by Kathy Coleman (Ruby Precinct)
We have a magnet on our refrigerator which reads, “When women vote, Democrats win.”
It’s not one hundred percent true, of course. There are plenty of Republican women. Still, it rings true when one considers the importance of basic human rights which are put in jeopardy for an individual simply because she happens to be of the female gender, and the truth that Republicans clearly see women as subhuman (no matter what they say, actions speak far louder than words).
I grew up not really considering my gender too often, despite being in what was then a fairly conservative Republican household. My mother was a registered nurse and worked long hours. She kept the house spotless (not an exaggeration), cooked a complete dinner for a family of four every single night, and ironed each of my father’s shirts to a perfect, meticulously creased square every weekend. She also told me, frequently, that I could “do anything I wanted.” I don’t know if she noticed the irony, considering all she did for my father, but he was a WWII vet, and came from a different time and place. So, really, did she, for all her forward momentum.
On March 8, 2017, women in over 30 countries around the world will stand up and band together for a “Day Without Women.” Those who can will take the day off work. No shopping, no purchases of any kind. I’m sure there will be more of a backlash than those scoffing on Twitter. “A day without feminists, yay!” “Feminists are planning a strike, who cares?” “A day without whiney, clueless Progressive bitches is a blessing!” (Seriously, that last one is a direct quote.) The vitriol and hatred that permeates the #DayWithoutWomen hashtag is frightening. Worse still, much of it appears to actually be coming from women.
Eight years ago I told my friends that racist America would more likely vote for a black man than a woman. At least in that case the man, although young, was at least a competent politician and educated in Constitutional Law.
Today we’re so misogynist (men AND women) that we’d rather vote for a grandstanding failed businessman who can’t spell “tap” without a dictionary, than an unquestionably qualified woman.
In today’s world it does not seem to matter what our grandmothers did to gain us the rights we so take for granted. Women throw it away as carelessly as a used napkin. I have met too many women who scoff, “Oh, I don’t VOTE,” in the same tone they might say, “I never murder babies!” To be a declared feminist is to stake out a territory that might make it difficult to, say, date a man, or pursue a career in a male-dominated industry.
Americans tend to refuse to learn from their history, whether it happened a hundred years ago or just last month. Many of today’s women don’t seem to understand what suffrage meant. They don’t know or understand that feminism is not something that happened in the far distant past – that it was their mothers and grandmothers (and, perhaps, great-grandmothers) who fought and died to earn them the right to vote. That right is not a permanent conquest; it needs constant vigilance and defense to maintain.
It has been less than 100 years since women won the right to vote nationally. These women struggled and suffered and bore great hardship just so we could have these rights. They were arrested for marching, chained up for daring to speak out against their husbands, for daring to want to have a voice of their own. Women of color took a back seat in the name of conquering "one right at a time."
Today, we can see where that's taken us.
As recently as 1974, a woman needed her husband’s permission in order to have a checking account or a credit card in her own name. She couldn’t get a medical procedure, such as having her tubes tied, without his permission. She had no rights over her body, her possessions, her home, or her children.
Far too recently, a woman was as much a possession as a house or a car. She was passed from father to husband: when a man got married, he was “purchasing” his spouse. To make sure the man would take her off his hands, the woman’s father had to throw in money or livestock (that’s what a dowry was).
March is Women’s History Month. Okay, not everyone can take the day off work on a “Day Without Women.” That’s all right. There are ways to support the fight without losing a day’s pay. Wear red (or blue if you're showing up at the Arizona Legislature). Avoid the stores. Embrace Ambition (#EmbraceAmbition). Find out about local marches, support a local women’s shelter, volunteer. There are plenty of ways to get yourself out there and find the best way for you to make a difference in your community and in our country. Because no matter what they say, it’s our country, and we can’t “give it back” because we belong here, too.
If we don’t continue to fight, and succeed in that fight, it could all happen again. Never get too complacent. It’s clear from current actions on the part of our “conservative” government that we could become possessions again – and we will, if we do not remain aware of our own sovereignty.
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg