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Jewesses with Attitude

I Went to the Supreme Rally, and All I Got Was This Lousy Week of Self-Reflection

I don’t do well in humidity. I don’t think rallies have been particularly effective since the 1970s. Still, I stood outside for two hours this Tuesday, gathered at City Hall with a couple hundred of my fellow concerned citizens. We were there to show solidarity against certain recent Supreme Court decisions.

I looked around that ugly square, thinking about how much I hate Brutalism. Women were everywhere: sitting, standing, chatting, wearing funny hats, holding cleverly worded signs. Some highlights: “Keep your theology out of my biology!” “Birth control is not my boss’s business.” And a personal favorite, “You’re not my doctor. You’re not my government. You sell glitter!” 

Several politicians and leaders of sponsoring organizations spoke from the podium. After about 45 minutes, things got hazy for me. I was hot and my feet hurt. The speeches were beginning to blur together. Then Patricia Haddad, the highest-ranking woman in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, made a comment about how outrageous it is that we are still struggling to do the work of reproductive rights pioneer Margaret Sanger, who opened the first birth control clinic in the United States in 1916. I immediately thought of Emma Goldman, who smuggled contraceptive devices into the U.S. throughout the 1910s. Haddad talked of her distress over the idea that young women are still fighting a battle she thought her own generation had won thirty years ago. How frustrating, I thought. How painful to realize that my own daughters may be fighting the very same battles of my youth.

I should have cheered for the governor when he said, “Don’t be discouraged. Come make a claim on your government and tell your stories, above all.” But those dates stuck in my mind. 1910. 1916. It’s been a century since people started pearl-clutching over contraception. And here we are, still trying to politely claim that birth control is a health issue and not a sin.

I get very severe, very irregular migraines. Because my migraines include stroke symptoms (it’s a blast!) I was never allowed to be on the pill. I went to multiple neurologists for second, third, and fourth opinions, and they all forbade me from ever taking the pill. As a result, I developed serious anxiety about getting pregnant. I stopped trusting the effectiveness of barrier devices, took Plan B too many times, and stayed up late Googling pregnancy symptoms compulsively. I even researched moon cycle-based birth control. And I am NOT a moon cycle kind of girl.

Finally, during one of my terror-induced Internet searches, I learned that some doctors would give IUDs to people who got migraines like mine. I talked to my neurologist, who said he “didn’t think it was a good idea.” Then, I went to my new gynecologist, who immediately approved the procedure and asked why I hadn’t done it sooner. In that moment, I thought back to every neurologist appointment I’d had in the last three years: I would timidly bring up birth control, and the doctor would firmly shut me down. Red-faced, I would ask what my alternatives were, and they would raise their eyebrows, shrug their shoulders, or tell me to “figure it out.” I left every one of these appointments feeling ashamed and frustrated. To me, their message was always clear: “Just don’t have sex, idiot! Do you want to have a stroke?” Imagine my surprise when I got an IUD, fully covered by my health insurance, and was suddenly free to live a life devoid of late night visits to WebMD. Feeling in control of my sexual health for the first time ever, I was shocked by how easy daily life seemed.

There were two steps to getting my IUD: the practical, which included financial viability and a doctor’s approval, and the emotional, which was dependent on my ability to speak up at doctor’s appointment after being told repeatedly that I was asking for something unreasonable. Lucky for me, insurance took care of that first issue, along with one helpful doctor (finally). The second issue is something I still think about often. Those neurologists should have been more helpful and less judgmental. At the least, they should have directed me to information about alternate forms of birth control. 

Contraception changed my life and acquiring it was more difficult for me than it was for any of my friends. Had I not been able to get my IUD, whether because of lack of insurance coverage or lack of courage, I would likely be one of the women being yelled at by protesters in front of an abortion clinic, sans buffer zone. It took just about all of the bravery I had to talk about birth control with a doctor in a private room—I can’t even imagine facing strangers with signs outside of a clinic, in public, on my way get an abortion. Yet women do this every day—because they weren’t taught how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy, because they don’t have access to birth control, or because a doctor made them feel ashamed for asking about all their options.  

And that’s why I went to the rally, stood in the heat, and did my best to listen as the politicians talked. I am saddened by the fact that we are still yelling about what Emma Goldman declared essential to women’s freedom in 19-freaking-10, but that’s not a good reason to stop yelling. I don’t want my potential daughter, or the daughters of my friends, to deal with buffer zones and insurance exemptions. In the days since the rally I’ve taken Governor Patrick’s words to heart: “Don’t be discouraged. Come make a claim on your government and tell your stories, above all.” Hearing Haddad’s story reminded me that I am part of a continuum. This is a bit of my story. I hope it helps some of you to go and tell your own.

Tara at the Supreme Rally
Full image
The author with her friends at Boston's Supreme Rally

How to cite this page

Metal, Tara. "I Went to the Supreme Rally, and All I Got Was This Lousy Week of Self-Reflection." 11 July 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/blog/i-went-to-supreme-rally-and-it-made-me>.

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