The Women’s March on Washington has come and gone, but the commitment remains. For every woman who marched in Washington or any of the hundreds of other marches that feeling of sisterhood just won’t go away. We continue to wear our pink hats proudly as a symbol of resistance. It’s a symbol that says “I am woman” and “take me seriously because I really mean it” and “it’s time for me.” I think that 2017 just may be the year of the woman.
I”m not really sure why it has taken so long. We make up more than 50% of the population, we lead companies and families, we wear the uniform and defend our country. And still the fight continues. We are underrepresented in Congress, in the boardroom, and continue to be underpaid in sports, the workplace, and elsewhere. Men just can’t resist mansplaining, protecting, patronizing and putting women in “their place.” In this time and this place we finally have our chance to be in the front lines. The time is ours.
I’m not sure that men quite realize this fact. We continue to see laws being promulgated all over the country to restrict and roll back reproductive rights for women. It’s an inconvenient fact that women have babies and men do not. We tend to be smaller and are viewed as quieter and weaker. Also inconvenient facts. Women generally do not demand pay raises or apply for jobs for which they are not qualified. When we fight back or raise our voices we are called shrill or shrews or worse. Men are tough and strong and assertive. The same behavior gets a completely different table. I was in a battle like this this afternoon. Larry and I went to visit one of our state representatives and when I raised a bill that I did not agree with he began to lecture me, raise his voice, and wondered “how do I not understand this.”
This is the ultimate female conundrum that I have not yet figured out how to resolve. If you fight back in kind, you fulfill their view of you as a petulant, ignorant, shrew. If you back down and let them rant, you feel weak and beaten down. And they know this. Eventually I just said “we’ll agree to disagree.” I was beaten down and I was angry. He went on for another thirty minutes to have a conversation with Larry and never made eye contact with me again. I was not part of the conversation, I was a minor actor, the little women.
My mother taught me that women have good manners, know how to dress for every occasion, get a good education, and have household talents like cooking and decorating. I picked up some of these skills, but others I rejected. I came of age in the 1970s and 80s when women were learning how to wear pantsuits and carry briefcases. Being feminine meant walking a tricky line between being taken seriously as a professional and not appearing to be a man-hater or even worse, like a man. Mostly it was trial by fire. And still we fell behind in wages and promotions to senior positions.
So here’s my question: how do women fight back? How can we let these neanderthals know that their behavior is unacceptable and downright nasty? Larry has an answer for this question. He says don’t get mad, get even. By this he means that women need to stop complaining and get out there and get in positions of power where we can influence the political scene. Marching and knitting pink hats is one step in this greater march, but it isn’t enough. It’s time for women to put their money where their mouth is. We need to get out of the kitchen and the boardroom and get into the state house and the Congress. It’s our time to shape our future and finally demand and expect equal treatment. Are you with me?