I'm Tired of Letting Others Dictate What Rights I Can Have

Mary Ann Patterson
United States

When I was six years old, I moved into a neighborhood where all of the children were male, a few my age and a few a little older. In an attempt to fit in (that's what army brats do) I quickly made myself useful by participating in their project of building a tree fort over the summer. My assignment was to scrounge around the neighborhood looking for wood, bricks, whatever I could find to help with the construction. I was good at it, and therefore was accepted as "one of the guys."

By the end of summer the tree fort was finished and the initiation into our new club would take place right after school. I raced home and hurried over to the empty lot where the fort stood. A ladder had been place at the base of the tree and on the ladder was a sign that read "No Girls Allowed." Surely, I thought, that didn't apply to me! I ignored the sign and began to climb. One of the boys called out, "Can't you read? No girls allowed!" Puzzled, I kept climbing. "If you don't stop we will drop a brick on your head," yelled one. And that's just what they did.

The next thing I remember, my parents are kneeling over me at the base of the tree, tending to my wound. It was at that moment I realized that being a girl was going to be a challenge, that I was not going to be afforded the same access as the boys, and that somehow, girls were able to be kept out of things that boys could get into.

As I went through my life it became more and more apparent.

In 1971 my college dorm had a strict curfew for girls but not for the boys. "That's how we keep the boys under control, and besides, the parents like it that way," was the response from the dean of students when I pointed out that restricting only the girls might be unconstitutional.

In 1973 I was told that if I was really serious about buying a car the dealer would have to see a man at some point as women could be denied credit without a male co-signer under the current law.

In 1984 I was given a significant promotion in my place of work because, in the words of my employer, "We know you don't want to get pregnant," even though the pregnancy discrimination act of 1978 banned employers the right to discriminate against pregnant women.

In recent years I have seen the government whittle away at what little reproductive rights we have been able to garner. As I now ease into my later years, I am tired of letting others dictate what rights I can have and which ones I cannot. It's time for women of all ages to stand up and say enough. I will be there, on the 21st, proudly standing up for, and demanding, my rights.

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