I, like many people I know, are watching this administration’s actions and getting more and more frightened for the long-term damage it could do. His inauguration speech was a nationalistic cry to the “forgotten” Americans, and a slap in the face to those of us who see how great the country is, and want it to be better for all. It was a speech describing a zero sum game, where it’s us or them, and that made me sad. That sadness has been balanced, somewhat, by the incredible reaction we’re seeing to the surprising win by Trump. From the women’s march on Washington (and the other marches all over the country, even in other countries) to the stories of large numbers of progressives getting more involved to the incredible rallies that are happening at a moment’s notice in response to actions the administration is taking. This all happens, and I watch with some pleasure, but what I feel most of all is sadness. Sadness that our President could so easily win so many people over, and simply won’t. He’s described by those close to him as somebody who craves good ratings. Who wants to be loved. And he could be, with the simplest moves.
Abortion is a very difficult and divisive issue in today’s cultural and political landscape (that might be an understatement). I am strongly in favor of abortion rights, so I do not come to this with a neutral perspective. On the other hand, I care about people, and many people I know and love are emotionally traumatized (and I do not think that is an overstatement) by abortion. In the worldview of these people, abortion is literally the voluntary, cruel, painful, disgusting murder of a child, a child unable to defend him/herself. I think all of us who support abortion rights need to remember that, and, for those of us who actually care about other people, need to imagine how it would feel if we knew that millions of children were being killed. Imagine there was a foreign country in which babies (make them two months old for the example to work) were being taken to a hospital or doctor’s office and being killed without anesthesia, for no reason other than they were too much of a burden on the parents. That is how it looks to some people who are anti-abortion. Although I do not view abortion that way, I know what it feels like to learn that children are dying, and I can imagine the outrage that I would feel if I did see abortion that way. I think that’s critically important to keep in mind. It’s that recognition that has driven me, for the past twenty years or more, to try to imagine a compromise. To be honest, I’ve put a fair amount of thought into this, but not as much as I could have for two reasons: 1) I am fairly certain there is no compromise, and 2) even if I thought of one, I have no power to implement it. That second one isn’t as meaningful as the first, because, as anybody who reads anything I post knows, it doesn’t stop me from opining on pretty much everything else that matters to me.
This isn’t a story of my whole life, and it isn’t even about part of my life (even though the title might give that sense). It’s about a recent experience, and some recent discussions I’ve had, all about women in the workplace and some of the issues we face as a society. I’ll start this with a small glimpse into what drives me to care about this, and it comes down to one thing. I want to live in a world that feels fair. Period. I guess I’d settle for a country that feels fair, or maybe even a state or maybe even a community, but I want to be somewhere that feels fair. I know the saying “Life isn’t fair,” but I disagree. I think we define fairness differently, especially when bad things happen, but I think in many ways, life is, or could be fair. And I am happier when things seem fair. I recently attended a workshop on women in STEM. It included an excellent lecture and some good discussion after. I didn’t count, but I think there were about 40 people in the room, and about three of us were men. That’s unfortunate, but not the point I’m about to make: after it ended, and a few of us (me and three women) stood outside and talked more, at least four women leaving the room looked right at me, ignoring the others I was talking to, and gave me an enthusiastic “Thank you for coming to this.” I appreciated the acknowledgement, but was taken aback that nobody thanked the women I was talking to for coming. And I’m certain that I benefited more from the lecture than the speaker did. The speaker already knew everything she was saying. I got some new information from it, and from the discussion after. But the “thank you” comments didn’t end.