I was a 16-year-old honor student attending a Catholic high school in Massachusetts. One day while lecturing us about his frustrations with our work, one of my teachers made a few sexist, off-color remarks. Sadly, I wasn’t shocked or outraged. By age 16, what woman hasn’t heard these things many times before? But when a teacher overheard me telling the story to a friend, he urged me to report it. I did.
The school administrators demanded I retract my accusation. I refused. The teacher wouldn’t allow me back in class, and the administration threatened to withhold my college recommendations. The actions of the school were unacceptable, so I left. People can make mistakes, but I was not going to participate in or benefit from an institution that tried to use its power to intimidate a child. Even at 16, I understood how wrong it was to use one’s power to deny the reality of someone else’s experience.
But power can also be a tool to drive positive change — to protect women’s health, and to protect our bodily autonomy from the threat we face from Washington and Judge Kavanaugh’s impending confirmation to the Supreme Court.
I became involved in the effort to pass the Reproductive Health Care Act which will protect women’s health in Rhode Island in the event that Roe vs Wade is overturned. Again I watched as the General Assembly insisted there was no reason to take action on protecting the rights of women to make their own healthcare decisions because they couldn’t see that our rights are at risk. They wouldn’t even vote on it.
This is a prime example of a legislative leadership that is out of touch and out of step with what Rhode Islanders are asking for. I watched bill after bill that could make positive differences in people’s lives get sent to “further study.” I watched legislation that wasn’t supported by experts but had the political stamp of approval sail through.
Now, more than ever, we need new voices in the General Assembly. Because this election is our last line of defense against Washington’s cruelty and dysfunction.