As a woman in my 60’s one of the hardest things for me to understand is the current attitude of the Republican Party towards women and their health issues. I probably should say at the outset that I am Pro-Choice, but that doesn’t mean that I am an advocate of abortions. It simply means that as a woman that doesn’t live in the shoes of other women, I refuse to impress my views on them.
As an advocate of choice, I believe that any woman should be allowed to be self directing. That any decision she makes should be between her and whatever higher power she believes in. If she chooses to be childless, then she should have the ability to access contraceptives paid for by whatever health insurance company provides her policy. If she chooses to be treated with contraceptives for polycystic ovarian disease, or endometriosis, rather than have an hysterectomy, then I don’t believe that should be anybody’s business but hers and her doctor’s.
I’ve watched state after state try to prevent this access via various means. They’ve tried to circumvent Roe V. Wade by methods including the silly action of trying to pass a law which would allow a woman who had a miscarriage to be prosecuted for manslaughter. They’ve tried to pass personhood laws protecting embryos, they’ve even gone so far as to try to pass a bill that would grant personhood to an ovum from a female ovary as much as two full weeks prior to conception.
Our Congress has nearly refused to pass the Violence Against Women Act because they are “concerned” that it protects illegal alien women. All I can think when I heard that is, my God, how do Christians act this way? It’s almost as if men, specifically Conservative Christian men want to turn the clock back on women to the 19th century. If it weren’t for the fact that I was interested in family history and paid attention when my grandmother told her family stories, I wouldn’t fully understand exactly what kind of horrors women were resigned to in those days.
In those days women lived a life of drudgery punctuated by childbirth. They lacked the modern conveniences we have today. They were little more than chattel, controlled and disciplined by a man. Might be her father, her brother, or her husband. In some cases even her son had more right to make decisions for her than she had herself. In some cases, no matter what terrible thing her husband did to her, she had no avenue by which to protect herself. She had no right to say no to anything her husband ordered of her. There was no possibility of having charges brought against him for the bones he broke during the beating he administered because she had no rights.
In today’s world, the closest lifestyle to that of the 19th century woman would be that of the Amish or certain orders of Mennonite wives, and they actually do have a choice. They are allowed a two year period to experience life outside of the Amish before deciding to remain within the Amish community. However, by any standard we apply in the 21st century, the Amish woman’s life is one of exceedingly hard work. It closely resembles the drudgery that many of my female ancestors lived before we pressed for better lives.
Just over a year ago, a number of Amish arrived here in my area and approached various local farmers and offered them large amounts of money for their lands and homes. Cash on the barrelhead and I’m talking a large amount of it. Many of them sold out, and the first thing Levi’s community did was to gut the insides of the homes. They removed all electrical wiring, all indoor plumbing and replaced it with gas pipe since this particular community is New Order and their Bishop allows the use of natural gas or propane. It’s used for lighting, for the cook stove, for the refrigerator and for the wringer washing machine.
This is a typical Amish cook stove. On this an Amish wife cooks everything that is consumed by her family plus everything she sells to the outsiders. Nothing is prepackaged or convenient, everything is made from scratch. Water is heated on it for bathing and laundry.
A typical Amish wife starts her day at 5am and is unable to stop until after the evening meals is consumed and the kitchen is cleaned. She has no leisure time until the family gathers at the end of the day for Bible study and to entertain visitors or go visiting to another Amish family.
An Amish wife works in the garden, feeds the animals, helps with the milking and then enters her kitchen to prepare the morning meal. She then begins to clean her home. Floors are mopped and waxed on hands and knees. Baking happens pretty much every day except for Sunday. She sews all her clothes and that of her children and husband. Laundry is done with the wringer washer and hung outside to dry in nice weather. Everything is ironed. Without an electric iron. She uses the same kind of flatiron that was used in the 19th century. One that is heated on the kitchen stove to make it hot enough to do the job.
By today’s standards this is drudgery of the worst kind. Yet it seems to epitomize the direction that Christian Conservatives are trying to take us in. We have modern conveniences not available for use by an Amish wife, but we also have an education not available to an Amish wife. Our education, our lifestyle stands in the way of having a happy woman as a wife if she’s treated like this.
The two wives from whom I purchase our bread and the occasional sweet treat are very serene. They aren’t exposed to the stresses that we allow to encroach in our daily lives. They don’t feel that caring for their 8 children and the chores they do are drudgery. They are content in their belief that they are doing what God wants of them to the best of their ability. They accept that their life is hard work which is dedicated to God. When asked why they think that outsider women are so unhappy, they shrug and suggest that we might not be so unhappy and need so many antidepressants if we’d learn the value of hard work.
I’ve begun to think they may be right, and while we’re at it, maybe the Christian Conservatives should take a good look at the Amish lifestyle and start thinking about humility, forgiveness, and love. Dedicated to the God that they give lip service to, of course.