I’ve heard these words often over the years of being involved in politics. The first time I heard it was the day after my first visit to the Capitol. I was talking to my dad about the crazy things some of the legislators had said and how I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “Don’t take it personally,” he said.
But shouldn’t I?
In politics, it’s easy to feel like nothing we do is going to matter much. What’s the point, then? Why even bother to become informed, speak up or vote? I used to feel that way, but then I watched a group of dedicated people, mostly women, change an outdated, unwanted law that made midwives in Missouri FELONS. This was a law that people had been trying to change for over twenty years; a law they were told they would never change. Getting involved with that changed my life, changed my views on politics and convinced me that I should take it personally.
I nearly wrecked my car when I saw this. Small government? Individual liberties? Was this the same person I’d encountered at the Capitol? The same person who offered his own midwifery bill, directly in opposition to the wishes of his constituents? I’ve been driving by signs like these all over town and every time, I feel a ping in my stomach. It is personal, and let me tell you why:
*In a committee hearing to license Certified Professional Midwives, I heard my legislator sarcastically ask the bill sponsor if he wanted to “license lay general surgeons” in addition to the “lay” midwives he was trying to license. (Click here for my rant on the term “lay” midwife)
*He continued by asking if the sponsor believed that the “reservoir of definitive knowledge” about childbirth was stored in the medical field and that “OBs are leaders in the field” of birth.
*After the hearing, he stood surrounded in a group of many women and one man. These women had rearranged schedules, left their children, drove hours to be there and worked long on the bill that was heard. There were midwives, doctors, mothers; the people directly affected by these bills. My legislator looked at these strong, powerful women and turned to the only man in the group, another legislator. “Thank you for bringing this to the table and getting this conversation started,” he said to the man, and only to the man.
This is just a smattering of the most recent interchanges involving the legislator from my district. The list is long and it goes back to 2011, when he actively lobbied against his own constituents. So, I hope you’ll understand, Mr. Legislator, that I do take it personally. I take it personally as a voter, as a tax-paying citizen who expects my elected official (whose salary I contribute to and who makes more than my husband for a much shorter work year) to do the job correctly. I take it personally as a woman who has been patted on the head and sent back to the kitchen, who has been repeatedly ignored or openly patronized. As a mother, as a parent, who has been told that my opinion counts for nothing in regards to my child. As an educated birth professional who has listened to women recount stories upon stories of the abuses, both physical and emotional, heaped upon them by the “leaders” in the field of birth. Most importantly of all, I take it personally, very personally, to drive by giant signs every day that are lying to me and everyone in my district.
But, that’s just what I’ve seen and heard, don’t take it personally.