Roger is editor and founder of Artemis Journal.
Our president has finally accomplished what he promised to do and has signed a law to trim federal aid to Planned Parenthood. This follows the historic Women’s March earlier this year. President Trump has chosen to ignore millions of women and men who stand for the freedom of choice of reproductive rights for women. This type of attack on Planned Parenthood puts women at risk, especially those that are under-served in rural communities by making it harder for women to have wellness and health services.
I often wonder who are the women and men who voted for the president. Who are those voters who choose to believe that the status of women is safe, did not march or do not identify with our cause? The Women’s March last January by millions ignited the recognition that women’s rights are human rights. We are all better off; our families, our communities, our businesses, our education and our health thrive with equal rights. In the world scale, the United States ranks 45th for women’s equality, behind Cuba, Philippines, Jamaica and Rwanda.
Yes, I marched in the Women’s March in my hometown of Floyd along with millions of other women and men around our country and the world. I marched because I believe our equality as women is an illusion and in grave peril of disappearing with our current president. It is time to open our eyes to the fact that we women are not equal.
In 1976 I was director of a Women’s Center at the Roanoke YWCA, which was co-sponsored by TAP (Total Action Against Poverty). Bristol Hardin, then the director of TAP, convinced me that my interest in art and social issues could be entwined. In order to entice me to take the job, TAP awarded a grant for me to do a photographic study of women along with opening the Women’s Center. It was an offer I could not refuse and I set out to photograph women while operating the center. After one year, the photographs resulted in a one-woman show titled “Season of Women.”
During this time, inspired by the talented women I met while photographing, I asked them to volunteer to teach writing workshops for the abused women clients at the center. Introducing writing as therapy I witnessed a remarkable healing transformation with the abused women. Finding their voice with writing assignments, I then decided to create a publication for the women showcasing their writing. For the first three years, 1976-1979, Artemis was a feminist journal and then enlarged its scope to include men, as contributors and board members.
Celebrating our 40th anniversary this year, Artemis still carries the torch for equality giving a voice to the artists and writers who share in these ideals of equality. Artemis, namesake of our journal and goddess of light, had the divine duty of illuminating the darkness. Often she is depicted carrying a candle or torch, lighting the way for others and leading them through territories yet uncharted. Known as the chaste Greek goddess associated with the moon and hunt, her connection with the natural world symbolized her own un-tamed spirit. She became the patron saint of women, childbirth, protector of wild animals, virgins and the powerless. And she became the patron goddess for our journal Artemis.
In 1976, with my young idealism, I believed it was the “Season of Women” and never thought 40 years later I would be expressing my worries and concerns over our fragile rights as women. So our conversation continues as women come face to face with the real possibilities of losing their health insurance, their freedom of control over their bodies and work-balance issues. Our equality as women is an illusion and the threats to our status are very real. So for those who do not believe in these dangers, I will continue to march and be vigilant for them. Perhaps this year of 2017 will actually be the “Season of Women.”
The launch of Artemis 2017 will be held Friday at the Taubman Museum of Art featuring guest writer, Nikki Giovanni. For more information, see www.artemisjournal.org