Friday, Aug. 26, was Women’s Equality Day. Sadly, it’s a bit of a misnomer. Besides, how many people actually know what it is that the day celebrates? It surely is not equality. Women don’t have equality. Even I don’t have equality, and I am no pantywaist — but the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities as men? Oh my goodness, no. Women, as a class, have not yet achieved any of that.
What we have is the right to be oppressed by ludicrous expectations for our gender, including that ever popular slut-mommy routine straight men are taught to favor; by mass media representations that tell the world what is most valuable about women are our breasts and penetrable orifices; and by the often unspoken yet screeching mantra to suck it all up for family, god and country.
As for responsibilities, women are burdened with an embarrassment of riches. While we have the responsibility of providing one of the pro forma two household incomes that keep everyone in the latest cell phones (if we’re not toting that bale as a single parent), the onus remains on us for the vast majority of household work and child rearing — along with maintaining extended family and friend networks, managing household finances, negotiating service provider contracts, and distributing the intangible benefits of our core competencies. It’s akin to leading a business, except only 28 of the Fortune 1000 corporations have female CEOs. That they are paid 8% to 25% less than their male counterparts should not be considered commentary on their job performances, but, rather, a reflection of their body parts.
And then, there is the cornucopia of opportunities that are showered upon women like sweet manna from heaven. Actually, I’d say they’re more like the ammonia swirling from an unkempt pissoir. Among many, there is the opportunity to be denigrated for our emotions, our bodily functions, our weight, our femininity and our lack thereof; the opportunity to be sidelined with the label “bitch” for characteristics that earn men promotions; the opportunity to fend off unwanted sexual advances by those who interpret the length of our skirts or size of our boosiasms as an invitation to pounce; and the opportunity to earn an average of 80¢ to each dollar a man earns — whether he’s average or a numskull.
So, what’s a woman to do? I suppose it helps to point out such peccadilloes, but I’ve been writing about them for way too many moons. Last year, it was the Woman’s Day advertising campaign that touted vagina deodorizing as a career advancement tactic. In 2009, it was the fear of feminism that inhabits conservative male rhetoric and inhibits progress toward equality. Before that, it was the shunning of the term “feminist” and on and on.
Just how long does it take for folks to recognize the inequity of inequality?
It’s been one full lifetime since the impetus for Women’s Equality Day. Still wondering what makes the date so special? It’s the day in 1920 that women in the United States were finally allowed — allowed! — to vote. It took a constitutional amendment, and what actually changed? Well, in 1919, Great Aunt Cappie was studying to be a surgeon, learning to cut folks open from stem to stern and work medical magic with their innards. But she couldn’t vote: She wasn’t deemed to have the temperament for such decisions. Then in 1920, her mental and emotional capabilities, formerly belittled by men who feared women’s suffrage, suddenly received a constitutional upgrade.
In fact, Aunt Cappie didn’t change; it was an attitude adjustment and the presumption that women’s votes could be added to their husbands’, a presumption that lingers in some backwater bedrooms to this day.
But for the rest of us, what has women’s suffrage produced? Of late, it’s the likes of Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann, who think deriding their political opponents just like the boys if not more so, opposing women’s and civil rights, and winking — or belatedly blinking — their mascaraed lashes make them prime female presidential fodder.
If only they respected themselves a bit more, but apparently one lifetime has not been enough. And I’m not sure which is the greater hindrance to equality: men who fear us or women who play us.
Kit-Bacon Gressitt’s commentary and political fiction can be read on her blog Excuse Me, I’m Writing and is republished by SDGLN, The Ocean Beach Rag and The Progressive Post. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize while working for the North County Times. She is also host of Fallbrook’s monthly Writers Read open mic and can be reached at [email protected]