Last night I watched a documentary on PBS called Makers: Women Who Make America. You can watch it online here and I heartily recommend it.
This is particularly true if you believe in women's rights, as I do, and think that women are people, too. It is good to be reminded that it had only been 40 years since things were really, really bad for women.
The documentary outlined the women's movement, from the inception of NOW to radical feminists (they are not one and the same), to what the film called "the conservative push-back" and resulting decimation of the women's movement and the stalling of the female climb to her rights as a person.
While the women you might expect were in the documentary - Friedan, Steinem, Clinton - the thing was loaded with women you may not have heard of. It was empowering to hear these stories, from the first woman to run in the Boston Marathon to the Southern Bell switchboard clerk who took the phone company all the way to the Supreme Court.
I really admire women who can stand up for what they know is right, who can see that laws and attitudes in place are wrong. They made a powerful stand against injustice and inequality and fought not just for themselves but their daughters and granddaughters. They fought for me!
The patriarchy and the glass ceiling have always been very real to me, and I have experienced harassment in many forms, both in the workplace and outside of it. Some of it - most of it - has been simply because I am a woman. In the early 1980s Oprah Winfrey was told she didn't deserve the same pay as a man - because she was a woman. That was just 30 years ago for her - but I heard the same line only 10 years ago!
It is easy to be harassed because you're a little different - a woman in a man's workplace. It's easy to become the target when you're a little more ambitious or a little more conscious of what is going on (it doesn't take much to be different). As a woman, I have been harassed for having an opinion, (because women aren't supposed to have them), for having different ideas (because women aren't supposed to have those, either), and for wanting to do things that were not considered "womanly" (like the time I worked in a machine shop). It certainly makes you feel like you are less than human when you are treated as such.
I have hoped for the last several years that we are on the cusp of a new women's movement. Eventually there will be one too many transvaginal ultrasounds legislated, and things will erupt, I think. Or maybe I am just foolishly hoping that legislated rape with a probe will eventually outrage enough women that it takes them to the street. Perhaps it will have to go a little further, to the point of The Handmaid's Tale, before complacency is no longer a viable alternative to what is happening.
Homemaking certainly is a valid career or life path. But I am opposed to having that forced on every woman, and that is where certain political paths and ideas lead. It was the lack of choice and the lack of opportunity that drove the women's movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. I certainly don't want to go back to that era. I like to work and I like being able to own property and have credit in my name. These things have only been allotted to women in the last 40 years. Just 40! No wonder it remains tenuous and slippery.
So I applaud these trailblazing women who have broken the glass ceiling, who have changed laws, who have taken their lives and made them their own, and not remained trapped in a life someone else molded for them. Thank you to the filmmakers for this marvelous film.