Before #MeToo – The Price of Silence

What would America be like if men got pregnant instead of women? It seems a silly question, but I’d argue it isn’t. My guess is that abortion would not only be legal under all conditions but that it would be readily available to all (men). The same for contraception: cheap and readily available. I was raised Catholic; consider if the Catholic clergy, all male of course, got pregnant, had to carry babies to term, and then had to care for them. Somehow I think that church teachings on abortion and contraception would be different.

But men don’t get pregnant. And men have full control over their bodies. It’s far different for women in America (and across most of the globe). Women are not only victims of sexual violence: they are increasingly being told they have no other option than to carry a baby to term, even if they were victims of rape or incest. The legislatures making these decisions (no surprise) are predominantly male, and they love to pose as pro-life.

In her memoir, Meredith Keller reminds us of the high price women have paid in America when laws are made by men for men, where women are often an afterthought, if that, and when so-called religious teachings are elevated above empathy and compassion and understanding. W.J. Astore

Before #MeToo – The Price of Silence

Meredith Keller

Now in retirement, I am anticipating a quiet afternoon in my art studio when I check mail in my rural box. Roosters are crowing. I hear clanking sounds of tractors discing and smell the musty soil being turned. I sort through the junk mail when my eye lands on a hand addressed letter. I tear it open to find the shocking words:

I think you might be my grandmother.

My body goes rigid as the thought of reliving a shattering period of my past sends waves of shock reverberating through my body. All those feelings of shame long buried were about to boil up again. If I answered the letter, all would be revealed.

Would I dare? Did I want to go down that path and relive the scenes of a rape and resulting pregnancy, opening the scars of a long buried episode that began on a college campus in 1962? Would this young writer, my granddaughter, be able to comprehend how the moral arbiters of society held us in their grip?

Sexual harassment, rape and intimidation have shadowed and haunted women through the ages. Where were their stories? Buried, like mine, in shame, layered under decades of angst. In my day single women with unintended pregnancies were forced into hiding. From the end of WWII until the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, unmarried pregnant women and their families faced shame and insufferable choices.

The alternatives were dismal. One solution was to visit abortionists, in many cases unqualified, who, to protect their own identities, blindfolded women during the procedure.  In 1962, sixteen hundred women, forced into illegal terminations, were admitted to Harlem Hospital Center in New York City due to botched or incomplete abortions. Society had women, especially poor women, in a vise.

Others had no choice but to carry a child to term. They quietly disappeared, spirited away while the stigma of “illegitimacy” hung over them. Shrouded in secrecy, with their identities erased, they were groomed to hand over their babies for adoption and return to society as though nothing had happened. It was known as the Baby Scoop Era when the dominant view was that unmarried women were unfit mothers and needed to acknowledge their guilt and shame and give up their babies for adoption. From 1945 to 1973 it is estimated that four million parents in the United States had children placed for adoption. Four million sad stories like mine went undocumented.

The Unraveling – The Price of Silence, my memoir, puts a spotlight on what it was like to have to weather the paralyzing trauma of rape and then go through the devastating severance of handing a child over to adoption. No one can imagine the gravity and deep sadness of that moment you give away your own child. It caused a quake deep in my soul. Is this what our legislators wish to return to when they not only write restrictive abortion laws, but also deny women health coverage for contraception under the guise of “freedom of religion”?

Feel what it was like to struggle through those times before Roe as I dredge up shattering memories that haunted me for 52 years. I fiercely fought for the dignity that was swiftly erased one night on a college campus. I had to jump hurdles to re-define myself, bury the past and muster the grit to have a successful career beginning as Food Editor of a leading restaurant magazine at age 23.  

The scars from my early life remained and memories lingered until that letter arrived in my mailbox. What would I respond? How could I adequately explain an era long forgotten? That granddaughter had not lived through those restrictive times of shame and humiliation. I unraveled my story for her and all young women so they can feel what it was like when women’s reproductive rights were emphatically denied. It is a struggle we are facing yet again. And yet, there was one champion in our corner, a little known lawyer at the time, and she had this to say:

The decision whether or not to bear a child is central to a woman’s life, to her well-being and dignity. When the government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Keller’s memoir, The Unraveling, is available in paperback, hardback, and electronically from popular outlets such as Amazon and Powell’s. The book’s cover art, reproduced above, is her original work.

This story was first posted at The Contrary Perspective.

28 thoughts on “Before #MeToo – The Price of Silence

  1. Your words are spot on and serve to illustrate the issues continuing yet today. We (collective) like to think our society has experienced such progression in recent times, considering the early 1900s to today as recent, but it is a facade for many. Much seems to be undertaken in an effort to continue to further divide an already greatly divided population.

    My daughter and I were talking the other day about the efforts made to ensure the status quo is maintained in the United States. After all, it has served so well to this point, and those in power will do whatever it takes to retain their hold. If the general population were to agree on most points, it is likely that the power elite would begin to see their influence and grasp unravel. So, it is beneficial to have the white population perceive themselves as better than other ethnicities; the middle class, as such still exists, placed above the poor who “leech” off them; females maintained subservient to males and regulated in manners that men would not abide; heterosexuals noted as superior to the morally bankrupt LGBTQA+ population; pro-life deemed ethically superior to pro-choice–only until birth however, the buck stops there; and so on. Society appears to evolve and progress. However, ultimately, it many cases it remains the same and, in some instances, begins to regress.

    Empathy, compassion, and understanding serve to unite peoples, and a united population can be dangerous, as evidenced by the French and American revolutions. Keep people arguing and they do not reach a common ground, i.e., that point at which they realize they are indeed all being hoodwinked.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Your statement “only until birth however, the buck stops there” is spot on.

      To the self-righteous religious who claim to be “pro-life” I paraphrase 1 John
      “How can you claim to love the unborn child you cannot see, when you do not love the women and children you can see?”

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Another point RBG made is that when abortion is restricted or outlawed, women of means are merely inconvenienced. Safe abortion will always be available to the rich. Travel to another state, or even another country.

    For the poor, options are grim — and sometimes deadly in the case of what used to be called back-alley abortions.

    Even as “pro-life” laws are passed, I haven’t heard of stricter laws that would hold the biological father accountable financially and in other ways for supporting the baby. Hmm…

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Denise, just thinking about all these Pro-Life crazies that there are in America, I see a parallel with all these anti-vaxxer crazies in their multitudes in the US. Lunatic fringes that we don’t see here in New Zealand. Since retiring back to New Zealand after living in Seattle for 47-years, I find myself scratching my head about the current culture wars in the country I grew to love. It seems to me that in all those years I lived and worked in the US these lunatic fringes were not so predominant. What do you think?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well, the pro-life crazies have been around longer than I’ve been alive, and that’s 63 years. I suspect they started to become vocal when women began to demand access to safe abortions, which was in the ’60s, I’d think, when the women’s rights movement became prominent. Pro-life became a cause the more the religious right gained power; again, circa 1960 or so. Before that, abortions were mostly back-room affairs, not spoken about, as Ms. Keller says, and religion was a personal thing, not an in-your-face issue. Sure, there were always the proselytizers and televangelists and revival meetings, but there wasn’t the militance about it that came later. Of course, there was prejudice because of religion, as when a faction of the citizenry opposed JFK, saying he’d follow the Pope’s orders (and there are still whispers about Uncle Joe), but the screeching, threats, and other verbal violence is a relatively new thing. Likewise, the fundamentalists’ belief that they should be able to run the country, dictate morals, and prescribe school policies They always thought they should have that power, but they never dared to try to assert it. Now, they’ve become emboldened after gaining political muscle.

          We’ve seen that there’s a significant overlap between the anti-vaxxers and the religious wingnuts. There was a story last week about a minister (I believe in Tennessee, but don’t quote me) who vowed to ban masks in his church. I saw a Facebook post of a sign outside a church that directed masked congregants not to bother to leave their cars, because, “Faith is stronger than fear,” masks equating to fear, presumably, and therefore, an insult to the congregation. So there’s an intersection between religious mythology and resistance to the vaccine.

          Overall, I just think the crazies in general are coming out of the closet more every year. Sensationalist media are partly to blame, and the rise of nut-jobbery was an inevitable consequence of the internet. Bush II legitimized the evangelicals. Rolling world crises have given organized religion a boost, because people feel a need to cling to something. With the election of the Orange Sphincter, every type of prejudice, hatred, and outlandish belief became acceptable. And here we are.

          Long answer to short question. Again, you’re supremely fortunate to be back in NZ.

          Like

          1. Great comment Denise. I would click the “like” button, but for some reason I cannot get it to work.
            ……the rise of nut-jobbery was an inevitable consequence of the internet…..Ron Unz wrote a great blog on is Unz Review on the Covid conspiracy theory phenomena. It has now got over 1,200 comments – 95% from crazed Covid Conspiracy nut jobs. It’s really depressing that so many gullible Americans fall for this stuff.
            I read all the New Zealand alternate media, and in New Zealand there is very little of this crack pot stuff. Kiwi’s are a pragmatic lot. And trust their government – that’s the big difference.

            Liked by 1 person

          2. Depressing is right! I still haven’t gotten over the fact that 74M people voted for the Orange Idiot last year. You’re obviously right about NZ’s pragmatism quotient, but also, citizens in many countries other than the U.S., including NZ, are concerned about each other and their nations as wholes. They aren’t addicted to violence or to “me, first.” THAT makes a difference! Ms. Ardern’s ability to get stricter gun laws passed in the immediate aftermath of a mass shooting incident is proof of your country’s commitment to sanity and caring.

            Liked by 1 person

        2. There’s cynicism and calculation at work here as well. The Uber-rich in America are happy to see “the poors” duke it out over issues like guns and God and abortion and even vaccines. Why not encourage the crazies, exploit them, and sic them on the rest? Meanwhile, virtually all the money continues to flow upwards to the richest Americans, who are now launching rockets and playing astronaut in space.

          Keep the people divided, distracted, and downtrodden. That way they can’t unite for health care, for higher wages, for better working conditions, and against exploitative and extractive capitalism and permanent war.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. wja, germany passed legislation decades ago to protect unmarried mothers from ‘deadbeat dads’. our khaligeyah neighbour on egypt’s red sea coast in 2001, was a 58-year old german [he would now be 78] who had impregnated a coed he barely knew at a uni bash when he was 20 [i.e. nearly 60 years ago]. the coed could have sought an abortion but elected to give birth and keep the bairn. our german neighbour was tracked down when the bairn was around 5, ordered to submit to a paternity test, did so, and was designated as the biological father. at 58, he was STILL being forced to pay for her maintenance by the german authorities nearly 4 decades after his night of debauchery, b/c she was a special-needs child, and as an adult she continued to require special care. not all countries are replicas of the US in terms of patriarchal absolutions or legal abrogations that manumit males from their responsibilities subsequent to moments of priapic lust.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. @Denise Donaldson,
    BTW Denise, one of the last things I did before packing my bags and retiring back to my country of birth was vote for Donald Trump! I am a lefty, but a long time peace activist and anti-war. Trump ran on a platform of ending all these wars. Hillary was a warmonger……. Boy, did he play me for the fool! LOL

    And speaking of the rise in nut-jobbery, we here in New Zealand don’t have the 2nd Amendment nut jobs to deal with. We were able to pass sensible gun control laws – something the US will never be able to do sadly. Ask my daughter who is an ER doctor in Madison WI what she thinks of the 2nd Amendment after another teenager dies on her shift of gunshot wounds.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right about Hillary’s warmongering, for sure. It’s one of the many reasons I didn’t vote for her. But I knew what t-Rump was, so I voted Green.

      Yes, too, about the tragedies caused by gun-nut interpretations of the Second Amendment.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Compared to Trump and Hillary, Jill Stein was a voice of sanity.

      We had a woman in the U.S. in 2020 who was much like Jacinda. Her name: Tulsi Gabbard. She wanted to rein in the military-industrial complex and end needless wars. So she was denounced by Hillary as a Russian asset and dismissed by the media.

      Even after Tulsi demolished Kamala Harris in a debate, the establishment anointed Harris as Biden’s VP.

      U.S. elections aren’t free; they’re rigged — and at an expensive price.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Denise, I don’t think the Presidential election in the US is rigged – in terms of counting votes. (Lets not get into the Electoral College debate). IMHO its the primaries which are rigged. Particularly the Democrats. The way they gave Bernie, the obvious choice of the voters, the boot was a disgrace. The American people as a result get to vote on two candidates they really didn’t want – and pick the best of the two evils – I mucked that saying up. And the irony of it all is that Kamala Harris dropped out of the primaries for lack of votes and ended up Vice President. How does that work out. A Vice President, who could become President, that nobody voted for. Do I have that right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You didn’t ask me, but you have it right. And the lesser of two evils is still evil.

        In some ways, Biden is worse than Trump. Liberals have gone “back to brunch,” trusting in the “diverse” leadership of Biden/Harris to get things done. But complacency is not good, and the end result just may be the reelection of Trump in 2024.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bill for me the whole American election system is an anachronism. Systemically flawed.
          That Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, Jill Stein and Tulsi Gabbard never get any traction is telling. You have to be an old Party hack to win the Democrat primaries – hence Joe Biden.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Yes — precisely. You must be a tool of the system. Supine. Preferably spineless. In Biden’s case, increasingly gormless.

          He told his donors that nothing would fundamentally change. It’s the promise he’s kept.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hey Bill, how did Jimmy Carter cancel the B1? Was that by Executive Order? And could theoretically Biden do the same with the F35 boondoggle? ( I know there is little hope for that.) I’d like to hear your thoughts on a blog on what the future of the F35 program is.
            Do you think it will just continue on until the $1.7-trillion is pissed down a rat hole? My understanding is that full production of the plane has been put on hold. Is that right? What are your thoughts?

            Like

        1. That the Democrats could not even pass a minimum wage Bill is a sure sigh Denise of a “do nothing” party.
          And I guess MEDICARE4ALL is all but a dream. Leaving the US as the only civilized nation without Universal healthcare for all its people. So Sad.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Not so much that they can’t as that they wouldn’t. Evidently, the corporate donors don’t want a higher minimum wage, and the GOP opposition is a convenient excuse. It’s the same situation as when Obama caved without a fight on single payer.

            Like

  4. Forgive me for stating the obvious here, but the Democratic Party does what “mega-donors” tell it to do, whether on health care or minimum wage or war or, in this case, student loan debt relief.

    From The Daily Poster: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has long kept silent as to whether President Joe Biden should cancel student debt — but that changed in late July. “The president can’t do it — so that’s not even a discussion,” she said during a news conference, stunning colleagues. As we detail in this week’s Weekend Reader, The Intercept discovered Pelosi made the announcement after she received a private memo from Democratic megadonors.

    There you have it. Meanwhile, Pelosi is worth more than $100 million, her husband’s investment decisions aided by insider information acquired by his wife the Speaker.

    That’s America. Kleptocracy. Politicians in service of the rich, desiring very much to join the rich, as the Obamas have done.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. But, ya know….stating that obvious truth will get you slammed on most liberal forums, as much as snarking on TFG will get you flamed on a right-wing site. The percentage of people who see both sides as corrupt is depressingly small. Except, of course, for those who think all government is bad by definition.

      Like

  5. Don’t Make No Waves…Don’t Back No Losers: An Insiders’ Analysis of the Daley Machine, by Milton Rakove, was a great book about the the Machine under Daley the Elder. When the need arose for a “diverse” candidate, that candidate would be carefully vetted. A Malcom X type of diversity would be unacceptable during the vetting process. Any candidate including a “diverse” candidate would have to understand they owed allegiance to the Party and to the Party’s paymasters.

    This why I always had my suspicions about Obama. He was never going to be a firebrand. Obama rose up because he knew a real Liberal Firebrand would go no where. Obama was a nice place holder a more articulate version of Bush the Younger.

    Obama was a very safe bet for the 1% and the American Oligarchy – Remember “Make no Waves” his selection of Biden was another signal that no significant change was going to happen. Obama had the Senate and House with Democratic Majorities his first two years. Harry Reid and Pelosi were also part of the “Make no Waves” team. Obama’s AG followed the philosophy of Wall Street of, Too big to Fail, Too big to Jail.

    So the Biden – Harris ticket was just a shuffling of the cards for 2020, even so as horrid as The Trumpet was the election was close.

    Little more than a year ago Governor Andrew Cuomo was hero for CNN and MSDNC for getting in The Trumpet’s face. Now Cuomo faces very detailed allegations of sexual misconduct. Some how a Jefferey Epstein was able to travel freely among the Rich and Famous. Of course now the Rich and Famous talk about past mistakes befriending Epstein – Oh yeah and Let’s Move On.

    Liked by 3 people

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