Their Silence Cried Out for Women’s Rights
By SHELLY STECK REALE, Correspondent, TB Reporter
Scarlet-clad women marched silently in downtown St. Petersburg to help defeat sexism.
ST. PETERSBURG – Fiction came to life on this city’s streets Wednesday (Aug. 30) when dozens of women donned scarlet capes and white bonnets before marching along downtown sidewalks.
Unlike other protest marches in recent months, these women were silent. No words. No chants. No responses to questions. No looking from side to side.
“There is a little bit of mystery surrounding this; that’s with purpose,” Amy Weintraub said. “Our hope is to get people talking.”
Weintraub is the event coordinator for the Reproductive Rights Action Group of the League of Women Voters of the St. Petersburg area. The Action Group and Floridians Against Corruption and Treason partnered for the St. Petersburg march. It was part of a national campaign by the woman’s rights group UltraViolet, which was founded five years ago to “fight sexism and create a more inclusive world that accurately represents all women, from politics and government to media and pop culture,” according to the group’s website.
The campaign, called the Handmaids’ Resistance, is a play on the 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale by Margret Attwood. The Handmaid’s Tale tells the story of a dystopian society where women have been stripped of their autonomy and relegated to limited roles. The state dictates the reproductive rights of the “handmaids” who are seen as little more than reproductive vessels for the wealthy and powerful. Handmaids are forced to wear red robes with white headpieces.
“When we see anti-female policies being proposed, when we see misogynistic rhetoric coming from Washington, it makes us worried. We don’t want to have the kind of loss of rights that those women have in that novel,” Weintraub said.
Comparisons between Attwood’s literary work and the current political climate has turned the iconic scarlet cape and white bonnet into an emblem of women’s solidarity, in much same way as the pink knitted, cat-eared hats worn during the Women’s March. Women wearing the outfits have shown up at State House hearings in Ohio, the Legislative Office Building in New Hampshire, the state capital in Texas, and outside the White House in Washington, DC.
Here in St. Petersburg on Wednesday, 50 scarlet-clad women began their march at the St. Petersburg Judicial Building, 545 First Ave. N. Then the group broke into two smaller groups who walked downtown streets for about an hour in the 90-plus degree heat. They walked quietly, their posture meant to convey oppression.
St. Petersburg resident Gabriel Da Cunha, 32, watched as they passed, at first looking perplexed. Once another bystander explained, he walked alongside them to click a few selfies.
“I completely support them,” he said. “I don’t think there should be 40 crusty old men deciding what women can or can’t do with their bodies. That’s just kind of outrageous.”
Other bystanders were not as supportive.
“Baby killers,” one middle-aged man called out. He, too, walked alongside them. He took pictures and shouted out abuse and graphic descriptions of abortions.
“I hope you’re happy. You all deserve to die,” he said.
The women never looked up. Never spoke in defense. Never spoke at all. His was the lone voice.
Farah Stokes, 63, traveled from Tampa to participate in the event.
“I’m old enough to remember what it was like before Roe v. Wade,” Stokes said “It was terrible. We couldn’t even get birth control. Even after Roe v Wade, it took a while before women felt like they were free to live as men always have.”
Photos by Shelly Steck Reale, TB Reporter Correspondent
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