By Jen Jackson Quintano
<insert deep, fortifying breath here as I contemplate raising a girl at this particular time in history>
<insert long, drawn-out f-bomb as I stall for time to develop lesson plans on how to smash the patriarchy when the patriarchy no longer seems like a concrete wall, but something more gelatinous and insidious. Sort of like the “Upside Down” in Stranger Things, where every surface is sticky and the end game is mind control>
Welcome to the world of parenting Generation WTF, my personal term for an entire cohort who will someday look back at our generations’ attempts at governance and meet the memories with many WTFs. Or so I hope. But seeing as forward progress for women, minorities and the environment (among other entities) seems to be a myth, maybe the 2020s will be viewed fondly by our descendants — as the era when we finally drove women back into the home. As the era when we finally eradicated gender nonconformism and the idea that racism is a thing. As the era when we still had water and food and the energy to celebrate these milestones from the comfort of air-conditioned spaces and the cocoon of American exceptionalism.
No, I don’t have a lot of faith in forward progress these days. The narrative of each generation having it better than the last is faltering. My 20-something, Nixon-era mother had more bodily autonomy than my daughter will. Our kids will inhabit a world squeezed on all sides by climate change and its attendant scarcities, even as thought leaders deny its existence. Denial, rather than rushing to forestall imminent catastrophe.
How do I explain all this to a newly emerging soul who still sees the possibility of rainbows and unicorns behind every cloud and tree? How does one translate the sense of WTF for consumption by little minds and hearts, preparing them for all the confusions — and betrayals — they will feel in the future? How does a mother ensure that her sometimes-despair doesn’t become infectious?
Coming of age during feminism’s Third Wave, I was taught that I could do anything, be anything. I was taught to celebrate at the party whose confetti was the shards of every glass ceiling breaking. And I believed it. I felt empowered. But now I see that sense of power came from wearing blinders. That era was far from perfect (think of the treatment of Monica Lewinsky, Britney Spears, Hillary Clinton and basically any woman in the public eye that wasn’t Barbara Bush or Nancy Reagan). That era bore the seeds for today’s backslide.
While I was busy believing in my power and worth, Anita Hill’s congressional testimony played in the background in my home: A Black woman in a sea of white men, recounting sexual improprieties. Not being believed. Clarence Thomas appointed to the Supreme Court anyway, casting Hill’s testimony as a “high-tech lynching.” Even though this had nothing to do with race and everything to do with his objectification of women and crap social skills (Whose pickup line is “Who put this pubic hair on my Coke?” anyway?).
Now, Clarence Thomas is one of a small cadre of individuals with the power to overturn 50 years of women’s bodily agency. And when he did it, he indicated access to contraception might be next.
Well… <insert expletive>
I recently saw a T-shirt with a picture of the female reproductive system that said “no country for old men.” Amen. Because, unless you’ve lived with a uterus in a world wherein the realm of sexual experience is defined by men (meaning that ejaculation into said uterus is nearly always the goal), then, well, stop. Just stop. Please. In such a world, women don’t often enough get to choose the terms of their impregnation. Let them at least choose what they do with said pregnancy. Especially when the world into which that baby will be delivered is so freaking problematic. I’m thinking about climate change, warfare, white male supremacy and the fact that, on average, empires last 250 years. The American experiment is at year 246. Bring on the chaos.
Yet, I understand that I’m preaching only to the choir here. I understand my words will change no minds or hearts. I understand that, in Idaho especially, our trajectory on such matters is out of my hands. I can rail all I want, but we may soon live in a state wherein the family of a woman’s rapist can sue a doctor for performing an abortion. Some politicians here have promised to revoke the incest and rape exceptions for abortion and rescind access to certain forms of birth control during the 2023 legislative session. Awesome. Just… awesome.
But still, I write. It’s all I know to do. I write so that you, dear (receptive) reader, might see that you’re not alone in your beliefs. I write so that our community is made visible even amid the sweeping tides of regression, abiding islands above the waves.
I write, mostly, for my daughter, so that she might come up in a world wherein support for her agency and her future is manifest. She’ll know I’ve got her back. And if you speak up as well, she’ll know you’re there for her, too.
I write, also, as a form of practice for the near future, one in which I’ll have to explain all this stuff to my girl. Not just her decreased reproductive rights in comparison to mine, but the myth of the level playing field when it comes to gender. It’s never been level, and now our thought leaders are taking excavators to the female side. We’re just that scary, apparently.
(Let’s keep being scary, shall we?)
In the face of this, all I can do is arm my daughter with the truth. No blinders for her. I will ensure she knows everything about her body so she can take every precaution. I will ensure that she knows of her power, personally, and all the ways our society might try to strip it from her or make it seem inconsequential. I want to empower her not with white lies about equality but with hard truths. I want to temper those hard truths with the knowledge that she’s got a community here. Because of you, and you, and you.
I want her to someday say “WTF” with a wry smile, not a grimace.
What does any of this have to do with running an arborist business, you ask? How is this within the purview of “The Lumberjill”? Well, I was once faced with a fork in the road. I chose this one, which became this marriage and this daughter and this business. All on my terms. I am here thanks to the agency I once had.
Now, I want the same for my girl. I want her to be the author of her own story, in a country not quite so dominated by old men.
Jen Jackson Quintano writes and runs an arborist business with her husband in Sandpoint. Find their website at sandcreektreeservice.com. See more of Quintano’s writing at jenjacksonquintano.com.
While we have you ...
... if you appreciate that access to the news, opinion, humor, entertainment and cultural reporting in the Sandpoint Reader is freely available in our print newspaper as well as here on our website, we have a favor to ask. The Reader is locally owned and free of the large corporate, big-money influence that affects so much of the media today. We're supported entirely by our valued advertisers and readers. We're committed to continued free access to our paper and our website here with NO PAYWALL - period. But of course, it does cost money to produce the Reader. If you're a reader who appreciates the value of an independent, local news source, we hope you'll consider a voluntary contribution. You can help support the Reader for as little as $1.
You can contribute at either Paypal or Patreon.Contribute at Patreon Contribute at Paypal