Ten Against

I should be cheering. I just can’t.

The Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized this week. It was even the “good” version – the one from the Senate with the new protections for those in the LGBT, Native American and immigrant communities. It isn’t exhaustion keeping me from leaping up into a standing ovation, though after a year of relentless screaming and petition signing and misogynist comment refuting, I do admit to some fatigue. My inability to do more than shed some quiet tears of relief stems from the number 160.

One hundred and sixty is the number of legislators who voted against the Violence Against Women Act. Between the House and the Senate, 160 members of the 113th Congress boldly declared their opposition to stopping violence against women. That’s 160 out of 535 – 30% of our national legislators. Contemplate that for a moment.

You didn’t think about it long enough. Allow me to try again.


That 30%, of course, is comprised entirely of Republicans. Not even all of those 160 can stand on partisan footing and claim that they would have preferred their watered down version, that this one overreaches. On the contrary: 27 of those legislators voted no on Their Own Bill as well.

The most peculiar thing about the graphic of the “27 double no” voters is the headshot that starts off the second row. Yes, everyone is white. Yes, everyone is Republican. But, wait – not everybody is male? Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) sits all alone in her double-denial glory.

Noem has plenty of company from her House-mates when the scope is broadened (I’m so sorry; I couldn’t help it) to include this week’s vote on the Senate bill. In all, ten women voted against the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Here are their names:

Michele Bachmann (R-MN), Diane Black (R-TN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Renee Ellmers (R-NC), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Kristi Noem (R-SD), Martha Roby (R-AL), and Ann Wagner (R-MO).

I struggle regularly with the mindset, motivation and life experience that might create a woman who will stand defiantly in the face of both empathy and logic and shout, “No! We’ll have none of that!” And these aren’t your typical women. They have, by and large, achieved multiple degrees, success in their pre-legislative careers, juggled family responsibilities with apparent ease and waged hard-fought campaigns for office – often against incumbents, usually against men with greater financial backing. They must be smart, tough, driven and thick-skinned to have pushed themselves all the way to the halls of Congress.

Is that it? Do they now see themselves less as women than as legislators? Has achieving high office elevated them above the huddled masses, stripped them of their femininity and mind melded them into the mass of masculinity oozing from every corner of the capital?

How is it that these ten female legislators cannot connect with the three women – their constituents whom they have sworn to represent – who die at the hands of their intimate partners every single day? Do they see them as weak? As “other?” How is it that they have not been personally touched by the struggle to survive domestic violence experienced by a full 25% of American women? Do they not have sisters, mothers, daughters, friends?

For the nine who voted “aye,” but only on the bill that excluded LGBT, Native American and immigrant women, I yield the floor to the dynamic Representative from the State of Wisconsin, Gwen Moore (D):

I pose the same question with a twist to the context. Of the Ten Against, I ask, “Ain’t they women?”

I’m not sure where this leaves us – other than at the beginning of Women’s History Month. Perhaps we best temper our celebration of historical women with some reality. Perhaps it’s best we not leave out the inconvenient, bloody disappointments and set-backs. Perhaps a heaping dose of life and struggle alongside our fireworks and apple pie would straighten our course.

Life and struggle, after all, are not just reality. They are glorious. We are served well by unedited stories of the women who waged war on the patriarchy in the generations before us. They would not want us glossing over their broken nails, broken hearts and broken bones. That is how forgetting happens. When we forget, we create space for the Ten Against.

And so, we must decide that we won’t forget.

I have decided – have you?

Leave a comment sharing your favorite historical heroine, a glossed over story of hard-fought triumph, a bloody battle, an uplifting personal moment, an exultation, a nagging frustration, a glimmer of hope, an underappreciated feminist achievement or simply a declaration affirming that you won’t forget!

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Categories: Finding My Voice

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7 replies

  1. I just heard you talking with Hal Sparks (my hero) on the Stephanie Miller Show. It’s good to know that there are women like you out there speaking out. Keep up the good work!

    So many women are vilified or forgotten. I’m thinking of Margaret Sanger and Frances Perkins, for instance.

    • Yes! Thank you for listening!
      Also many have been marginalized into quippy feel good stories that diminish their contributions — Hellen Keller and Rosa Parks, who were both badass labor/workers’ rights activists, for example.

      • Exactly. ‘Quippy’ is a great new word that I will no doubt steal, and perfectly descriptive of the phenomenon. “They” (the Them, popular culture, dumbed-down social shorthand, reductionist media) try to sell us simplified, pre-packaged, re-manufactured simulacra of whole, complete Human Beings who had something to say. Helen Keller was a member of the IWW and Socialist Party (as I am), and she worked tirelessly for things like weekends, eight-hour days, fair pay, safe workplaces (not so much about the risk of dropping an anvil on Your foot, but more about the boss not getting away with raping seamstresses), continuing adult education and so on. But mostly she’s remembered as “that deaf, dumb and blind girl”, who unlike Tommy, didn’t even play pinball. Ugh. Thank You for remembering her in her entirety and humanity.

  2. It is hard to believe!

  3. Love it! Brilliant

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