Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Plus Ca Change

Yesterday's post about the Hobby Lobby case has had me thinking about the "woman question" and how gains in human rights don't simply flow in one direction. These are power relationships, after all, and getting dominant groups to release their grip on power is rarely easy.  I think this is especially so when those power relationships exist in both public and private spheres, touching on all the most fundamental aspects of life - family, work, leisure time, sex, you name it.

Before the 2012 election, one of the get-out-the-vote activities I participated in involved groups of women getting together and hand-writing post cards to other Democratic women in the state who had voted in the last presidential election, but had sat out the mid-terms. The idea was to try to re-engage these voters and get them back to the polls.  At one of these meetings, I was the only woman under the age of 60, and it was fascinating (and horrifying) to listen to these women talk about what their lives were like and the extra burdens they carried as women in America.

They couldn't get credit cards or loans without a man co-signing for them; classifieds were divided into women's jobs and men's jobs (guess which paid more); sexual harassment in the workplace was something expected, and you just did your best to deflect it however you could; sex was an often terrifying experience because of the risk of an unwanted pregnancy; and on, and on, and on. I knew about these things on an intellectual level, but hearing these women share their stories, and hearing how angry these grandmothers were that they were having to re-fight these battles they thought were already won really struck me.

Sure, we've come a long way since the days women weren't allowed to wear pants on college campuses, but it is depressing how far we still have to go.  You would think equal pay for equal work would be a no-brainer at this point. But it is not.  You would think access to birth control would be settled; You'd be wrong. You would think the notion that women are some lesser order of being should be long gone. Think again.

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