A lost icon — I hope

I was annoyed. Overlooked. And frustrated.

It was time to get a hair cut yesterday. A home bleach job, something that I’d intended not to blond my dark tresses, but to highlight some of them, had textured ends to the consistency of straw. I wanted a cut. A new look. And opted to shed some seven inches yesterday. But when I signed in at the quick-cut joint, I was annoyed that some men were taken ahead of me. I signed in again, scrawling my name with an indent to show my displeasure. The cosmetologist apologized when she called my name and I eased her mind by saying that it was OK, even though it really wasn’t.

Still, I’ve found, things happen for a reason. And while I stewed that men were taken ahead of me, I read an article in More magazine about feminism.

The interviewed women raged about the generational divide and that young women don’t understand the struggles that their foremothers went through so that they — the younger women — could enjoy the fruits and freedoms of those labors. To illustrate, one of the women pointed to a demonstration where she overheard teens asking what the no coat hanger symbol was all about. Exasperation leaped from the page as the woman both rejoiced in the victory that the youngsters didn’t have to know and at their ignorance for not knowing.

But I’m, uh, 39, and I didn’t know what she was talking about. And I didn’t get the gist of it — or the symbol — from the article, either. Guess that, too, is another victory and defeat, all wrapped into one.

Enter a Google search where I found this New York Times essay written by Waldo L. Fielding,  a Boston doctor, who did know — and had dealt with the aftermath.

The coat hanger, I discovered, was a sign and a tool (although women have used other tools) used for underground abortions. Abortions are nothing new to women who have tried — often in vain — to have a measure of control over their bodies and, therefore, their person. And the no coat hanger, which hangs on Roe v. Wade, is a symbol that women don’t want to go back to the barbaric backrooms and home-job abortions, which butchered women’s bodies and, sometimes, killed them, too. It’s a sign women want a choice, not to simply choose whether or not to have children, but to have access to safe facilities that gives them a chance to exercise that choice, whatever that choice might be.

I knew the concept, but not the icon. But it took my own home job — of hair bleach — and my desire to have a professional help correct it while becoming annoyed at a minor feminist issue (men taken ahead of me) to understand the bigger one.

An excerpt from the essay, written by Waldo L. Fielding,  Boston obstetrician and gynecologist,  below.

-Christy

The worst case I saw, and one I hope no one else will ever have to face, was that of a nurse who was admitted with what looked like a partly delivered umbilical cord. Yet as soon as we examined her, we realized that what we thought was the cord was in fact part of her intestine, which had been hooked and torn by whatever implement had been used in the abortion. It took six hours of surgery to remove the infected uterus and ovaries and repair the part of the bowel that was still functional.

It is important to remember that Roe v. Wade did not mean that abortions could be performed. They have always been done, dating from ancient Greek days.

What Roe said was that ending a pregnancy could be carried out by medical personnel, in a medically accepted setting, thus conferring on women, finally, the full rights of first-class citizens — and freeing their doctors to treat them as such.

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