Reliving the Past
I'm going to be 60 in another few months. I lived through a time when women had to fight to be allowed to work, to receive the same pay (and we're still working on that, sadly) as men, to have control over our own bodies, to make it unnecessary to go to a back-street butcher to end a pregnancy. It was an ugly past, that. Sure, there were good times even during that past. I went to college. I graduated with honors. I worked for a while, started a company, was successful. Personal tragedy brought that to an end. I got set adrift for a while, worked sporadically. Found a calling that spoke to me and became a teacher. But during that whole time, there was always this culture war going on.
My mother told me, early and often, to hide my intelligence, because men didn't like intelligent women. My father told me to go to college, my mother said I shouldn't, I should find a man and get married instead. I grew up in a family that had two different sets of expectations; one for the boys and one for the girls. The girls had to learn how to "keep house", the boys didn't. They had to learn to ride a bike, mow the lawn, and make friends. I didn't meet any of their expectations. My father was pleased; my mother was disappointed. I lived in a neighborhood that cherished that discrimination against women. A city, a state, a nation that cherished that discrimination. Girls weren't supposed to grow up to be successful, independent people.
Imagine my dismay, then, to see that exact same discrimination coming from the Republican candidates this year, and from statehouse after statehouse. Republican governors and legislatures passing laws to limit abortion, contraceptives, routine health care for female issues. Where states are repealing things like equal pay statutes. I really loved the statement from one Republican legislator. State Senator Glenn Grothman, who defended Scott Walker's repeal of pay equity protections explainedto reporters that women aren't paid the same as men for the same work because money is more important to men.
Of course it is! Women don't need money, we don't have bills to pay for rent/mortgage, food, clothing, etc. Huh?
We're now facing all the same arguments that we did half a century ago, arguments we thought we were done with. Birth control? Abortion? (When are these Republicans going to realize that birth control would eliminate a huge number of abortions?) Equal pay? When is enforced male dominance going to become a thing of our past? When is the manufactured fear of women going to become a thing of our past?
I work hard to make sure the students I have don't share that bias, that each of my students understand that everyone is equally valued. We do not discrimate based on gender, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, or any other quality. I support the candidacies of many women running for national office, and some men. I donate to Emily's List, Move-On, DFA, and a host of other political entities.
I am single. My only child, a daughter, died a long time ago. I don't have to worry about what sort of life she would have. Instead, I worry for all my students, and what the future holds for them. If Romney wins, if states vote Republican, I fear for my students. They will be growing up in country hostile to them on so many different fronts ~ poor, Hispanic, female, gay/lesbian. Talk about stacking the odds against them!