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What Happened to the Women’s Movement?

What Happened to the Women’s Movement?

Is this really what our generation had in mind when they marched in the streets, sat in doorways and rotundas, picketed and posted handbills – to have a generation of women who became politicians wanting to take away women’s rights and destroy the economic and social equalities we’ve gained over the last 40 years?

I remember taking a course in college called Women in the Media, about prominent women who either reported the news or created it (and we’re not talking Lindsay Lohan or Paris Hilton here!). One of the first things our instructor asked the class was if we considered ourselves feminists. About 3 of the 20 or so students said yes. At the end of the semester, I asked her to state the question again, and this time about 95 percent said yes, they considered themselves feminist. At the time (1981) I wore a button that said 57¢ on it. That meant that for every dollar a man made, a woman made 57 cents. Today, that number is higher, but it still isn’t equal.

Yes, today there are women who are billionaires (go Oprah!) and women who are CEOs, presidents of Fortune 500 companies, prominent political leaders on the national and local level, and there are millions of women-owned businesses, which according to the Center for Women’s Business Research in 2006, were expected to generate $1.1 trillion in revenue.

But how far advanced are we if we have women such as Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina who want to abolish rights we fought for and won in the ’70s and who treat their women employees no better than male employers from the 1950s? How far have we come when people like Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell think the best thing to prevent pregnancy is abstinence and don’t acknowledge the fact that teens and young adults continue to have sex no matter how many abstinence pledges they sign (hello Bristol!).

I’m not suggesting that we all sashay down Main Street, lock-step in feminist ideology, but I thought that when women rose to power positions they would be thinking about the good of humanity and how to make life better for all people, not how to destroy the environment, take away our rights over our own bodies, give more power to corporations instead of empowering people, and lead us backward in time. I personally never enjoyed being objectified, paid less or kept out of boardrooms.

I can’t end this article just by looking at the dark side. I have to give props where they’re due. We came very close to electing a woman president in 2008. California has two women senators and many women U.S. representatives, as well as a multitude of state and local women elected to important positions. Statistics show an overwhelmingly rosy picture about women-owned and run businesses. They are a vital component of our economy as well as employment and societal resources.

Perhaps it’s time for a resurrection of the women’s movement, and once and for all make everyone understand what a feminist really is – someone who believes in social, political and economic equality for all people. It’s okay for people to have differences of opinion, but let’s further our humanity, our goodness, not devolve and erode common decency.

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One comment

  • Alix Dobkin says:

    I sure enjoy your site, esp the Lesbian History & the DYKE mag article! Maybe you’d like my site (see above). Good history there too, & perhaps you’d like to list it in Sites We Love. In any case, thanx & stay sweet.