Sunday, July 31, 2011
Taking on the Third Rail of Feminism
I'm taking on the hottest topic in feminism-land. Everyone's afraid to talk about it and to face it head-on, but hey, SOMEONE has to do it, and I'm either just brave enough or stupid enough to do it. How badly will I get burned? Not at all I believe because if this topic isn't addressed, we women will get to spend the next 30 years the way we've spent the last 30 years and that is making 75% of what men make for the same work, ranking 70th in the world for female representation in government, holding 2.7% of the CEO positions, and holding around 24% of state legislative positions and 6 governorships out of 50. You call this equality? We are around 51% of the population, and you say we'll get there eventually? At this rate maybe by 2500 women will make what men make, and all of the other things will be equalized. Maybe.
There have been many things written about why women are in this state. Some people blame it on the Mommy track, others say it is because women don't speak up enough for themselves. I could go on and on about the theory of the day. They probably all have grains of truth to them. Some people believe that the young generation will fix everything because that generation is more used to different gender roles. Could be, but I certainly don't have a crystal ball and at any rate, I'm not willing to hope I live to be one hundred to see how that all turns out.
So what's the third rail of feminism?
What's the thousand-pound gorilla sitting on the table that I have yet to name? Why am I already in paragraph three and I still can't get it out of my mouth? Well, it's because I'm going to TALK ABOUT ABORTION!!!! Please be warned that I am NOT going to talk about abortion in any way you've ever heard it talked about. And I'm going to kindly ask you to just listen to these ideas a little before you react. I know you can do it or you wouldn't be interested in reading a blog like this one.
First off, let me state that I am pro-choice. To my pro-life sisters (and brothers) out there, I have complete respect for your position. I get where you are. I ran for Congress twice in the 90's and I grew weary of making abortion a litmus test issue because all I saw was vile hatred coming from both sides. The abortion debate is not over really, and it is still being fought. HOWEVER, I've decided to let other people fight that battle because it is a debate that has held all other women's progress hostage for 30+ years. Really, as long as we're tearing each other's eyeballs out over abortion, who cares about women's progress being held back? Right?
To those who say that if women don't have a say over their own bodies, nothing else matters, I say----WTF? Not that there isn't something to respect in that argument either. You see, I understand that if women aren't given respect to make their own decisions about their bodies, a person might make the conclusion that women will never be respected for anything. This is actually something of a weak argument because the facts don't support the idea. Women may have more sexual freedom if abortion is available, but heck------ abortion has been legal since 1973 , that's been 38 years, and if legalized abortion is a sign of respect for women, why aren't women doing any better in the workforce, in the legislatures, in their paychecks, etc.?
I don't understand why abortion became the zero-sum game of women's rights. It's an absolutely ridiculous notion. If I were a conspiratorial type, I'd say that as long as we keep the girls fighting each other over this issue---I mean REALLY fighting, tooth-and-nail, fight-to-the-death fighting, we'll never have to pay them equally cause they'll never notice and they won't have any fight in them left even if they do notice. But of course I'D NEVER go there with this argument (wink, wink).
Another blind spot about this issue is the contention that because women on the right are pro-life, they don't deserve to be able to take advantage of all of the progress that has been made because they had nothing to do with it. I'd say that that issue left the train station a long time ago. Believe it or not, there are pro-choice women who stay at home with their children instead of working outside the home, and there are pro-life women who have careers outside the home. And regardless of their position on abortion, women are still paid far too little and are underrepresented in every high-level position. We just need to get over that idea, even those who are still mad at Phyllis Schlafly for stopping the Equal Rights Amendment. That was done 30+ years ago, and it is just time to stop holding a grudge over it. Heck, even the Cambodians, the South Africans, and the Rwandans were able to forgive each other over true atrocities much worse than the stoppage of the ERA, and these countries were able to go on and work together. Interestingly, Rwanda ranks #1 in female representation in government in the entire world. Talk about turning scars into stars!!!!
My point is that it is 2011. Life has moved on, new generations have been born, and we women still have so much work to do. Are we going to spend our energy fighting over abortion and holding grudges? Are we going to keep fighting over who gets to be the keeper of the women's rights torch? Can we start thinking again about how to make sure women are paid what they're worth? Can we start thinking about how to get women more representation---on both sides of the aisle? Can we imagine a world where a woman has just as much a chance to be president of the U.S., president and CEO of a top company? That world is really our next step. And honestly we are almost there. Except we need to build a new coalition, a new approach and jettison the ideas from the past that haven't worked. Remember, the definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over again and expect to get a different result.
I'm not saying that the abortion debate isn't important. I believe that that debate is here to stay. BUT, that debate hasn't given us any progress in any other way, and to those other causes our attention must be turned. And when we turn our attention to fixing those statistics I laid out in paragraph #1, we're going to find that pro-choice, pro-life will come together and make great things happen. Why? Because fixing those statistics is something most everyone can agree on.
I know, I know----you aren't used to thinking about it that way and it feels strange. Well, any new idea takes a minute to get used to. But it's really so easy. If more of us keep talking the talk, our society will begin to walk the walk. They just haven't been able to because, heck, we stopped talking about women's progress a long time ago while we were busy talking about abortion. Time for a change----ya know?
Whew----I'm off that third rail!! And guess what? NO BURNS!!!! NO CALAMITIES!!! If I can do it, so can all of you. Let's get on with it. The things that divide us are small next to the things that unite us.......
Posted by Cynthia Ruccia at 4:17 PM