A snippet caught my attention in the December 16, 2014 issue of Time magazine’s The Culture section. It shows a photograph of one of America’s best known feminists, Gloria Steinem, sitting cross-legged on the floor holding a placard stating “We shall overcome“.
In 1970 she wrote an essay for Time titled: What Would It Be Like If Women Win. (Click here to read it). It was a Utopian-themed piece presenting radical ideas that would result in an egalitarian American society, one beneficial to both women and men.
It’s 2014, forty-four years later, and being quite a few years past 50 I can say Yes indeedy, time did fly; at least, it seems like it did for me (although not every moment was fun-filled.) Nevertheless, when I read her essay I realized that America, and the world at large, still has a long way to go if we ever want to come even close to the radical, yet logical ideas she wrote about back then.
Most of us tend to think that good times never last too long and when we look back we always wish we could have had more, hence the saying, “Time flies when you’re having fun.” But as a woman, looking back to 1970, I see that, time has not exactly flown by when it comes to progress for women. True, women in the military can now go to combat; we’ve even flirted with the idea of a woman President a couple of times but unlike other countries that have, or had, women leaders (take for instance England, Germany, India and Senegal), the U.S. still lags behind. And yes, more than 30 states now legally recognize same sex marriage.
Ms. Steinem suggested small changes that would result in a better and stronger America. For instance: equal pay, a more efficient, educated and healthier work-force.
We’ve come a long way baby; not at the speed of a Porsche, more like that of a vintage automobile.
What face do you see in predominantly low paying fields? Who changes the Depends, cleans toilets at home or work, serves and rings up lunch at the work cafeteria, or teaches children the ABCs? At home and in the office, the balance of who does what still leaves women predominantly handling the more irksome tasks.
Recently a friend told me of a conversation he had with a co-worker, a well-to-do, educated man in his early 40s who lamented the fact that the woman he thought was his perfect match turned out to be not so perfect. What was his complaint? Cinderella was not content with his vision of the good married life. She did not buy in to being the perfect Laura to Dick Van Dyke’s Rob.
Like anything else, the good life comes with a price. Men continue to outpace women in diseases that shorten their life-span. Worse, our society still provides fertile ground (such as the military and college campuses) for spawning men who engage in aggressive behaviors (rape; hitting) towards women. The Machismo mindset Ms. Steinem wrote about is alive and well despite official policies and stances.
Progress towards equality often seems to take forever and at a high cost. Patience is a requirement. Fortunately, women in America seem to have more than their share of that quality. As Ms. Steinem’s sign proclaims: We shall overcome.
Just don’t expect it to happen overnight, by magic, or without continuing the fight.