National Young Women’s Day of Action is a day (typically in late October) dedicated to the political activism of young women to commemorate the death of Rosie Jiménez on October 3, 1977. Jiménez was the first known young woman to die from an illegal abortion after Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which denied Medicaid participants access to federal funds for abortions.
NYWDA is organized for young women by young women, with the aim to encourage local political involvement, and at the same time, provide a forum
for raising general awareness about issues that range from reproductive rights
, to gender, sexual, and racial equality
A similar version of the following piece appeared in the October 21, 1999 edition of The Daily Iowan. I wrote it with the goal of bringing attention to the local celebration of NYWDA. It's the one published piece of mine that I don't let my grandparents read.
My father recently asked me how, in a matter of years, I went from being the lovable, agreeable member of the family to the cynical, anti-establishment child.
As far as I can tell, cynicism starts in the home.
Women in my family are simply not looked upon as highly as the men. The first big litmus test -- my mother's baby book. The cover is powder blue. The words "It's a Boy!" proudly scrawled across the cover in cursive.
My grandparents always blamed World War II for creating a shortage of baby books in pink. They were lucky just to get a baby book period.
In powder blue baby book there is a list of gifts my grandparents received when my mother was born. One of the gifts was a pink baby book.
Now, a baby book might not seem like a big deal
. However, added to the fact that your parents didn't bother to get a crib until several weeks after you were born, you start to see a pattern forming.
I kid you not when I say my mother slept in a drawer for the first few weeks of her life.
For the past 20 years, I have seen how my grandparents worshipped my brother, the shining star in the family who could not be tarnished. They never missed his basketball or football games. They never missed his school plays or musicals.
They didn't bothered to come to my high school graduation because they did not want to miss church.
And if cynicism starts at home, it is reinforced at school.
I don't carry bad memories from high school of being taunted by other students, but instead I carry the memories of how I was treated by certain teacher. One day in my AP American History class, I sat with my hand in the air, ready to ask a legitimate question. For at least five minutes I waited as my teacher repeatedly called on male students. He would look right at me, yet not acknowledge that my hand was raised. I finally got sick of waiting and put my hand down.
So Dad, the answer is simple. I am cynical and anti-establishment because I live in a society where my gender continues to be marginalized.
Because of my gender, I have been driven by the desire to prove that I am worthy of my grandparents' attention, that I am worthy of speaking and that I am worthy of being heard. I know that I am not alone. I cannot sit quietly within my comfort zone. I now refuse to put my hand back down when it gets tired of waiting.
Building equality means stepping beyond those confines and making some noise. It means being aggressive when no one wants to hear you. It means being assertive.
I'm sure there are those out there who would quickly, and quite willingly, pin a scarlet "F" on my chest, and put me on display.
She's a radical. She's a feminist.
And that's fine with me. It isn't going to stop me from raising my voice. What about your voice? Do you think that you don't have anything to shout about?
Think again. Insurance companies will gladly help cover the costs of childbirth, yet most refuse to provide coverage for birth control. Women still, on the average, make less per dollar than men. Pop culture and the media continue to bombard us with images of unrealistic beauty standards. A woman has yet to win the Oscar for Best Director.
Today is the seventh annual National Young Women's Day of Action. It is a day for young women to raise their voices and empower themselves. So go stand on the steps of the Old Capitol and yell. Let your voice be heard.