What women's rights look like when the two sides come together as one.
What women's rights are when women are no longer manipulated by party rhetoric.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A Labor Day Wish For Women

Cynthia Ruccia

happy labor day

I hope you're having a restful Labor Day weekend. I've been walking and thinking alot about Labor Day this year and what the day means for women. This whole line of thought started with a friend of mine challenging me to consider all of the women who are not engaged in the type of career I am. I am very lucky to be an Independent Senior Sales Director with Mary Kay for 27 years. After spending 15 years as a musician, I decided to go this route so I could make great money, stay at home with my children, and help other women make some of their dreams come true. It has been the perfect combination of factors for me, appealing to all of my professional needs. I have felt very fortunate every single day to be part of a great company that allows me to make a living, put my family first, and appeal to my desire to help women lift themselves up by their bootstraps in a very negative, sexist working world. Oh sure, I've had to put up with the naysayers who don't think this kind of work is remunerative. I have been accused of being in a cult and am always having to answer questions about why my work isn't just a big scam. But once I explain to people that I have won 15 pink Cadillacs, put my children through college, and helped other women to do the same, they shut up and learn a thing or two about this corner of the working world.

But I chose this work as a response to what I saw in the workplace and what I wanted to accomplish with my life. First of all, I decided that I just didn't want to work with men. I wasn't too sure I wanted to work with women either, but I could see that at that time that men were just threatened so much by the idea of women's success that they often blocked our progress at every turn. I saw that our progress was thwarted in subtle ways, in ways that were difficult to overcome. I just decided that if possible, I just didn't want to have to deal with that. And it is still a big problem. For any men reading this piece, I am not bashing all men!!! There are tons of great men out there (and if you are reading this piece, you are most likely one of the good guys!! See our shout out to all of the good guys). But you know well that there are still lots of men in a position to block a woman's path, and they use their power to do just that. And honestly, sadly, there are more than a few women doing the same thing.

My next concern was that our society just hadn't figured out how to reconcile the problems with working women (and working families) who have children. We still haven't figured it out. In fact, the solution to that problem has stalled along with all of the other progress we had hoped to make, and it might be that once that challenge is dealt with, some of the other stalled items will disappear. Those stalled items include:

1) The United States ranks #70 in the world in female representation in government

2) Women make 75 cents on the man's dollar

3) We have never had a female president

4) Only 2.7% of CEO's of Fortune 1000 companies are women

5) Only 20% of Board positions are held by women, a number that has declined from a high of 24%

6) 38% of companies in the U.S. have NO women in senior management

7) Only 6 state governors are women

8) Women hold approximately 24% of state legislative positions

Thirdly, I chose my work because I could write my own paycheck and I would get paid what everyone else was getting paid, and there would be no one telling me how much I could earn. And I certainly wasn't going to have to settle making less money than a man for doing the same work.

As I look back, I am shocked that we women are still struggling with the same problems. And I am sad to have to say that relying on political parties and government to fix these problems has been a huge disappointment and just as huge a mistake. If you read this piece about women's rights becoming hostage to party rhetoric, the conclusion I've drawn is that we have waited for someone else, government and political parties, to fix these problems. And in the process of outsourcing our most important issues to a third party, we have allowed our basic strength, that of being the majority bloc of voters, to be completely divided. We women are a house divided against ourselves.

One of the most important issues that has fallen prey to our woman-on-woman mud wrestling is that of the choices mothers have in front of them to stay home with the children or to work outside the home. For most women, there is no choice----they must bring in a paycheck. And even for women who can stay at home, viable options must be available in case they must confront a catastrophe that forces them into the workforce-----a divorce, an illness, a death. We women have allowed ourselves to look down on each other based on those choices, and we need to just stop doing that. The left likes to blame it on the right because of the fundamentalist Christians who they claim won't let women work. Well, I do believe that there are those types of arrangements out there, but not in the numbers that the fevered leftist fantasy fears. The right likes to blame it on those hairy legged feminist man haters who burn their bras and won't allow women the chance to express their femininity in ways that they'd like. Although there are some of those types out there, again the numbers are far fewer than what the rightist imagination conjures up.

I believe that there is a silent majority out there, probably 80% of the population, who don't buy into these extremes. The women of this 80% understand that women should have all kinds of choices in their mothering, and that there is no one right way to be a mother. And we need to respect one another's choices, not use them to divide ourselves.

I don't proclaim to know the answer to this thorny problem of working mothers and families and their children. I only know that government solutions aren't going to happen because of the way things are. We need to find a way to come together and think outside the box to fix this problem. The workplace is changing and in those changes we will find some answers. But we surely aren't going to find our answers the old way of having some ideas and then outsourcing them to our politicians. If that were the solution, it would have been fixed by now.

So my real Labor Day wish is that we women stop finding things to divide us, stop letting others divide us using artificial devices to pit us against each other, and use our strength in numbers to come together and find solutions. Once we have found some answers, we need to act TOGETHER to get things done and not count on other people to do it for us. We have all of the brainpower, creativity, and common goals we need. We are lucky enough to live in a country that affords us the freedom to act.We just need to find the will to break away from old ways of thinking and make our world what we want it to be.

Step number one is to keep talking about these things. The old consciousness raising idea from the second-wave feminists was a tremendous tool to make people aware of the problems we faced. It had a viral effect back then and it would have the same effect now. Get your friends together and discuss these issues. Don't be deterred by leftists throwing bombs at the right and vice versa. People who do that just haven't learned how to think differently. But if you give them some new ideas, you never know where those planted seeds will sprout. And people need to be educated!! They think things are better than they are. Show them the statistics listed above!!

Step number two is to call out people for their sexism at every turn. If we don't do that, we will continue to lose our battles and be stalled. People know that sexism is wrong, but we have let example after example slip by uncommented upon because we are scared of the blowback. Courage is required-----but you will find that once you start speaking up against the sexism, you will become accustomed to the reactions you will get and you will know how to handle it.

Third, vote for women. I realize that there will be women who you just can't bring yourself to vote for. Fine, I bow to reality. BUT how about this idea------why not vote for most of the women most of the time. And suggest to the people in your life to do the same. If most of us vote for most of the women most of the time, more women will win and the ripple effect will be exponential. As more women win, people will become accustomed to seeing women running things and it will become much less threatening and much more normal.

So have a great Labor Day!!! As you have your barbecues and get togethers, reflect on the difference you can make for women. Don't ever think that your efforts don't matter. With lots of us making lots of efforts, we can change everything for women here in the U.S. Let's get going!!!!


  1. Where do you park those 15 pink Cadillacs?? Or did you sell them to Bruce Springsteen?

    I am glad you have a successful and happy life. That's the most important thing, however you achieve it (without harming anyone, natch).

    I have worked in technology for 20 years and it has been an incredibly sexist and demoralizing experience. I am glad you found a career away from men.

  2. Ugsome----So sorry you've had the experience you've had. What's been the worst part of it?

  3. Some comments on a provocative article:
    Ugsome: From what I hear from my sister who has a media business, and her friends in related fields, and my own experiences both in academia and technology, I dare to say that Ugsome is on the mark here. I've had discussions with successful (female) lawyers in different parts of the country, and, well, the same. Ditto for physicians. It takes a strong woman to make it through the careers and the businesses where men's games prevail and men's domination continue.

    Cynthia: You ask what is the worst part. That is complex and highly complicated to answer. Only later on in my life have I been able to look back and see that there are things that were not my fault, out of my control, that I could never be good enough for or compete with, because, let's face it, I don't have a penis, being female, and I can't pee together with the boys at the urinals, where potentially they all admire each others' "talents" and how can you not bond when you have your dicks hanging out together?

    I think one of the things that women experience is minimalization--not included, not consulted at all, or enough, not really part of the group. A woman is always the "other" in a male dominated environment.

    Yes, Mary Kay has uplifted women, and for this she deserves a star in heaven.

    Finally, my advice to a young woman is: No matter what, always have control of your own bank account. You have no power, nor independence with out a source of funds. This is a reason I am so tired of feminist rants about abortion. You have no say without economic independence, and that is why jobs and careers for women, and representation by women are so important. $$$$=the bottom line.

    Feminism is about women having the opportunity to have jobs and also a chance to advance and manage or own or govern. And this holds for the left or the right politically. It's not just about one political ideology. And also the opportunity to be equally as enlightened or obnoxious as men have the opportunity to be. And that also means the choice to work at home, stay at home with children, or work outside of the home. And be honored for it.

  4. 15 pink Cadillacs? Only in America. I don't think much of Mary Kay (it's not even so much political as I loathe makeup on women), but I won't go picking a fight with you about it. It's your life, your sense of happiness and fulfillment, and I wish you the best.

    I watched the video compilation you had posted, showing examples of sexism in the 2008 campaign. Quite grotesque--and I had not been aware of most of it. But just to judge from the video alone, I can't quite see how you conclude that most of the sexism during that year came from the left. Some of it clearly did. But it seemed to me that most of it came from conservative or reactionary sources.

    I have a female friend who's your age, Cynthia, with whom I had a standing argument back in 2008. She supported Clinton and hated Obama (mostly for being a Chicago machine politician) and was just as repulsed as you by the sexism in the campaign. I have certainly come to see things closer to her way since then. I still haven't seen much evidence of Obama personally making sexist remarks about Hillary, but that doesn't mean I don't believe the evidence is out there. (As far as that goes, I remember how vicious the right was about Hillary Clinton--and Chelsea Clinton!--back in the 1990s ... and I recall how much sexist flak Geraldine Ferraro took during her groundbreaking veep run in 1984.)

    You're disillusioned with the Democrats. I don't blame you--you should be. I'm not, because I never bought that illusion. From your article on your life story (a remarkable one, I must say!) it seems to me that early on your threw in your lot with the Democrats per se rather than with the left. That hasn't been my experience. In local and state elections I tend to vote as many far left (Green, Socialist, etc.) candidates as are available, but in national elections those options simply don't exist, and thanks to the electoral system, when they do exist (like Nader in 2000) they only foul up the works. So I hold my nose and vote Democrat, because once in a while they do the right thing--or they used to, anyway. Still, I have known for a very long time that the party identities in this country aren't Democrats=Liberals and Republicans=Conservatives. The truth is, it's a case of Democrats=Conservatives and Republicans=Reactionaries.

    One more thing: you have said that you don't think legislation is the answer. On many issues--social, in particular--I think you're right. Change should come from below rather than being imposed from the top down. However, in business, I don't think that works. Equal pay for women must be enforced by legislation and regulation, because capitalism as a system simply has no incentive to care otherwise. And in this field, Obama did do something positive, by challenging that cruel and misogynistic Lily Ledbetter law.

    The advice in your current Labor Day article is all very sound--we must keep talking about all of these subjects!--and I hope your message spreads far and wide. I know I am a combative political type, but I do ultimately think divisiveness is less productive than inclusion, no matter what difficulties I have with practicing it personally. Keep up the good work!

  5. J.H.----Mary Kay was put on the map by its skin care products, not the makeup, and 48 years later, it's still all about skin care. What that means is that everyone washes their face, we just have terrific products for that. SO-----you can feel ok that our money is mostly made from good hygiene and not makeup. I used to feel that way about makeup, but every day when I look in the mirror, I'm grateful for cosmetics!! LOL!!

    As for the videos, there were some examples from the right (mostly Alex Castellanos), but surprisingly, the lions share came from the left and there's no denying it.

    I don't think that we will have a legislative solution concerning equal pay regardless if legislation is a good idea or not. I can't see it happening politically. It is one of those things that should have passed a long time ago, and it just isn't politically viable. If we are ever in a position to have enough of a majority of Democrats, the ones most likely to pass it, women's issues are shoved to the backburner. There's always something more important than women's issues. At this point, our best hope is to create a cultural groundswell and then see what we can do.IMHO

    Lastly, I tire of hearing what great things Obama has done for women.He should have put Hillary on the ticket with him. Period. And the Lily Ledbetter Act was fine. However, in terms of getting women parity, if it is a 100 mile journey, that act took us one-sixteenth of an inch.

  6. Cynthia,

    if it is true that Democrats are always pushing women's issues to the backburner--and I agree that that is true--then imagine my frustration, knowing that the only major political party out there which might support my positions--stronger social safety nets, economic equality, social justice--always pushes those to the backburner as well. Democrats are playing a game of keep-up-with-the-Republicans, arguably since the Clinton days. As I said, it's conservatives vs reactionaries, not liberals vs. conservatives.

    I suspect that the major reason we don't see very many women in the Democrats (with obvious exceptions like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi) is that the Dems tend to presume that women are on their side, and take their votes for granted. I am sure you think that, and find it offensive. So do I; after all, they take the votes of progressives for granted as well. But Cynthia, I also suspect that the major reason Republicans (and the Tea Party) are pushing women like Bachmann, Palin, Sharron Angle, et al is because they know that: A) they have less of the female share of the vote BECAUSE they are known to be antifeminist in philosophy, and B) the best way to promote an antifeminist agenda (that is, an inherently reactionary one) is to find reactionary women to be its face. This way they can say "Look, we're pro-women!" while working to nullify whatever equal rights have been achieved. I know you remember Phyllis Shchlafly. What is the difference between Schlafly and Bachmann or Palin? Really, what?

    Women in power are not necessarily feminists, as I know you know. Think of Margaret Thatcher. Power only presumes ruthlessness of character, not a broad, sympathetic world view. (Of course, this is part of the problem of being human, not just politics.) I just read your article "Michelle Bachmann Kicks Ass!" and it made me very sad. People like her are wolves in sheep's clothing. (Obama is also a wolf in sheep's clothing, and one which I will admit pulled the wool over my eyes--I thought he'd be such a progressive, but he's a conservative to the core, and the biggest disappointment in the White House in my lifetime.) Sorry, but I cannot celebrate the rise of women if these are the kind of women rising.

  7. JH---I just have to laugh when I read your comments. You parrot the same sclerotic, robotic liberal talking points about women that have put women in the ditch. I know you mean well, and I know you are trying, but this point of view gets women nowhere.

    You have mentioned in two paragraphs the "feminist agenda." Let's be clear, that "feminist agenda" is a liberal interpretation of a feminist agenda. We women have been lazy in assuming that that agenda would be in our best interests. In a pure liberal sense (if that is your orientation) it might be an arguably pro-woman agenda. However, politically it is an agenda that is something for the politicians to hide behind, to give lip service to to make it seem that they are pro-woman and thus win women's votes. It's a curious dance, the liberal women and their politicians. The politicians promise, the women feel safe, and nothing of consequence needs to go forward.Guilty women, guilty politicians.

    And although I am not a Republican or a conservative, I take exception with your characterization of the women on the right. First of all, I have written extensively about Phyllis Schlafly and the liberals need to just get over Phyllis. She is a reliable bogeyman that the Dems and liberal feminists have used for 30 years to keep women corralled. The Dems like to march out the Christian right as the bad guys for all social issues and thus bad people all the way around. You have bought hook, line, and sinker that meme, a meme that is irrelevant to what I've been talking about.

    Ours is not a struggle involved with the "social issues" of the past thirty years. With the exception of maybe 20% of people, regardless of whether you are left or right, people want equal pay for equal work. People want to see more women running things and people know that sexism is wrong.Left or right, women and men who care need to get together and make some progress on these economic issues. That coming together is the last thing either party wants, so we have to end run them.

    Lastly, you clearly haven't heard anything written AD NAUSEUM here about getting more women elected. I suppose I'll have to write another piece about it. Again. Until people see women OF ALL STRIPES represented in equal numbers, we won't ever get used to seeing women running things and people will continue to fall into the sexist pits we find them in. One of the worst is "any woman just not THAT woman." If you haven't read that post, you might want to look at it to understand how regressive your POV is. Why shouldn't we have women in equal numbers represent all of the sides? We elect men on those sides-----why not women? Or is it that we can only have men on the opposing side because having women scares us?

    You need to be reminded that Lily Ledbetter passed because your hated conservative Republican women in the Senate crossed over to give the bill its passing votes. Economic parity is in most people's best interest. But government solutions, however theoretically perfect, won't work politically.

  8. Another great article Cynthia- and another great argument against the naysayers who miss the point every time.

    Your arguments are sound - keep up the great work of pounding in women deserve to be elected in place of men 50% of the time in either party. That is the point women are just not getting -- one party is not always going to win but at least they do not all have to be men.

    What the hell is wrong with half of each party being women? Are we women haters who rather have other women haters in DC representing us?

    PS- every time someone (Did JH just do that too?) calls Obama a conservative - I wonder what planet they are from and what they are doing here.


  9. freemenow---- I know you have been fighting this fight longer than anyone and your encouragement means alot!!!

    And JH----keep talking!! I'm enjoying the back and forth. At least you have an open mind.

  10. @Freemenow:

    How is Obama not a conservative? A health care bill that enriches private insurance rather than establishes single-payer ... stepped up predator drone attacks in a failed war ... greater numbers of arrests of liberal protesters ... a cabinet full of corporate shills and wall street thieves ... the list goes on. That someone like him passes for liberal (or "socialist"!) just shows how far to the right this country has been shoved. Sorry, but I do live on this planet--I just don't much like it anymore.


    I appreciate your inviting me to keep talking. It is a bit discouraging to know how you "have to laugh" when you read my "sclerotic, robotic talking points." Frankly, to be assessed in that manner is not very welcoming. We disagree--fine. And I appreciate that you appreciate that I "am trying." But when I read opening lines like those, I wonder how much you are trying to see my point of view. No offense intended. It just seems to me that you've reached a point of disillusionment with politics, where all you can do is embrace cynicism about the effectiveness of politics. I have been cynical my whole life. I grew up in the conservative 80s as the "resident pinko" of my high school. I don't expect to win, and I never did. But that is never an excuse to stop fighting.

    Enough about that, though. Let me address a few of your points:

    If Democrats have been disappointing to liberal women, it's because the Dems are not liberals. They are conservatives. This is how I see things, and this much, at least, cannot be dismissed as conventional wisdom.

    I think I understand why you take exception to my characterization of women on the right. Do you see it as dehumanizing them on my part? If so, then that is a valid reaction, and one which I should take to heart. But bogeyman, whether of left or right, and like all stereotypes, have a basis in fact. Yes, McCarthyism was a terrible case of demonizing the left, but it doesn't change the fact that Stalinism was evil. Yes, the left brings up the Christian Right as a mortal danger, but while we leftists tend to overblow that danger, that doesn't mean that regressive religion (of all kinds) isn't a threat to freedom. Maybe feminists need to get over the past, but human history isn't pure progress (I'm no Marxist, you see), and regression is always possible, especially when people feel threatened and insecure.

    Are Christian fundamentalists bad people? No. I don't think there are very many truly bad individuals in this world. But there are bad ideas, and I believe Christianity is one of the very worst--in practice less than in theory. (If we all really loved one another--rather than wishing foolishly for "salvation"--this would be a better world.)

    On the major theme of your blog--electing women in large numbers just to help shift the paradigm--I agree in theory, but find the practice detrimental when there are just too many regressive women out there in the field. What I'm trying to say here is this: your goal is laudable but it may well backfire on you. And I don't want that. I really don't.

    There's a view of the present out there now that I subscribe to, about the culture war and the political war. The left won the culture war but is desperately trying to win the political war. The right won the political war but is desperately trying to win the culture war. Neither side is content with their triumph, nor can see that their victory may well be unassailable--they only want what they don't have and may never have. This has created our current impasse. It may also explain some of the animosity between our positions.

    Keep up the blogging, Cynthia. I'll keep reading.

  11. JH,
    I don't know what he is- but he is not a Conservative and neither are those descriptions you seem to have ascribed to him.

    Obviously we have different ideas of what a conservative is. Personally - I don't give a hill of beans about Liberals vs Conservatives - everything is relative - clearly Obama has not reached your standard of Liberals nor mine of Conservative --so we will have to call that a draw.

    I am a Constitutionalist or perhaps a Libertarian.

    The major difference between myself and the founders would be :

    1-I believe in equality and women's rights over slavery of anyone.

    2-I have a big heart-BUT I prefer to be the beneficiary to the charities of my choice rather than giving my money to so-called progressives or anyone else to dole out as they see fit.

    3- Neither party is suitable to run this country - its time for a third party altogether.

    4- Organized religion is the antithesis of equality, freedom and the right to life , libety and the pursuit of happiness.

    5- women are being taxed without representation, immediate reform includes equal representation regardless of party.

    I believe this discussion was about #5- or at least where I am coming from most of the time!

  12. I hope that if a man becomes the Repub nominee for President 2012, one of the good women interested, will be the runnning mate. Then we can all work to get O unelected...
    Of course, if the Dems ever come to their senses and nominate HC, we can work to get her elected. That would be the best!
    I agree, it is time to be united in diversity, for female candidates.

  13. Hope everyone had a happy holiday.

    I agree with ClearSkies - the exclusion is always the hardest part. I also agree that financial independence is the top issue for women. I don't think you can achieve true independence without being financially so and the traditional women's movement has done a terrible job on this issue.

    @ Anita - I hope you're right! If we can't have a woman in the top slot this time around I'll take another shot at the two slot.

    And Mary Kay does indeed deserve her star in heaven. I'm still learning just how much she has done and is still doing through the company for women - and with such quiet dignity too.

  14. @ freemenow

    I'm close to where you are on a lot of issues politically. I generally vote R because they are closer to me than the D's by far, but the more I read and listen to various sources the more I think I am a Libertarian and always have been. I just can't waste the vote nationally but several Libertarians won in local and state elections in 2010 (Atlanta GA). A lot of women seem to be leaning that way these days - the Tea Party which is mostly women too.