When I was born in 1957, society was on the cusp of change, women, particularly in the West, were beginning to shake off traditional roles and demand their place in the offices and the boardroom. I was born in the last cohort of the Boomers, the generation of rebels and idealists. Mine was the generation swept up in the second wave Suffrage, rebranded Feminism and ignited by the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Mine was the generation who wanted more than marriage and a house in the suburbs, who are now struggling at the end of our careers and wondering just what in the hell happened.
My generations coming of age began in 1967, better known as the Summer of Love, it ended with the start of the Reagan years in 1981. During the intervening years we saw many changes in our thinking, our social views and even across the approximately 69,000,000 members of the Boomer Generation still alive, there is a greater divide than in other generational cohorts. Perhaps this is why we struggle so with the loss of all we gained during the great uprising of our youth, the time when we were still fresh, rebellious and idealistic.
It was during this time we pushed for freedom to choose a career and delay marriage and motherhood; we thought we won. We won the right to access contraceptives whether we were married or not (Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965). Through the generosity of a single woman, Katherine Dexter McCormick hormonal birth control was developed by Gregory G. Pincus and finally brought to market as an oral contraceptive in 1960. We saw our right to health privacy and body integrity affirmed (Roe v. Wade, 1973). In 1972, we saw the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), sponsored by Martha Griffiths (D-Michigan) in the House and Sam Irvin (D-N.Carolina) in the Senate, pass with bi-partisan support.
Finally, in 1994, then Senator Joe Biden a legislator of our generation drafted and passed with broad support the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA HR3402, 1994, 2000 and 2005) which until this year has been reauthorized with little opposition. The 112th Congress is still battling to reauthorize VAWA this time, thus far the Senate passed the reauthorization with new provisions reflective of our times while the House in a very partisan vote said ‘Nay’ and is busily rewriting for the third time their offering with reduced funding and of course changed provisions.
Some things you might not know about women both locally and globally:
- Women perform 2/3 of the world’s labor, this includes both paid and unpaid
- Women make up 51% of world’s population and 50.9% of the US population
- Women with children make up 13.1% of our entire national community, or 8.3 million women. Women globally head 83% of households.
- Women account for 2/3 of the world’s illiterate adults.
- Women globally earn only 11% of the world’s income and own <1% of the world’s land and assets. In the United States, on average women earn .77¢ for each dollar earned by a man for the same work.
- Gender based violence kills more women worldwide than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war. It is estimated one in three women will be the victim of gender-based violence between the ages of 15 to 44.
We hear a great deal of rhetoric right now with the political season upon us. A lot of slogans dancing across our screens and men talking big about morals, ethics and the Right American Way as they beat their drums and flap their gums rapidly to keep the money pouring in. There are billionaires buying elections, Churches crying the blues, talking heads spewing hate and idiots making up nonsensical string theories to scare the naïve into cult like head nodding while they chant the names of their favored candidate or platform meme.
One thing I believe as a woman is true, we have looked away too long. There is indeed a war being waged and we are losing. When I asked ‘what the hell happened’, it was a very real question not just about our jobs but our public life, safety and enfranchisement within society. In 1967, we thought we were moving into a new age of freedoms and opportunities. What we have found instead is a scarceness of opportunity as we approach our retirement. We did not achieve equality for ourselves and our daughters’ watch helplessly as what small steps forward we did take is being stripped from them through legislation intended to diminish them and effectively strip them of their freedom.
The 112th Congress has floated the following:
- 61 Abortion bills since they have been in sessions, or should I say Anti-Abortion bills.
- 813 separate pieces of legislation specifically related to health care and insurance, much of which is directly related to the Affordable Health Care of 2009.
What the 112th Congress hasn’t done is focus on putting our nation back on track and working in a bipartisan way to fix what is ailing us. Instead, what we have seen is women being pushed further and further down, across the nation laws are being passed that are draconian in nature and elected officials are using language that even a decade ago would have seen them run out of the office. Meanwhile, women are being silenced for saying VAGINA.
What is next? Will we be back to begging in the streets when we grow too old to sell our wares?
I leave you with this, it is I think relevant and I leave you with one other question is it time to stand back up not only for American women but for all women everywhere.