Women Battle for the Soul of America

15 October, 2020
The Women's March was a worldwide protest on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Donald Trump
The Wom­en’s March was a world­wide protest on Jan­u­ary 21, 2017, the day after the inau­gu­ra­tion of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.


Colum­nist Maryam Zar argues that women will define the bat­tle for the soul of the Unit­ed States, at a time when con­ser­v­a­tive vs. lib­er­al val­ues lit­er­al­ly mean the dif­fer­ence between life and death. If the lat­ter pre­vail it would mean that the U.S. is final­ly in the real game—think of what women lead­ers are accom­plish­ing else­where, for exam­ple New Zealand’s Jacin­da Ardern tak­ing charge of the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, with only 25 deaths in N. Zed as of Octo­ber 15, 2020, or the accom­plish­ments of women lead­ers such as San­na Marin of Fin­land, Angela Merkel of Ger­many and Tsai Ing-wen of Tai­wan. The US is still in the 1950s as far as this goes, and Kamala Har­ris as vice pres­i­dent, and poten­tial­ly Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, could sig­nal a sea change, at long last. —TMR


Maryam Zar


The nom­i­na­tion of a con­ser­v­a­tive fed­er­al judge for the Supreme Court seat vacat­ed by Ruth Bad­er Gins­berg, and the ensu­ing nom­i­na­tion hear­ing on a Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate floor, with the his­toric vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date on the Demo­c­ra­t­ic tick­et, Kamala Har­ris, as a sit­ting sen­a­tor, brings into sharp focus the Trump lega­cy on women and their place in our 21st cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can society.

From the first days of its tenure, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion drew a line in the sand for women. Fol­low­ing his inau­gu­ra­tion in Jan­u­ary 2017, women took to the streets of major cities in record num­bers to protest the insis­tence that their rights were inher­ent­ly less wor­thy of pro­tec­tion.  In Amer­i­ca, this protest against a clear and present threat to hard won rights had its nexus in the right to privacy—as cod­i­fied in Roe v. Wade. This was the land­mark Supreme Court case in 1973 that grant­ed Amer­i­can women the lim­it­ed right to ter­mi­nate an unwant­ed preg­nan­cy, under their 14th Amend­ment right to pri­va­cy.  It gave women the ele­men­tal pre­rog­a­tive to con­trol how they pro­cre­ate. The court con­sid­ered pre­vail­ing reli­gious and moral views in the polit­i­cal dis­course of the time, but decid­ed they were not applic­a­ble to the judi­cial sphere. Fast for­ward 40 years, and we are still unset­tled about the foot­print of reli­gious dog­ma, as applied to the pol­i­tics of women.

If women get paid 65 cents to the dol­lar, it is root­ed in the con­ser­v­a­tive belief that they are less respon­si­ble for the costs of liv­ing; if women have less con­trol over the base­line pur­pose of their bod­ies, it is because con­ser­v­a­tives believe they are ves­sels for pro­cre­ation; if women ask for child­care to help advance their careers, they are told by con­ser­v­a­tives that they are uncar­ing or inca­pable; if women are vio­lat­ed or sex­u­al­ly assault­ed, they are exco­ri­at­ed for dress­ing inap­pro­pri­ate­ly or invit­ing the vio­la­tion – and ulti­mate­ly told by con­ser­v­a­tives to endure it. For all these rea­sons and more, near­ly four years ago at the onset of a Don­ald Trump pres­i­den­cy, women took to the streets with pussy hats and signs of protest. Some saw those hats an emblem of empow­er­ment. Some saw them as sym­bol­ic of a mockery. 

In the Sen­ate cham­bers this week where Amy Coney Bar­rett, a moth­er of sev­en, sat to be judged by 100 men and women with ide­olo­gies that spanned the polit­i­cal spec­trum, she was grilled most poignant­ly by anoth­er woman—a lawyer and pros­e­cu­tor herself—with no chil­dren, on the cusp of mak­ing Amer­i­can his­to­ry as the first black and the first woman vice pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States. This moment defines us as a nation. This moment where a con­ser­v­a­tive judge being sur­rep­ti­tious­ly con­firmed for a life­time appoint­ment to the high­est court of the land faces off against a chal­lenger who rep­re­sents the nation­al march toward a more pro­gres­sive soci­ety marked by a diver­si­ty of voic­es in the pub­lic dis­course, rep­re­sents the bat­tle for the soul of Amer­i­ca.  The war of ide­ol­o­gy between them is the bat­tle between lib­er­al­ism and con­ser­vatism, and the out­come will define the role of mod­ern Amer­i­ca in the social rev­o­lu­tion of our time.

The mes­sage of intol­er­ance pro­pound­ed by Don­ald Trump and car­ried out by his appointees has crys­tal­lized over four years to define an ide­ol­o­gy that rejects progress and begs for same­ness. It was the counter-reac­tion to the elec­tion and pres­i­den­cy of Barak Obama—a Black pro­gres­sive pres­i­dent who believed that the diver­si­ty of this nation was its great­est strength.  He pushed the nation toward a more inclu­sive agen­da, he appoint­ed the first Lati­na and the first Jew­ish woman to the Supreme court, he appoint­ed the first black man as Attor­ney Gen­er­al of the Unit­ed States, he spoke about peace to Mus­lim stu­dents in Cairo, and bowed in def­er­ence to Japan’s Emper­or in Tokyo. He brought Amer­i­cans into the Paris Cli­mate Accords, forged a ten­ta­tive plan of action with the Ira­ni­ans and pressed the Israelis for a less aggres­sive pos­ture in the Mid­dle East.  No part of this bod­ed well in white suprema­cist cir­cles, where jobs and oppor­tu­ni­ty were dwin­dling and the cul­prits were diver­si­ty and inclu­sion. The instinct to rail against change was already brew­ing before Don­ald Trump clinched an elec­toral vic­to­ry. His inau­gu­ra­tion gave a bold green light for this oth­er­wise latent move­ment brew­ing beneath the sur­face, to brim to the fore.

Days before an elec­tion where mil­lions of Amer­i­cans have already vot­ed, we see con­ser­vatism mak­ing one last stand as a polit­i­cal major­i­ty, with a female nom­i­nee deliv­er­ing the con­ces­sion­ary words of a sea­soned politi­cian, promis­ing no pre­con­ceived out­comes as she pre­pares to take a judi­cial oath that allows her to impact the course of our col­lec­tive future.  Ques­tion­ing her from the dais is the voice of a new generation—a black woman with the pow­er to clinch a perch that can final­ly chal­lenge same­ness and set us on a course to a more fun­da­men­tal­ly inclu­sive soci­ety, for gen­er­a­tions to come.

This is the bat­tle of our time, and it will be fought intel­lec­tu­al­ly, by women.


human rightsJacinda ArdernSupreme Courtwomen leaderswomen's rights

Writer-attorney Maryam Zar was born in Iran and came to the US in 1979. She graduated from Boston University with a BS in Mass Communication and a JD from Pepperdine Law School. In 1992 she returned to Iran where she became an advertising executive as well as a correspondent at a time when the nation was troubled by the neighboring conflict in Iraq. She made her mark as a fiercely capable woman in a patriarchal land, and was named editor for the English-language newspaper Iran News. Returning to southern California, in 2010 she launched Womenfound, an organization that would raise awareness for the plight of women around the world and advocate for their empowerment. In 2017, she was appointed to the LA City Commission on the Status of Women by Mayor Eric Garcetti, and presently chairs the Westside Regional Alliance of Councils (an alliance of 14 Neighborhood and Community Councils on LA’s Westside). She has written for HuffPost, the LA Review of Books and other publications.