FROM THE ROAR TO THE STENCH: IN PRAISE OF JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR
The Women’s March on Washington transformed America’s women. After January 21, 2017, women ran for office, launched non-profits, and raised their voices like never before. Thousands of women had descended on the nation’s capital, arriving by plane, by bus, by car, by motorcycle, by skateboard, by foot. They were wearing sneakers and sandals, Crocs and Doc Martens, Army boots and orthopedic shoes. They carried backpacks and fanny packs, cell phones and water bottles, even babies in slings. They had heard a newly inaugurated President proclaim that he could grab women by the genitals, insult their face and weight, and stalk a respected Presidential opponent from a debate stage, disparaging her as a “nasty woman” in front of the entire country.
They were mad as hell, and they weren’t going to take it anymore.
“I am woman,” they shouted. “Hear me roar.”
And roar they did.
But the energy generated by the roar is under attack. Not by missiles or tanks. But by a stench.
A stench is different from its cousins, the stink and the fume. A stench is more than the momentary stink of a dirty diaper or the passing of gas. It spews longer than the fleeting fumes from a fleeing skunk or the escaping exhaust from an 18-wheeler. After all, a stink may be temporary, fumes may be dispersed, but a stench permeates. It floods our nostrils. It leaches into our lungs. It is longstanding and inescapable. The women who produced the roar that became a wave now know that something continues to stink to high heaven, something that has sunk deep into the pores of the body politic. The roar has become a stench.
Nobody can detect a stench better than a woman. At home, their lives revolve around scrubbing toilets and emptying litter boxes. They potty train the toddler and clean up after the hurling dog. They know when the eggs in the refrigerator have reached their expiration date or when the milk is starting to sour. They live with things that make you go eewwww.
At work, women also know when things stink to high heaven. When a veteran thinks the prosthetist who makes his artificial knee must also tolerate his advances. When a female Teacher-of-the-Year is replaced by a man who can coach basketball. When women become pillars of a church that ignores their leadership.
But women are also good at detecting stenches in the body politic.
They’ve been catching whiffs of that kind of stench for decades. After all, the Equal Rights Amendment, written in 1923, fell three states short of ratification in 1982. It was dead after a long terminal illness; it’s been decomposing ever since.
Women know that the body politic stinks when a Presidential candidate can be called a “nasty woman.” Or when a Presidential office seeker says he can grab women by their private parts. Or when “lock her up” becomes the mantra du jour. As women lifted their heads and sniffed the air in 2017, they recognized the miasma that was suffocating them. Something, they realized, was rotten in the state of America.
So they marched. They roared. They persisted.
And then came Texas.
Empowered by The March that promised some gulps of fresh air, we women were soon sniffing out the new stenchy vapors. White men in the state of Texas passed laws reminding us that we could no longer claim our bodies as our own. Without equal representation in their Congress, they declared that our bodies must bear the children that their bodies had impregnated. Even if by rape or incest. They decided that our neighbors could be weaponized against us, serving as secret police, wreaking vigilante justice that imposed back-breaking fines for the slightest transgression. And the United States Supreme Court stood by. Not even holding their noses.
Except for one.
That one had sniffed the political air and found it deadly. Like a bloodhound, she had run it to ground, naming it for what it was: a stench. Justice Sonia Sotomayor raised a question that not just rivaled but surpassed the twisted tenets of a petty president. “Will this institution,” she asked, “survive the stench… in the public perception that the Constitution and its reading are just political acts?”
In the recent Dobbs v. Women’s Health Organization, the answer is clearly “NO.”
Like Isaiah from the Old Testament, whose prophecies were confirmed by the writers of the future Gospels, Justice Sotomayor’s words were not just a question: they were an invitation.
The Justice had issued a call-to-arms for the women of America. Once again, we would have to demand our brethren, the ones in the pick-up trucks, in the executive suites, and in the black robes, to take their feet off our necks.
Across the decades, we women have had to learn to fight back. If we want the vote. If we want equal pay. If we want control of our own bodies. We will have to throw off the gingham aprons and stiletto heels and don our Rose the Riveter kerchiefs and pussyhats once again. We will have to re-learn the truism that “Asking Doesn’t Work.”
Yes, Justice Sotomayor. We accept your invitation of your question. We must roar and roar and roar again. And our rallying cry will not be “Stop the Steal,” but “Stop the Stench.”
Trudy Krisher is an award-winning writer from Ohio. Her latest novel is ON THE MARCH: A NOVEL OF THE WOMEN’S MARCH ON WASHINGTON (available from Amazon and Ingram). You can learn more about her at her website: https://www.trudykrisher.com or on Facebook (trudykrisherauthor.com).