US National Park Service Betrays Women
By a historian (all photos taken by the author). This article is being published on July 20, 2023, the 175th anniversary of the First Convention for Women's Rights in Seneca Falls, NY, USA.
For many years I’ve driven along Interstate 90 in upstate New York and passed the sign for the village of Seneca Falls, the birthplace of American women’s suffrage and home of the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, run by the US National Park Service. Finally, this summer, I had the opportunity to visit the park, which is essentially a small museum made up of Wesleyan Chapel and the adjacent Visitor Center (as well as a few other buildings in and near Seneca Falls). In the end, I was extremely disappointed by what I found there—a venerable part of the Department of the Interior has been infiltrated by pseudoscientific ideology.
Initially, shivers ran through my spine as I passed this corner marking the site of the first convention for women’s rights, held in 1848:
I then entered Wesleyan Chapel, a place renowned in the 19th century for promoting free (and unpopular) speech. It felt like a hallowed place, where the convention was held on July 19 and 20, 1848.
In the church itself, I could almost feel the presence of luminaries such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Frederick Douglass, who all spoke about and signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which states that “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.” It outlines the rights women were denied: to vote, own property, custody of her children upon divorce, equal pay, attend college, and much more —so many things that women and girls nowadays take completely and utterly for granted. Although I’m not particularly religious, I bowed my head in thanks to these brave women and men who fought for the rights of women to be equal to men.
Then I made my way to the adjacent Visitor’s Center. I walked inside and almost fell over from shock to see this flag so prominently displayed.
I was truly stunned. What is this flag doing in the Women’s Rights Museum? What on earth do trans rights have to do with women’s rights? What are we teaching our American girls? That, instead of appreciating the rights they now have as women - rights fought hard for centuries by their forebears - perhaps they can opt out of being women? Or that womanhood is simply a declaration of sentiments (oh the irony)? I thought of my own daughter and her struggles with gender and sexuality. She has identified as non-binary at school (of course they lied to us, but that’s another essay) for about four years and now shows every sign of desistance. Does that flag capture her complicated feelings? No. Does that flag capture her complex lived experience and identity development? Nope. Does that flag acknowledge any internalized homophobia she may be feeling? Definitely not, since transgenderism is sadly now inherently homophobic, denigrating lesbians for being same-sex attracted. It's a slap in the face, in fact, to people like her, let alone me.
I marched up to the two (male) park rangers at the front desk and asked them why they flew this contentious flag, when it was antithetical to women’s rights? The younger ranger, perhaps in his 20s, smirked at me. The older ranger, perhaps in his 60s, looked a little surprised by my questions. He said there was nothing he could do because this was a directive made by the higher ups in management at the National Park Service—they were supposed to be inclusive and emphasize LGBT rights. I said I didn’t want to take anyone’s rights away but rather to balance these competing rights.
Then I stalked off and I wondered what Stanton, Mott, Douglass, Sojourner Truth (who wrote Ain’t I a Woman?) and the others would think about the state of women’s rights today, when we as a society cannot even define what a woman is.
The women of the 19th century were fighting because their rights had been limited due to their biology. Women are women because they have large gametes that create life. Apparently the NPS does not actually seem to understand biology, as further evidenced by this sign about sex at a Washington state national park.
The ability for women to bear children is what defines us as women (whether we exercise that right or not or have the ability or not). It is what reduced our rights historically for literally millennia and what the people at the Seneca Falls convention fought so hard for—and it is sad to note that it took decades more before most (not even all) women had the right to vote, with the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.
And now women’s rights are being rolled back again by males who identify as women. No matter how much surgery and drugs they do and take (and many now don’t), changing sex is not possible. A transwoman will never produce large gametes. That’s just a simple biological fact, there’s nothing hateful about it. That’s why we need to stop chanting indoctrinating mantras such as “transwomen are women!” (so reminiscent of the slogans in Animal Farm by George Orwell: “Two legs bad, four legs good!”)—this is why we need to balance the rights of women and trans people.
Then I thought of fierce abolitionist and woman warrior Harriet Tubman. The museum dedicated to her is just down the road in Auburn, NY. I was disappointed that I could not fit those limited museum hours into my schedule, because I find her truly inspirational. I wondered if I decided to put on some blackface and walk into that museum, what would the tour guides and other visitors think of me? Would they embrace me for wanting to be black? I think we all know the answer to that question. That’s how I felt about seeing the “progressive pride” flag (to me, now sadly one of the most regressive and oppressive symbols around today) at the Women’s Rights National Historical Park.
The Women’s Rights older male park ranger said I should complain to the higher ups at the National Park Service about the flag. So I will. And, if you have the time and inclination, so should you.
To do so, go to their Contact Us page and click “ask questions about our agency” to submit your comments.
Or you can snail mail or call them here:
National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Gay Vietzke, Regional Director
National Park Service
1234 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Women’s Rights specifically:
136 Fall Street
Seneca Falls, NY 13148
When I wrote to the NPS, I actually heard back from the superintendent at the Women's Rights Historical Park (who had pronouns in her bio). She told me the flag was to be inclusive and welcoming to all. We went back and forth a few times, with me saying that the flag actually made me feel excluded and unwelcomed and suggesting that more inclusive options would be to fly no flag of any kind at all or to fly the American flag. She did not respond to this final email of mine.
Before we biological women lose all our rights, it’s time we truly heed the words of Caroline Dall in 1858, as quoted in the header picture above: “If men start with the idea that woman is an inferior being… they will write history in accordance with such views, and, whatever may be the facts, they will be interpreted to suit them.”