George Pyle: Time for Utah women to take a stand

This Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019, photo, shows Equal Rights Amendment supporters gathered during a rally at the Utah State Capitol, in Salt Lake City. The renewed national push to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment is coming to conservative Utah, where supporters are launching a long-shot bid to challenge Virginia in becoming a potential tipping point despite opposition from the influential Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Before my great aunt decamped for Arizona in her pink Mustang convertible, she stopped to visit my family and tell us some tales.

(Don’t ask me which great aunt. I had several and it’s been a long time. I could ask my sister or one of my cousins, but they might set me straight in a way that would mess up this story.)

One of the rebellious things my aunt had already done was resign her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, in part because it wouldn’t admit black people as members.

(Like many of my Kansas-born relatives, she really didn’t know any black people. But standing up for them was a giggle because it offended people who needed offending.)

To hear her tell it, she and her sisters were not only DAR material because they were descended from folks who fought in the American Revolution, they were DAR royalty because one particular antecedent of hers — of mine — was Hannah White Arnett.

And the origin story of the DAR is the day that Hannah overheard her husband and a bunch of his friends in Revolutionary New Jersey seriously discussing an offer from the British for peace and royal protection of their property if the colonists would lay down their arms. Hannah talked them out of it. The rest is history.

Except that, because she was old enough to be honest or because she wanted to embellish the tale, my aunt’s version was a bit more interesting. Hannah didn’t just talk the menfolk out of surrender. She threatened to leave her husband — and to organize all the other wives in town to leave their husbands — if the men couldn’t screw their courage to the sticking place and continue the Revolution.

It was, in my aunt’s version, a reverse “Lysistrata.” You know, the Aristophanes play from around 400 BC, in which an Athenian woman named Lysistrata and her female friends are sick to death of their men running off to the interminable Peloponnesian War. So the women agree to withhold their sexual favors until the men agree to give up their obsession with playing soldier and to stop leaving the women alone to care for their homes and families — or to not have families.

So now, 2,400 years after you’re damned if you do, and 240 years after you’re damned if you don’t, one wonders if it might be time for the women of Utah to take a page from my Grandma Hannah and rebel against they way their men are acting.

Because, to be altogether serious about it, the men who run the Utah Legislature are being particularly misogynistic this year.

Our lawmakers, who are overwhelmingly male, are passing bills to ban abortion in all but a very limited set of circumstances and to require women who have chosen to abort to lie still — and pay — for a totally unnecessary and medically unwise sonogram.

They are also moving along a measure to require a woman who has had an abortion to arrange — and pay for — the burial or cremation of the fetal remains.

None of those measures makes the least lick of sense unless it is assumed that women are dumb, uninformed, easily diverted and in need of protection by their dear alpha males.

Simultaneously, the mostly male lawmakers are bound and determined to avoid any measure or expenditure that would make being a woman in Utah the least bit easier or more respected.

A tax credit for companies that offer their employees a child-care benefit? More money for school breakfast programs in low-income rural areas of the state? Protecting the constitutional earmark of Utah income tax revenues for education?

An Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States?

Nope, nope, nope and hell, no.

It is difficult to decide what is worse. That most of the members of the Utah Legislature think they are keeping women in their place for the benefit of traditional family? Or that they are totally oblivious to the fact that an infrastructure of benefits and services does far more than just untie the apron strings of many women?

A support system for working parents benefits the state’s economy, not just the female workers and owners who will be much more productive.

The objection to school breakfast especially flows from willful ignorance. Meals at school are far more than just fuel, or a favor to busy parents. They are a means of intellectual and emotional of bonding and preparation for the school day that can only improve student readiness and performance.

This ignorance about the importance of sharing meals is particularly offensive coming from a mob of politicians who slop at the trough of special interest lobbyists morning, noon and night. And call it business.

Maybe it is time for their wives to stop feeding them.

George Pyle

George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, is descended from a fair number of rabble-rousers and malcontents.


Twitter, @debatestate