There are four kinds of women in my life. And, if they’re not inclined to give up everything they’ve achieved over the past four decades, they’d better get off their comfortable duffs because the hard-right wingers are determined to have women back in the kitchen, barefoot, pregnant, ignorant, uneducated and beaten into submission dare we protest.
Think I’m being hysterical? You know what, I don’t give a rats’ backside if you do. Because I lived those days. I. Am. Not. Going. Back.
I know what it was like to be told I could not do something because I was a girl. To “sit out” physical education classes once a month because it was “MP” time. To be told to get my husband’s signature on a doctor’s orders. To be told the credit card would be in his name, not mine.
To be pregnant and scared witless because the only solution was a back alley and a butcher. To be hit and punched and pushed and have no where to go because “everyone” knew husbands could do whatever they wanted to their wives, and, anyway, she asked for it, right? Uppity, mouthy woman.
Those were the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. Women could vote — finally — and they began using those votes and the resulting power to change their lives. The media called it the Sexual Revolution, but those years were less about the sex and more about women recognizing that they mattered. They counted. They had the same — exactly the same — rights as men and they expected the same opportunities. It wasn’t about burning bras; it was about emerging as a whole person.
And, so we passed Title IX to ensure girls got the same access to sports as boys. We passed EEO laws to ensure we had equal access to employment. We passed laws, and laws, and more laws to ensure women were included in that fundamental Constitutional guarantee that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
Bluntly, it has taken the legal hammer to insist that women are included. Without the laws FOR women, there would be only a Constitutional guarantee for men, preferably white men, since, of course, at the time of its writing, black men and women (black and white) were not people; they were property. It took laws and a war to even get us close to fixing that sin.
Having been granted almost full person-hood status, women have had it pretty good over the past 40 years. We have, as that old TV ad said, “come a long way, baby.” So far that two generations of women can take these law-granted equalities for granted.
And, that’s where the four kinds of women come into play.
Kind One is the woman who came of adulthood in or before the 1950s and ’60s. She probably isn’t all that bothered by today’s threats to her person-hood — until she recognizes the impact on her daughters, granddaughters and great-granddaughters. Grandma, you’ve got to do one more fight. Refuse to support any candidate, religion, party or philosophy that wants to make your great-granddaughter a second class citizen.
Kind Two is the woman of the 1970s and ’80s, who didn’t fight the fight, didn’t think she needed to, was comfortable inside the status quo — and probably disliked and was threatened by the brazen hussies of the feminist movement. To her, I say: Sister, you reap the benefits of my brazenness, and so do your daughters. You’re seeing those daughters and now granddaughters achieve some amazing things. You likely adore those conservative ideas and talk shows and your heart believes in the “traditional” way, but if you want your daughter to have her choices, you’re going to have to hold your nose and, for once, stick with me.
Kind Three is the woman of the 1970s and ’80s (and ’90s and ’00s) who loved and fought the fight and figured it was done. That’s I and many of the boomer women I know. We fought the fight. We thought it was won. We left the field only to turn around and find it filled with those who would send us back. Come on, ladies, we have to get it on again. We will, however, wear our bras this time, gravity being what it is and all.
Kind Four is the woman of the 1980s, ’90s and ’00s who has been able to take it all for granted. God bless you; this is what I wanted for you. Complacency that this is the way it is supposed to be. Yours has been a path smoothed and straightened by other women. You’ve been able to choose your health, your education, your life, your spouse and partner, your career. Well, guess what, sweet ones? Either you start making some noise or it’s all going to be gone in the stroke of a politician’s pen.
What to do? Pick and choose, but do at least one and number six is my personal favorite: (1) write a letter to the editor; (2) post a comment; (3) write/post to your Congressional representatives; (4) refuse to support with your finances or your vote political candidates who refuse to support women’s rights — and that means speaking out against the crazies. Don’t accept the gentle rebukes; (5) tell your pastor and priest that women count; (6) make women’s rights your personal “litmus test” when you make hiring, purchasing or voting decisions; (7) actively get out there to support candidates, projects, organizations and services that promote and protect women, such as local domestic violence shelters, day care and elder care services, women and children’s health care clinics.
Whatever you do, please, do not be silent. This is not a time for whispers and gently nodding heads.
Today’s anti-woman rhetoric, cloaked in smug, patriarchal platitudes is the opening salvos of a massive war on women. If successful, it will take away more than 40 years of equality for women.
Because it’s always been OK to beat up on women. Always. Even when it’s not OK to beat up on blacks, or gays, or fat people, or dogs. It’s always been OK to beat up on women.