Why aren’t we outraged? Why aren’t women storming the capitol building? The Supreme Court? Why aren’t more women running for and being elected to office?
The fight for equality for women has been going on for much longer than anyone can imagine. Movements for voting rights began in the US as far back as the early 1800s. In fact, that icon of the seventies, the Equal Rights Amendment, was first introduced in 1923. It has never been ratified, and the fight for ratification which achieved fever-pitch in the 1970s has been set aside for other matters.
So I say again, why aren’t we outraged?
Back in the early part of the 20th century women were jailed, beaten, publicly scorned and humiliated, raped and even killed for daring to demand the right to vote. Once they achieved the right, they celebrated and quietly resumed their lives. World War II did plenty to support a woman’s right to work outside the home, by necessity. Men were overseas fighting a war. Somebody had to keep the homeland running. And run, it did. But men returned home and women returned to hearth and home. Some women seized that opportunity to pursue careers, but mostly careers of a “womanly” nature. Teaching, nursing, secretaries… It was likely during World War II that it was discovered that the nature of women could be exploited. The women taking on those “manly” jobs were paid much less than the men that abandoned them for a military life. Women took on factory work, mining, labor, and companies made big profits, elevating themselves out of the depression.
The ideal woman of the 1950s was a housedress and pearl wearing supermom that cooked hot meals for her family every night by six, met the kids at the door with cookies and milk after school and sent her husband out the door each morning with a home -made lunch and a kiss. Oh wait, that was TV. The reality was that many women in the fifties were single moms trying to raise their families on a fraction of what a man would make. Or they were women that had a career during World War II, only to be fired when the men returned from war, so their job could be given to a veteran. Oh, and they were made to feel like it was their patriotic duty to resume unemployment for the cause.
Why aren’t we outraged?
During the liberal sixties women became sexually liberated by birth control pills. They started demanding careers instead of children; demanding equal status as breadwinners.
In the 1970s the cry for equality became a roar. Women were working in numbers never seen before. Being a “housewife” was scorned and ridiculed. Sexual freedom was touted as liberation. Women wanted it all; family, home, career. And yet, the Equal Rights Amendment was denied ratification.
The eighties came with a new conservatism. Women were welcome in the workplace, but there was a glass ceiling for promotion that they seemed unable to overcome. And they continued to make less than men. “Housewife” became “stay-at-home mother” claiming to reclaim a woman’s right to motherhood as a career. In the meantime, the two working parent family was quickly becoming the norm, and the economy adjusted itself appropriately. Staying home was no longer a choice for most mothers. It became necessary for two incomes to support the lifestyle that was now considered normal. Back in the fifties, kids shared bedrooms with one or more siblings, the family had one car, and all shared one bathroom. In the eighties houses became larger and larger. Every child had, no, DESERVED, their own bedroom. Sharing a bathroom with your children was unacceptable. Having a living room, reserved for entertaining guests, and a family room for the kids and the TV was deemed necessary. Every eligible driver had a car, including the teenagers. It took every bit of two incomes to provide that lifestyle. And yet, women still worked for less pay.
The sexual freedom allowed by birth control pills began to take its toll in the nineties. Teen pregnancy rates soared. Both parents are working and nobody is home with the teenagers. Unsupervised, raised on MTV, the loud voice of sexual freedom is heard clearly, but there is no voice touting the responsibility of birth control, or self-control. Divorce rates soar. Single motherhood is quickly overtaking traditional couples. Women are working harder than ever. Colleges are graduating more women than men. And having a father for your children is becoming irrelevant. And yet women still worked harder for less pay.
The 21st century dawned a whole new era of technology and technology based career opportunities. There’s more and more “political correctness” demanded. Racial slurs, epithets and sexually charged talk is very gauche. And as a backlash to that, talk radio becomes a national sensation. Spewing hate and bigotry over the airwaves may have started as “entertainment”, but now has become “news” for many.
And now women not only work for less pay, they are called sluts and whores for using birth control, denied access to healthcare providers, ridiculed in ways that even in the misogynistic fifties would have been considered outrageous.
Why aren’t we outraged? Are we tired? Weary of the battle? Apathetic? Do our young daughters not even understand the fight? Have we neglected to tell them? Ladies…. Your great grandmothers were BEATEN, INCARCERATED, and KILLED for the right to vote. Get outraged! Use your voice, your vote, your pen. Nearly one hundred years has passed since the Equal Rights Amendment was drafted. We must be jarred out of complacency and on the memory of those original suffragettes DEMAND equal pay. DEMAND to be treated with due respect. DEMAND that we be given the same consideration that men of all races, all ages, straight, gay, in the closet have been given. It is long past time that the conversation about equality is validated.