I was talking with a friend recently. She was stunned that when I was looking for my first job, newspapers divided ads for jobs into two categories: "Men's Jobs" and "Women's Jobs."
Why? "When was this," you ask, "the 1940's"? Try the 1970's in the United States.
- It was assumed that women couldn't do any of the jobs men did.
- And that men wouldn't want to do any of the jobs women did.
When I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, everyone thought women would be wives and mothers. Men would be breadwinners.
Neither sounded fair to me, which I said at inopportune times. That landed me in trouble with various authority figures. So what lowish-wage occupations could women aspire to then?
- Nurse (not a doctor), school teacher (not principal),
- Secretary (not the manager), bookkeeper (not an accountant)
- Hairdresser (not owner), stewardess (not a pilot), or model (not a designer).
Okay, stewardess sounded cool, but at that time, I was shy and couldn't see asking folks, "coffee, tea or ?".
This lack of choices made me angry. Why couldn't men and women apply for any job, not just jobs typically done by one gender?
Today when people ask, "why didn't or don't women pick better-paying jobs?"
- I wonder if they know how long women spent their lives working in a handful of occupations.
- And women were not even eligible for employment if they had pre-school children!
A women's history moment
It wasn't until 1971 that the Supreme Court ruled that employers could not refuse to hire women if they had pre-school children (it was a-ok if men had pre-school children, I guess because they had wives?).
Until 1973, the Supreme Court ruled it was illegal to separate ads for jobs by gender.
I've met GenXer's who assume that men and women can get a job doing the same thing, should be treated fairly on the job, and get equal pay. It's not what many of my parent's generation thought.
I was talking with a "Gen X" friend. I asked her if she knew much about American women's history.
- Did she know when women could apply for credit (1974) without a male relative/spouse?
- Or that women could be legally discriminated against if they were pregnant until 1978?
She said she hadn't heard of any such thing!
- After that conversation, it is easier to see why some men and women don't believe feminism is essential or why they don't call themselves feminists.
- You'all haven't worried about going to a "home" for unwed mothers or depending on your husband to help you buy a car. Or hid your pregnancy as long as you could, so you wouldn't lose your job!
But if equality is here, why is the dialogue around sexual assault similar to what my friends experienced as teenagers?
- But the Women's March, #MeToo, and the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation made me see it differently.
- Despite what some may think, there still is work that needs to be done for gender equality.
When I was a teenager and in college, women who wanted equal rights were called "women's libbers." Men were called even worse names.
- Why? If they talked, marched, or demonstrated about unfair treatment of men and women.
- It was a step up when we labeled ourselves feminists versus being yelled at events something like "you nasty women's libbers" or something worse.
Now I know how today's men and women don't like "labels." You don't want to be pigeon-holed or defined by someone else.
- So if you don't like to call yourself a feminist, then call yourself an egalitarian, an equalist, a humanist.
- You might as well label yourself. Otherwise, someone else will, and most likely, it won't be a label you'll like.
Is it ok to be a stay-at-home mom or dad?
Of course, you can, if your family can afford it.
But many families can't afford to only have one parent working.
On the other hand, child-care costs are increasing at a rapid rate. Some families are paying "nearly 40% of their income to child-care expenses'.
What can you do?
I've been to my share of women, pride, love (anti-Klan) marches. Plus demonstrations, Take Back the Night, and women's history events.
- But you don't have to do any of that unless you choose to.
- But you can blog, tweet, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube about what's important to you.
You don't have to share your thoughts.
- You can forward other people's words/images that reflect what you believe.
- But please do something, it's never too small.
Don't believe me?
The power of just one person's story can change the world.
- If you only tell one person your story, it makes one more person aware of what many of us have experienced.
- You're not just speaking for yourself.
- You're speaking for those who did not or could not tell anyone what happened to them.
Too many people keep silent, suffer quietly, and leave their loved ones in the dark.
- But it's their loved ones who are the people who say they've never met someone who was harassed, stalked, battered, or attacked.
- Why? Those close to them have chosen to remain silent or are too afraid to share their story.
The more we (safely) share our stories, the harder it is for the world to deny the reality many of us experience.