….here’s my op-ed as it appeared in the newspaper today. Underneath it, I’m going to attach a reader’s reply (without the writer’s name) that proves, I think, how far we still have to go. Read the reply to the tune of “Hurt Feelings” by the Flight of the Conchords…
This past Tuesday was Women’s Equality Day, an annual celebration of the women and men who advocated for universal suffrage and women’s rights. In America, that journey to suffrage was long and hard-fought by women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Their story of persevering against convention and social acceptance is inspiring – and sad. Neither woman lived long enough to see the passage of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, though in their lifetime they did see women being admitted to co-ed colleges and joining the ranks of professional workers in growing numbers.
In a letter to Stanton on Stanton’s 87th birthday, Anthony wrote, “We little dreamed when we began this contest, optimistic with hope and buoyancy of youth, that half a century later we would be compelled to leave the finish of the battle to another generation of women. But our hearts are filled with joy to know that they enter upon this task equipped with a college education, with business experience, with the fully admitted right to speak in public – all of which were denied to women fifty years ago. They have practically but one point to gain – the suffrage; we had all. These strong, courageous, capable young women will take our place and complete our work. There is an army of them where we were but a handful. Ancient prejudice has become so softened, public sentiment so liberalized and women have so thoroughly demonstrated their ability as to leave not a shadow of doubt they will carry our cause to victory.”
The first time I ever heard the words suffrage and suffragette was 50 years ago, when I was 8 years old in Charleston, South Carolina. That was the year Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins” came out. Back in those days before DVDs and Netflix, if you wanted to see a movie, you went to the theater, and once the movie left the theater, you probably never saw it again. That meant that when I was a kid, we went to see the same movie multiple times during the few weeks that it played in our local theater.
It might have been about the third or fourth time that I sat through Mary Poppins that it dawned on me that I didn’t know what a suffragette was. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it chiefly concerns the adventures and misadventures of a sister and brother, Jane and Michael Banks, and their nanny, Mary Poppins. The Banks children need a nanny because their father works fulltime as a banker and their mother is a committed suffragette who spends her days handing out fliers and chaining herself to the mayor’s front gate.
The movie is set sometime around the turn of the 20th century, but to my childish eyes, women not having the right to vote was ancient history –even prehistoric. Ironically, as I sat in the theater watching Mrs. Banks sing “our daughters’ daughters will adore us and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, well done, sister suffragette,” I was sitting in South Carolina, a state that had not yet ratified the 19th Amendment. That was the year I started third grade, and not until I was a junior in high school was South Carolina’s vote finally certified.
Since then, key legislation has changed the landscape of American life and impacted the lives of women and girls in particular. For example, in 1978 employers were barred by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act from discriminating against applicants or workers because of pregnancy. Title 9 of the Education Amendments bans sex discrimination in schools and has been the impetus behind an explosion in girls’ sports. The 1994 Violence Against Women Act stiffened the federal penalties for sex offenders and funded services for survivors of domestic violence and rape.
Yet we still have a long way to go to fully realize the vision of equality that drove the suffragettes. Although women make up half the workforce, they make less money than men. Girls’ sports are rarely funded and supported to the extent that boys’ sports are. Survivors of rape and domestic violence are blamed for their attackers’ motives and actions. And the list goes on too long.
Equality isn’t sameness, and denying the fact that even in 2014 women face challenges and hurdles peculiar to them is not how you level the playing field.
Instead, we need to make sure that we elect people who listen to women’s concerns – from pay disparity to campus safety – and who work to find real and lasting solutions that not only benefit women but make our society stronger and more just.
"Your article is stereotypical in at least two ways. It references rights and not responsibilities and makes a worn out complaint that whatever progress women have made, it is not enough (nor will it ever be). I take exception. The entire modern feminist movement is about the empowerment of women at the expense of men. Superiority, not equality. In perhaps their biggest triumph — “suffrage”, women have since determined the outcome of all but two presidential elections. Equal? NO.
Women under the guise of equal rights and equal pay, have garnered superior rights and in many cases superior pay. I define the latter as either more money for the same quality and quantity of work and responsibility, or equal pay for less of either. Benefits are gender biased toward women. Birth control, pregnancy, maternity and child care are exclusive for women. Neither prevention of nor pregnancy itself is a disease. Why should anyone pay for other’s health care, especially for women’s personal choices, they are so fond of? (Dangling participle for emphasis).
Women have authored “No fault” divorce, empowering them to leave marriage for any reason that comes to mind, and at quite a profit. Women are almost always “automatically” awarded half of the man’s net worth, the house, children, alimony (although becoming less prevalent) and child care. She is entitled to live in the “style to which she is accustomed”, regardless of the impact to her ex-husband/partner. Nothing equal here.
Women, in what legal scholars agree is the worst legal ruling in US history, have won the exclusive right to kill an unborn child, without any say from her partner, or any legal consequences. And with tax payers footing the bill! Whereas, if she were in the parking lot of an abortion clinic, and someone were to kills her unborn only minutes before she does, that person would be prosecuted for murder. Where is the equality in this situation? Nowhere to be found. By the way, the legal opinion has nothing to do with women’s rights, and everything to do with legal principles.
In fighting for more rights and power, the National Organization for Women, carefully and craftily withheld their assault on the military, until then president Nixon ended conscripted military service. Once clear of serving equally at all levels, women demanded admittance to the academies in order to command men into the very combat from which they were excused. Only recently, have women started to serve in roles with any risk. They do this not to be equal, but to receive combat pay and the field experience required for advancement. To this day, not one woman has ever served conscripted military service, yet many have headed Selective Service Boards and sent millions of men to their deaths. Some even targeted those of us who went to “better” schools than their sons and made sure we were drafted into the Marine Corp and/or assigned to Vietnam. Yet, despite this overt gender discrimination, women advanced into positions of power all the while, avoiding harm. Equal? Hardly.
Women have shoved men aside with Title IX (v. 9), and now have favored education and teams with disproportionately small attendance and interest. Women out number men in the professional graduate schools more than 2:1. Men’s wrestling programs have been sacrificed to make room in the budget for women’s tennis. The US is no longer a viable contender at the Olympic level in that sport, as a result. The University of Arizona, eliminated its wrestling program, to fund a women’s rowing team. In Arizona. They recruited women who had never been interested in or participated in any sport, ever, certainly not at the varsity level in particular, and gave them full ride scholarships, just to comply with Title- IX. In contrast, the men whom they displaced, had been on the mat since early childhood. Equal, I don’t think so.
These are but a few of the ways women have gained rights disproportionate to their knowledge, responsibility, experience and sacrifice equal to the price paid by their male counter parts. Women often have positions solely because of affirmative action programs, rather than by merit, and the results show the folly of such programs. Just look at the conduct of women in positions of power and one can see example after example of rampant inexperience, misbehavior, pre-mature departure and/or failure. Hillary (Sec of State, Benghazi), Chelsea ($600,000.00 starting salary at NBC, quit after 3 years), Lois (illegal investigations and hidden emails at IRS), Charlene Lagarde (negligence at IMF), Sara Palin (mayor to Gov to VP candidate, in how many months?), head of the totally over-reaching EPA, ex head of Winthrop College, fired after eleven months on the job…So, I too look forward to equality, in all that it encompasses. Until then, quit your whining. At least you are paid to write.”