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Thursday Morning Stitch n’ Bitch: Parsing Empathy in Women’s Courtship Songs May 21, 2009

Political Cartoon reflecting the traditonal courting of a woman's vote

Political Cartoon reflecting the traditional courting of a woman's vote

Ah, I fooled you. You thought you would come to Autographed Letter Signed today and find Afrocity writhing with outrage over the blatant sexism in traditional American folk songs such as Frog Went a Courtin. Thursday morning stitch in bitch takes on the symbolic patriarchal hysterectomy- the ovarian assassination of women through music.


Froggy went a courting, he did ride, uh-hu
Froggy went a courting, he did ride
Sword and a pistol by his side, uh-hu

He rode till he came to masters hall, uh-hu
He rode till he came to masters hall
There he did both knock and call, uh-hu

Took Miss Margy on his knee, uh-hu
Took Miss Margy on his knee
Says to her, will you have me, uh-hu

Old uncle Rat, he’s gone from home, uh-hu
Old uncle Rat, he’s gone from home
And I cain’t tell till he’s does come, uh-hu

Uncle Rat laughed and shook his fat sides, uh-hu
Uncle Rat laughed and shook his fat sides
To think his niece would be a Frogs bride, uh-hu

Old Uncle Rat, he galloped off to town, uh-hu
Old Uncle Rat, he galloped off to town
To buy his niece a wedding gown, uh-hu

No, sorry to disappoint. While there is much truth to political divisions of sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity finding their way into music and the idea of me getting out my banjo to demonstrate a sensitive and melodic account of my observations as a black woman is a rather provocative one to say the least, I have more mundane things to discuss.

Take a look at the political cartoon above. The one from 1920 drawn by a man. What does this illustration tell us about women and politics?  There she is all dolled up, “woman’s vote” shawl in hand listening to donkey breath on one knee, lying through his bucked teeth, looking uncomfortable in that getup because you just know he wants to run back to the Animal Farm and throw on some Birkenstocks. Besides Mr. Party of Ass  has an entire harem of women voters waiting for him back at home. Why are you so special? He will throw you a notable congressional district or two and woo you with his “progressive” rhetoric but there ain’t no way he’s giving up his seat at the head of the table for anyone who is not “periodically down”  with keeping women in their place.

Comparatively, Grand Ol’ Party Pooper Mr. Elephant looks somewhat belabored as he takes his sweet ass time coming up the stairs. He is not being fashionably late, he just thinks he should not have to be there in the first place because his percieved Waterloo of identity politics make him feel like a pachyderm in a china shop. Who needs to fight for any voter because after all we are all Americans right? Why fight for a voting block? This woman should want to come to his house because although sympathetic to the plight of women,  he hates to have to emphasize again and again that the Republican Party is one of self-reliance and liberty.  If I were this cartooned woman voter, unable to bear the meandering by these two Sideshow Bobs, I would realize that the pickins’ are slim and get my dainty arse of that fainting couch. Who needs these guys? Where are the other girls we need to make some noise of our own.

All snark and criticism aside, this cartoon shows a historic concern by both parties  for the women’s vote. It hints that women and their support are something to be desired politically, but like most disenfranchised groups, they are at the mercy of the patriarcy or the majority (white).  A closer look will tell us that there are masses, mounds, and heaps of evidence which demostrate gender biased wrongs commented against women despite our surrendering the symbolic pink and giving up our votes.

Women pour into the polls in 1922 New York City. Library of Congress

Women pour into the polls in 1922 New York City. Library of Congress

Remember that song by Cher? “If I Could Turn Back Time.” ? There is not one of us reading this post right now that does not wish to go back time and correct one wrong or erase one mistake from our lives. In life there is no edit/undo function. No “find and replace” . Granted, some may disagree with me and argue that pushing back decisions of the past by almost 10, 20 or 30 years may not seem especially significant to some who have never had to worry about discrimination or gender bias. However in the world of legalities and the fight for equal rights, a mere decade could make a world of difference in deciding whether an act was proper and just which could lead to a obligatory “keep your chin up Suzy, you were fucked over but there is nothing we can do about it.”

On May 19 the Supreme Court of the United States made a decision about a case concerning a women’s rights issue

Los Angeles Times

AT&T wins court case over maternity leave
The Supreme Court sides with the firm and refuses to award pension credits to female employees who took a pregnancy leave in the 1970s.

By David G. Savage
May 19, 2009

Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court on Monday dealt a setback to women who took pregnancy leaves from work before 1979.

The year before, Congress changed the law and said pregnancy must be treated like other temporary disabilities. In a 7-2 decision, the court agreed with AT&T Corp. and refused to award pension credits to those who took a pregnancy leave before the change. The ruling in AT&T vs. Hulteen reversed a decision of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Some women’s rights advocates compared the ruling to the pay discrimination decision against Lilly Ledbetter two years ago. “This decision is an all-too-timely reminder of the importance of having on the Supreme Court justices who understand the real-world impact of the law,” said Marcia Greenberger of the National Women’s Law Center.

The failure of Hulteen to win this case echoed the defeat women suffered in Lilly Ledbetter decision. Again a decade can make a difference. It is safe to say that SCOTUS including normally liberal leaning Justice Souter, take issue with statutes of limitations whether written or perceived, and suing for equal compensation. As a black woman there is a further question which I must answer. Could this in someway be viewed as similar to African Americans requesting reparations for past discrimination? Hulteen and Ledbetter are different cases but we cannot deny that they share the ‘”retro” connection.

Before you flog me for being anti-feminist for entertaining my agreement with the 7-2 decision against Hulteen, I will post the response of Civil

Women’s Rights Groups Respond to Supreme Court Decision on Pregnancy Discrimination

May 19, 2009 – Posted by Tyler Lewis

…Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, called the Court’s decision “disgraceful, unfair, and a terrible blow to the equal opportunity laws women and people of color have long relied on.”

“This ruling … undermines Congress’s intent in passing the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to ensure that women would never again be adversely affected by their pregnancies, and denies Ms. Hulteen and her colleagues the equal compensation to which they are entitled,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.

I agree with this BUT does it seem at all reasonable that I do not believe that we as women or minorities should right every past wrong by financially compensating everyone who was discriminated against in some way 10,20, 30 years ago? Hear me out readers. This is not about Afrocity turning into a right wing lunatic or some mythologized tale that conservative women don’t give a Ronald Regan’s hair about women’s rights. There are epic accounts of conservative women who have fought against the troubling legacy of sexual discrimination and the patriarchy. A troubling legacy that haunts and silences women’s herstories today.

Woman's vote 2

Cases such as Ledbetter and Hulteen provide talking points for us as women. Not as conservatives or liberals- Republicans or Democrats but as women. Whatever your feelings are on the court’s decision, it once again proves that as women we need to become the future politicians we wish to vote for. Be proactive now not later. Think about the job you are in NOW.  Are you being treated fairly?  No? Then say something about it NOW.  Don’t wait until 2030 and say oh, I think I was treated unfairly back in 2010 and now I want justice.  Let’s craft these “defeats” into historical lessons. Into strong and watchful eyes that get off the fainting sofa and into political activism. Let’s say screw these guys, get our collective acts together as women united to fight discrimination NOW in order to bask in glory together as women. Not political parties.  Re-examine your workplace and its compensation system NOW.  Your future depends on you. Not the Supreme Court.Not some tired ass donkey or fat elephant courtin you. Be Proactive not reactive.

How is that working for ya?

How is that working for ya?

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