I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar: Time for a Resurgence
I am ready to roar, are you?
In 1972, just one year before the original decision in Roe v. Wade gave women the constitutional right to an abortion, Helen Reddy released her iconic song “I Am Woman,” which became an anthem for women’s empowerment. Well, calling all recording artists—Dua Lipa, Lizzo, Lady Gaga I’m talking to you—it’s time for a revival, a new rendition of this song, especially considering the Supreme Court just transported us back to the 1970s.
Last Friday, June 24th, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating women’s legal right to an abortion—a right that had been in place since 1973.
Just as scary as the legal consequences of this ruling is the message it sends to women—that in 2022, we are still regarded as property or vessels of childbirth, rather than autonomous beings. It’s an uphill battle we’ve been fighting throughout history.
In the 1700s and 1800s, married women were deemed the property of their husbands and were not even allowed to hold property in their name until 1839, and even then they still required their husband’s permission.
It wasn’t until 1993 that marital rape was officially a crime nationwide, and some states still have loopholes to protect men.
In many states, it is still legal for medical students to perform pelvic exams on unconscious women in hospitals without their consent. The idea that any one of us, myself included, could go to the hospital for help and unknowingly be treated as a lab rat isn’t just demoralizing, it’s dehumanizing.
According to the United Nations Foundation, in 2022, women worldwide are afforded only three-quarters of the rights men have.
And now, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling, the hill has grown steeper.
The states now have the power to determine whether a woman can get an abortion without limitation. Government officials—mostly of the male persuasion—have the authority to determine what a woman can and cannot do with her body. We are relegated to property once again.
It’s demeaning and unacceptable, especially with aspiring politicians like Michigan gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano stating that women who are raped should not be able to have an abortion because the pregnancy was “God’s will.” First off, rape is illegal and the perpetrator of this act would be subject to criminal punishment. Rape is not written off as “God’s will,” nor can the consequences of this illegal act be so callously dismissed.
Under no circumstances should a woman be forced to carry and give birth to a child that was the result of a man forcing himself on her. To enact a law mandating such allows the government to revictimize, or essentially rape a woman all over again.
Pregnancy and giving birth are life-altering events that significantly impact a woman physically, financially, and freedom-wise. No matter the circumstances, a woman should have the right to decide what happens with her body. If she does not wish to remain pregnant for any reason—whether she isn’t ready for a child, is not financially able to support one, there is a risk to her health, etc., she has the right to make that decision. It is not for us to judge her reasoning, nor is it the government’s place to deny her the freedom to make that choice. Her body, her choice.
A woman’s autonomy over her own body should not be at the mercy of a political agenda. Men’s certainly isn’t.
As the dissenting justices lamented, women coming of age today will now have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers did, which is why it’s time for a revival of Reddy’s anthem.
We must all channel Reddy’s words of wisdom below. We must roar.
“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
‘Cause you’ve deepened the conviction in my soul”
My conviction is rooted in my soul. I am not an object. I am not property. I am not a child-bearing vessel. I am a woman. I am a human being. I am deserving of equal rights. So are all of the women in this world. Some of the most beautiful, inspiring, generous people I know are women. To see them treated as less than human—stripped of their voice, of the right to decide what happens with their own body is a travesty of justice and an affront to the human spirit. To consider a bodily function more valuable than the person occupying that body is to further objectify women.
And as a woman, I found it difficult not to take the Supreme Court’s decision personally. It made me angry. It made me want to dive head first into the fray exacting my own version of “God’s will” on behalf of all women. But experience has taught me that isn’t the most effective approach to creating lasting change.
In the past, I’ve allowed my anger towards injustices such as child marriage and violence against women to drive my actions. I wanted to capture and castrate every perpetrator of child rape, only I had no idea how. The knowledge that children around the world were being trafficked and raped on a daily basis filled me with contempt. Though it came from a desire to do good, my thirst for immediate justice and retribution did the opposite. Holding onto so much anger was both exhausting and disempowering. The last thing this world needs is more anger.
Where there is anger, there is also love, and love is empowering. I was angry because my love of children made me want to see them all safe, protected, and able to enjoy their childhood. And when I focus on that love, it renews my spirit and my urge to continue working towards positive change, even in the face of setbacks and adversity.
That is why, in response to the reversal of Roe v. Wade, we must come together, not in anger, but in love. Love and appreciation for all women, and for a world in which all women are granted equal rights. As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” These laws that silence women, and fail to recognize them as equals are rooted in fear—fear of women being fully empowered, autonomous individuals. And only through love can we overcome that fear.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be angry, especially after the incendiary words we’ve heard from politicians like Soldano. Anger motivates us to want to take action. But to effect lasting change, we must ensure whatever actions we choose to take are rooted in our love for women and not our anger towards their oppressors.
While Reddy wrote “I Am Woman” in response to derogatory comments from men in the music industry, she still recognized the importance of feeling good for everyone, regardless of gender. Even when her song became synonymous with female empowerment, Reddy maintained, “It’s not just for women. It’s a general empowerment song about feeling good about yourself, believing in yourself.”
Lasting progress cannot be made without the support of all, regardless of their gender identification. Human beings who genuinely feel good about themselves are much more likely to operate from a place of love. And love is the key to that higher level of consciousness that begets progress.
Let us roar together. Roar with a love so powerful we cannot be silenced.