Do we still need a women’s movement?

I came of age in the 60s. I graduated high school Class of ’66 and went to Nursing School, graduating Class of ’69. I remember the protests and bra-burnings; the anti-war protests; the Civil Rights marches. But none of it really registered with me until I was out in the real world after nursing school. Here’s where I began to see why the women’s movement was necessary.

I could not get birth control pills unless I lied to a doctor to say I was getting married soon and wanted to get on the pill before the wedding.

When I was searching for jobs, I could only apply for the jobs in the column under the heading “Jobs for Females/Women”.

I was turned down for a job because I was pregnant.

I could not have a checking account or any kind of credit in just my name; my husband had to co-sign.

When I had a job and discovered I was pregnant, I had to transfer out of the unit where I was working into a ‘safer’ work environment.

I was sexually harassed at work by the doctors, who called me honey, sweetie, girlie, and lots of other things not as innocuous.

If a doctor came into the nurse’s station where I was sitting writing notes, I had to stand up as long as he was present.

I was turned down for jobs because ‘those jobs need to go to men who have to support their families’ even though I was the sole support for my family at the time.

The list is almost endless.

Today, we seem to be devolving back to those days. There are certain legislators who think that women are second-class citizens. Our culture of rape is alive and well. Women are still being abused/raped/killed by their significant others. And what’s most alarming is that many young women accept this. I had a discussion today with a young women in her 20s who saw nothing wrong with a t-shirt that proclaimed “Keep Calm and Rape”. I have talked to other young women who think if their boyfriend hits them or verbally abuses them, they must have done something to deserve it. There are women, young and old, who think Feminism is a dirty word.

There are days I feel totally discouraged. Days when I think we are losing the war. I feel as if I am a lone voice of reason against a sea of ‘good ole boys’ and their followers. I wish I were more articulate, more charismatic, more able to voice what is wrong with a culture that thinks rape and abuse of women is okay; a culture that proclaims a corporation is a person; a culture where suppressing voters is acceptable. Today is one of those days when I am feeling disheartened almost to the point of tears. I am feeling too overwhelmed by comments from those who think women who have been raped can’t get pregnant; who think it’s okay for a rapist to sue for visitation rights for the child he helped create when he raped someone; who think that women don’t deserve legal protection against violence; who think that women should not have to be paid the same as a man for the same job; who think that any woman who is raped did something to provoke the rapist by the way she dressed or comported herself. And I am most disheartened by the women who think this is all okay.

I never, ever, want to go back to the days when abortion was illegal and deadly, even though I will do whatever I can to make sure an abortion doesn’t happen; when birth control was not legal for unmarried women; when women were confined to a few low-paying jobs; when abuse of women was acceptable and not prosecuted; and on and on. There are those, men and women, who say we need to ‘get over it’ and we need to stop whining and get on with our lives. But until we are truly free and considered as equals, we can’t and won’t ‘get over it’ and we will not stop fighting. We owe it to those who came before us and to those who will come after us.

Tomorrow is another day and “once more into the breach, dear friends.”

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33 thoughts on “Do we still need a women’s movement?

  1. I can totally relate to the fatigue. In fact, a number of people have written about it lately, including Lindy West and Jessica Valenti. But this is such an important way to fight what’s broken in our culture: with the truth. Thanks for telling yours.

  2. Don’t feel discouraged. I saw the article about those T-shirts that were sold on Amazon, too. Young women can be truly stupid about their own power or lack of – I was. But I, like many others, are raising strong, smart and respectful daughters and sons. I believe that progress is being made and the disgust which many of us feel is a sign that our barometers have changed about what is acceptable. I have my days when I think the world has gone mad. Fortunately they are fewer than the days when I feel hope.

  3. Thanks for stopping by, Rosie. This post was actually triggered by the PBS program “Makers”. I only was able to see the first hour, but it did make me start thinking.

  4. Thanks, Michelle. I know we are making progress, but some days there is just so much sh** out there that I just want to throw up my hands and quit. But I won’t. I will keep fighting. And perhaps because of people like you who are raising awareness in the next generation, things will drastically change.

  5. Great post, Ruth. You must be about my age because I went though everything you wrote about in this post (apart from standing up for the doctors because I didn’t do nursing – but I have seen nurses do that). I haven’t seen the PBS program “Makers” but I’m going to Google it now.
    I worked my way up to a very comfortable position in government and had to deal with a lot of ‘old boys’ along the way. I’m a very ‘friendly’ person, but have made it very clear on several occasions that I won’t tolerate anti-female sentiments in any way, shape, or form.

    I think young woman of today are quite switched on and they have a lot more support and public understanding than we ever did. Occasionally I see things like the t-shirt and think the war is lost, but it’s only one battle. The war will continue because I’m sure there are more women out there who find that t-shirt offensive than there are women who think it’s okay and funny.

  6. Real great post Ruth. It’s interesting and sad to learn what it was really like not too long ago. I call myself a feminist and am proud of it. I do Repost Mondays and will be sending some visitors your way. This article deserves to be read.

  7. Thanks for commenting Dianne. Yes, there was so much we had to deal with back then. What I wrote is barely the tip of the iceberg! I know the t-shirt issue is just one battle, but all these ‘just one battle’ issues seem to pile up at times.

  8. Thanks for commenting and for reposting – I do appreciate it! It is encouraging to know that there are young women out there who gladly identify as feminists when that has become a ‘dirty’ word.

  9. This really struck a chord with me.
    I wanted to write a post about my own experiences, but my parents follow me so I settled for one on feminism, which I posted a few days ago.
    I was recently indecently assaulted, and the police officer who took my statement talked to me about how men get urges when young women are around, and you can’t blame them for doing something about them. He told me what would happen to the man who attacked me, would have raped me if I wasn’t physically and emotionally strong enough to cause a fair amount of damage myself, and get out, if I took it to court. He would lose his job, have a criminal record… which I would be to blame for. He told me how upsetting victims find going to court.
    I reported the police officer, but I still dropped the charges (mostly because I was doing a study of Courtroom Discourse for my course, and had been handling some upsetting transcripts).
    It’s disgusting that people can still have these views, and can get away with trying to persuade someone to drop charges like that.
    I’m going to my first ever feminist rally tomorrow, in response to some sexism on campus which has hit the press.
    I can’t wait!

  10. I’m sorry you were assaulted, and I’m outraged at the typical response from the police officer. Unfortunately, victims who do go to court end up having their whole life laid bare as if it’s their fault they were raped or attacked. I can’t believe it’s still like that. We spend so much time telling our daughters how to avoid being raped and no time at all telling our sons NOT to rape women. It’s disgusting. But good for you for getting involved. I wish more young women would take up the cause because we are a long way from having equality.

  11. This post made me think of how the racists seem to have made a comeback, along with the neo-Nazis. I guess social change isn’t a smooth, upward curve, the way we’d like to imagine. It’s inevitable that there will be people too young or too oblivious to remember the history and the struggles that preceded them, and so it seems as though we have to start all over. I don’t think it’s quite that bad, though. Women represent half the population, and they have the vote. That should be their greatest source of power. Yet, in both the House and the Senate, men continue to outnumber women five to one. I’m not sure what caused this loss of political momentum, but I believe it’s related to the reversals you wrote about in this post. Or were the changes we saw decades ago just superficial, and designed to appease rather than reform?

  12. Interesting insights. I wish I knew the answers, but I think part of the problem is complacency. Young women don’t think there’s anything left to fight for when it comes to women’s rights, but they don’t realize that the rights that were so hard-won can be lost with the stroke of a pen. Men are still making the decisions that affect us.

  13. I read and completely relate to what you wrote, words and sentiment. I did the SARS (sexual assault exams) in the second busiest ER in LA county for years. Now, I’m still doing women’s health but in a rural clinic where I live. This is an issue that needs voices, loud and louder. I’m with you and do what I can to advocate for women, all the issues that are oppressive and criminal. BTW, there’s a great book if you haven’t read it by Riane Eisler, “The Chalice and the Blade” which really speaks to the history of the suppression of the feminine and does it in a way that shows from whence we’ve come and grown. Great post. Paulette

  14. Thanks for stopping by and for following Paulette. I’ve heard of Eisler’s book and may have read it at one point. I might have to add it to my library. 🙂

  15. Hi Ruth. I do identify with you and with all you’ve said. I am still doing the hands on nursing at the ground level – shift work and all. I do love it all but enough is enough. Giving it up in July.

  16. Thank you, Hafong, for commenting and for following my blog. Nursing can be quite draining; I hated the shift work, especially nights. I’m glad to be out of it. 🙂

  17. I feel very appreciative of women who took part in fighting for the rights we now enjoy today, but looking at how things are now and knowing what some of those fights were, really takes a bite out of your faith in society sometimes. I was at this job and sexually harassed three times, by three different people and every body handled it like it was boys being bad, til I took it to Human Resources. And that company had no sexual harassment policy, I was just asked if I wanted them to give him a talking to. It’s pretty odd, even some of the issues that came up with this last election makes you go “What is going on?!” But I see the same thing happening with race politics too. So I just wonder if those who didn’t want these changes have been successful sewing the seeds of discord toward change once put into place…

  18. Thanks for your thoughtful comments. And I think you might be right about sowing the seeds of discord. If I remember correctly, back in the 60s, the black panthers treated women as servants, and the women’s movement gave no voice to women of color. The powers that be have a vested interest in keeping all the civil rights movements at each other’s throats; divide and conquer. And we continually fall into their trap.

  19. I agree. Politics is about something different, we can only make it serve our progress if we’re paying attention and exercise our voices. But people are getting caught up, and also expecting the government to do-the-right-thing. Unfortunately that is coming down to the “deal,” more and more. Like….a business. :[

  20. Women are talking, writing blogs, meeting, standing up – our girls will learn. They will see the women before them taking a stand and they will learn from it. That will come. There is change in the air, I can feel it. The ol’ school establishment that wants things to stay as they are, are getting nervous. Great blog post Ruth, I too have had this heavy on my heart of late – but I do feel change.

  21. As a women in her 50s I have seen some change over the years but nowhere near enough change to suggest men and men are treated equally and have the same opportunities. Jenna

  22. Thanks for commenting, Jenna. Yes, I have seen some changes, too. We are at least making 70% or better of what a man makes instead of the 60 or so percent from a couple decades ago. But that doesn’t seem like much change does it?

  23. Even though I KNOW about the way things were not so very long ago–it still makes me shudder to read it firsthand from a woman who experienced it. I worry about the complacency of my fellow young women who didn’t have to fight that fight. :/

  24. Thanks for commenting, Martha. I’m afraid that unless things get much better, we will have to fight the same fight all over again. Stay vigilant and spread the word!

Ruth passed away from cancer. Please remove from list

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