard to Robert Barry's recent opinion piece, "Women Getting Pushed to the 'Back of the Bus' " (March 14). First, I would like to thank Barry for being a strong feminist, for …

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My Turn

Opinion: Don't call me a backseat driver


I am writing in regard to Robert Barry's recent opinion piece, "Women Getting Pushed to the 'Back of the Bus" (March 14). First, I would like to thank Barry for being a strong feminist, for speaking out on women's issues and staying on top of current political issues that affect women's rights. However, I object to the way his article addresses women. In the least, it is preaching to the choir, and at worst, it is condescending.

By writing that it's "time to make a choice ladies" and "either you keep quiet and move to the rear of the bus or you stand up and make yourself heard" implies that women have not been fighting for decades for our inherent rights to be equal to men. We do not need Barry to tell us "you can be in the driver's seat but you have to want to be." The continuous oppression of women throughout the world is not due to our lack of caring or our lack of fight. In 2017, the Women's March was the largest single-day protest in American history, drawing over 7 million people globally to advocate for human rights.

As Barry said, we have "made some small progress" in the past 200 years, and I agree with him - progress has been slower than we would like. But to tell us that this is because we have not "taken the driver's seat" toward our own uprising is to blame the victim. Women know a lot about victim blaming.

You do not need to remind us that we are considered second-class citizens. At the most basic level, we experience this every day in our unfettered rape culture. In the media, our bodies are on display and for sale. Out for drinks, our bodies are grabbed unprovoked. In public, our bodies are commented on, drawn attention to and shamed. At night, our bodies do not feel safe to walk alone as men do. On the radio, pop music tells our bodies, "you know you want it" because of "blurred lines" of consent. In politics, our country elected a president notorious for grabbing women.

This is if we avoid looking any further than our own privileged experiences in this country. If we look worldwide, we would have to consider that over 16 million women are currently sex slaves in the world today. In many countries, it is illegal for women to drive, go to school, show their hair or skin in public or even dance in public and they can be stoned or flogged for such divergences.

In the United States criminal justice system, only 3 percent of rapists ever serve a day in jail. In our own local judicial system, we can see evidence of discrepancies that seem to favor men. Just recently, a Questa man accused of rape and sexual violence against young girls was set free on bail to a household full of children. Also in current local news, counties across New Mexico passed a resolution opposing firearms legislation HB 87, which would require those who are subjects of a domestic violence restraining order to relinquish their firearms to local law enforcement and would require officers to confiscate guns they find from an accused domestic abuser when responding to a domestic violence call. Since 85 percent of domestic violence victims are female, this is a woman's issue too.

So yes, women are concerned about sexual violence, equal pay, workplace discrimination, domestic violence, reproductive rights, paid maternity leave, access to contraception, the Equal Rights Amendment, human trafficking, underpaid domestic workers, gender diversity, under-representation, equal rights to economic resources, child marriages, female genital mutilation and on and on and on. And yes, we continue to speak up and fight. If you want to help and get involved you can contact the National Organization for Women, Women's March, Global Fund for Women and International Alliance of Women, to name a few.

If Barry would like to be a feminist ally, the best thing he can do is to address his fellow men. Men are more likely to listen to other men, and when discussing women's rights, they will not perceive another man as "shrill" or "bitchy" as they might perceive a woman making the same point. Thanks again to Barry for being a feminist and a strong proponent of women's equality. I know your intentions are good and your heart is in the right place. Please continue to be an ally, but please mansplain it to someone else.

Johanna DeBiase is a writer. She lives in Taos.


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