Feminism, We Owe You a Debt 

of Gratitude

 

Did you know that women:

  • weren't regularly allowed to serve on juries until the 1960s? (4)

  • couldn't get a credit card or take out any kind of loan (mortgage, auto) without a man's signature until 1974? (5)

  • could be fired from their jobs for being pregnant up until 1978? (5)

  • couldn't fight in combat until 2013? (5)

  • weren't accepted in many Ivy League universities until the late 60s & 70s? (5)

  • weren't allowed to take legal action against sexual harassment in the workplace until 1977? (5)

  • weren't allowed to say no to their husbands when it came to sex? Spousal rape wasn't criminalized in all 50 states until 1993. (5)

  • weren't allowed to run in the Boston Marathon until 1972? (6)

All of those dates were during my lifetime, and I hadn't a clue about them. For much of my adult life, I thought ‘feminism’ was a bad word. My perception of feminism, most likely framed by male viewpoints, was of a bunch of angry, bra-burning women who hated men, but they still wanted to be able to do everything men did even if they physically couldn’t. My world was very small back then. 

 

I remember a co-worker I enjoyed working with talking about the “good ol’ boy” system, and she planned to vote against all of the long-time politicians in office. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I smiled and assumed she must be a feminist; otherwise, why was she so angry with a bunch of good ol’ boys? I didn’t realize that term could be used in both good ways and bad, depending on the context. She was talking about men in long-held positions of power who practiced cronyism toward their friends, often giving them favors or positions they had little knowledge or experience in. I assumed those good ol’ boys had women's best interests at heart. I was so naive.

 

But I’ve realized over time that I owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of gutsy women and self-proclaimed feminists who had the courage to act on their convictions and endure much criticism and bullying to force changes that needed to take place. 

 

Feminism and the women’s movement:

    • Fought for and earned women the right to vote and for property rights(1)

    • Supported the choice of women to work outside the home

    • Pushed for equal pay for women* 

    • Pushed for legislation opening up universities for women (3)

    • Advanced civil rights laws

    • Pushed for Title IX, which ensured equal access to higher education, equity in athletics, and is supposed to protect women from gender discrimination (3)

    • Helped put more women in Congress and on the Supreme Court

    • Supported marriage equality for same-sex couples

    • Paved the way for more girls and women to enter career fields traditionally held by men in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)

 

I'm so thankful women helped change those things over time, but I don’t agree with everything feminism stands for, such as Betty Friedan’s blanket reference to homemaking and childcare as ‘unfulfilling roles’, and my conscience still compels me to speak in defense of the most vulnerable— the unborn child. My heart grieves for those lives that didn't get their chance to live outside the womb. But I know, too, that not everyone shares my views on the eternal soul and the sanctity and responsibility of protecting the unborn lives, and I bear no condemnation towards them. On a different note, I definitely would not have burned my bra in some symbolic and tangible act of freedom when I’ve known for decades what gravity does to >A cup boobs.

 

But I can still be grateful for the work feminism accomplished that has benefited my mother, myself, my daughter, my granddaughter, and beyond. And for that, I say thank you. 

P.S.  I wrote this before the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, on September 18, 2020, but I want to acknowledge her accomplishments in championing the rights of women and gender equality. Read about her extraordinary life here.

 

*The pay gap is an ongoing issue that is projected to close first in Florida in 2038 and  shockingly last in Wyoming in 2159; Texas is #6 on the list at 2047. (2) How sad that we aren’t there yet.

Donna Van Cleve

October 2020

History

 

References:

  1. https://www.history.com/topics/womens-history/feminism-womens-history 

  2. https://statusofwomendata.org/explore-the-data/employment-and-earnings/additional-state-data/equal-pay-projections/ 

  3. https://www.mic.com/articles/87809/23-ways-feminists-have-made-the-world-better-for-women 

  4. https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/coverture-word-you-probably-dont-know-should

  5. https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/9-things-women-could-not-do/ 

  6. https://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon/history

  7. Female symbol- Wikimedia PD

4 Generations photos - top to bottom:

My mother, Isla Casey (yes, 3 generations did the.glamor shots & we had a blast doing them);

me, Donna Van Cleve;  

my daughter, Vanessa Roeder;

& my granddaughter, Audrie Roeder

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