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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"But if you go carryin' pictures of Chairman Mao..."

We said we wanted a revolution, and we got one. Women, I mean. But who started it? I watched some of the memorial service held for Rosa Parks, and I'm still in awe of the woman. She stood up (or sat down, I guess) for an entire race of people, and the United States would never be the same. It would be better. I wish we had someone to honor for taking a stand for women, like we honor Mrs. Parks for what she did for African Americans.

The truth of it is, there isn't just one woman, and there isn't a specific point in time that the women's movement became a force to be reckoned with. Almost one hundred years ago, Margaret Sanger was thrown in prison for handing out birth control information. Other women were locked up for demanding the vote. Fast forward to the forties, and women went to work in male-dominated jobs, earning a living for their families and fulfilling the required manufacturing capabilities of the U.S. while the men were overseas, fighting a long war. When they came home, women went back to making like June Cleever. I suspect things might still be Ward and June-ish, but for one thing:

The Birth Control Pill.

Maybe there isn't one woman we can look at and say, "Hey! She's the founder of the Women's Movement! All Hail What's-Her-Name!", but there's a small, round tablet that changed the way our entire society goes about the business of living. I guess we should say, "All Hail The Little Round Tablet!" Then again, maybe not. We do so want to be taken seriously, and that sounds lame.

Why did that wee pill have such an impact? Is it because when Ward was too darn busy with whatever it was that Ward did, June could go out and get some chi-chi on the side, without worrying that Beaverette, their third child, looked too much like Lumpy's dad? (Wait - I need an eeeuuuwww moment here - Gah! Lumpy's dad was so not hot, was he?) The answer is: No. Not that the pill didn't afford the opportunity to go out and get some, but we're talking about married women. Married, people. With 2.5 kids. And no microwave. Trust me, the vast majority of women in June's era weren't gettin' no chi-chi outside the master bedroom. They were doing dishes and running carpool and being secretary of the PTA. And vacuuming in their pearls. Well, my mom didn't. But June sure did. That June. Whata woman. Rroerww! Anyway, the pill changed everything for two reasons: June didn't have to become a baby factory the instant she said, "I do," and at the same time, Ward could go get some, without worrying that his seed would be spread far and wide, leaving many Beavers out there to point out his Big Sin.

Okay, all you Leave It To Beaver fans out there, getchyer panties out of a knot. I'm sure Ward the Wonderdad would never, in a gazillion years, get some that wasn't June's. But I'm also sure that a lotta other Notsowonderdads did go out and have affairs with women who weren't married to them. This created a problem when June found out and didn't like it. Since she didn't have ten kids to feed, thereby making her wholly dependent on Ward, she was able to tell him to get the hell out. And she did. In fact, lots of Junes said, "Get the hell out." There were also men who looked at June, said, "Man, you're gettin' old, and whiny, and I know this sweet, young thing...." And he packed and hit the road, looking for greener pastures. He could do that because he didn't have ten kids looking to him to bring home the bacon. It was so much easier to leave those 2.5 kids. And the newer model he traded in the old wife for - she didn't immediately have babies when she said "I do." Ward was done at 2.5.

Meanwhile, back at the Cleever household, June couldn't get the kind of alimony she needed to raise her kids with actual food, so she went to work.

Problem was, the best job June could get was in the secretarial pool. Or a housekeeper. If she was real smart, and lucky, she could be a telephone operator. She might have liked to work as a check-out lady at the local A&P, but no, that was strictly a man's job. No women allowed. They'd have to count money, and be responsible, and everybody knew, anything in a dress was way too incapable. Time passed, and the Junes of the world looked around and reached The Big Reality: They were getting paid less than half of the men who held their same job. They might be smarter and better at the job, but Mister Slacker got the raises and the promotions because he had a different set of genetalia. "Not Fair!" the Junes cried.

No one listened.

So they joined forces. They protested. They got out the vote. They sued companies, and won. When I think of the Women's Movement, I don't think of those who stood in the streets of Washington and burned their bras to make a statement. I think of those who sat in dusty courtrooms and demanded the same pay for the same job. I think of the thousands who went door to door, asking other women to vote for representatives and Presidents who were not so narrow-minded as to consider women lesser life forms because they have vaginas and babies and bleed once a month.

They are my heroes. It is because of those women, and Margaret Sanger, and the suffragettes, that my college age daughters can call me in the middle of the night and say, "Mom, I'm thinking maybe law school is the way to go." It would have been difficult for me to call my own mom and say that - and I went to college in the seventies. Did you know, Sandra Day O'Connor played hell getting into law school because the dean said he didn't want to use up a spot meant for a man on a woman? Imagine a world without Justice O'Connor. I'd rather not.

Now I know this will probably piss a few people off. They'll call me a man-hater, or some such. So maybe I didn't express myself well enough. Cut me a break - it's almost midnight and I'm tired.

I just want to honor all those women who came before, who fought the good fight so we could enjoy the most precious thing in the world: Freedom of Choice. If my girls get married and have babies and want to stay home with them, they can do that. They'll have to live on a strict budget, because nowadays, the choice is hinged more on economics than What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up, but the point is, they don't have to stay home. If their Prince turns out not to be so Charming, they can go out and get a decent job, for decent pay.

Author's Note: All historical inaccuracies are solely mine, because, duh, I wrote it. And this is a blog entry - not a senior thesis. Bottom Line?

All Hail The Little Round Tablet!


At 8:14 AM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

We do have a lot of women in our collective past to thank. They've helped us get to the point where women in powerful positions aren't such a jaw-dropper anymore. Just look at the success of the new ABC drama "Commander in Chief".

At 12:45 PM, Blogger Theresa said...

I agree with you Stef! Great Post! Women rock! And we have come a long way despite the hardships women have had to endure since coming to America…don’t even get me started. “All men are created equal,” was not written with women in mind. I LOVE the idea of honoring the many women who came before us and helped smooth the road to “freedom.” There are soooo many. In 1850, a woman named Lucy Stone was chosen to write the commencement address at Oberlin College, then was told it would have to be read by a man. She refused to write it! She began lecturing on women’s rights soon after and she was often attacked by mobs for doing so. And then there is Margaret Fuller who said, “there exists in the minds of men a tone of feeling toward woman as toward slaves…” and Amelia Bloomer who developed the bloomer so women could actually walk without bruising! She took a lot of crap for that invention. The list goes on...I hope our daughters stay strong and you’re right, they don’t have to stay home. And they don’t have to feel guilty for their choices, no matter what they choose. And they can wear pants! On another note, I must add that I do hope to see a woman president in the white house during my lifetime.

At 10:53 PM, Blogger Jennifer Smith/Ila Campbell said...

Amen, Sistah!

At 1:09 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

Ever read the "Uppity Women" series of books, by Vicki Leon? Great stuff. Here's just one of them.

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Jennie Lucas said...

Oh my gosh -- a semi-political blog. My mind goes in a zillion tangents at once, but here's just a couple of thoughts --

1. This kind of huge social change can have far-reaching implications. For instance, did you know that the birth rate is dropping in Western Europe? In Italy, the average woman only has one child (as compared to about 2.4 in the U.S.), and recently the government of France has started to try to financially incent its citizens to have a third child. The birthrate hasn't changed much in the U.S. (yet), but what will this mean for society, if we eventually have two seniors for every new baby? Societal concerns aside, just think of the havoc it would wreak with Social Security.

2. Choices aren't always what they seem. For instance, what about a woman who would like to stay at home with her kids, but her husband prefers that she work so they can afford a nice house, a college fund, etc.? And before you criticize the husband, he might have a good point, and in some ways he's simply protecting the family -- and his wife. I read someplace that the number one predictor of poverty is motherhood. Yup, so if you quit your income and career to raise the kids, you might be happy now, but it will come at a price in the future. Small pension or none. Less in Social Security. And you're elderly, broke, and most likely widowed. Yikes.

My own baby is starting to make faces at all my time on this blog, so guess I'll leave it at that and go play now. =)

At 11:05 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Jenna, I know exactly what you mean about your mind going in a million tangents after you read Stef's post...all sorts of things to talk about in there. But I do want to say one thing about "choices". IMO, choices ARE what they seem. Some choices are just harder to make than others and sometimes people make the wrong choices and don't realize it until it's too late. I think it's fine if a woman decides to go to work instead of staying home so her family can have a nice home and college funds for her kids and more security later in life...AS LONG AS it is HER choice to do that and not just her husbands. Okay, sorry, just had to get that off my chest. :) I think I'm going to go check out that "uppity women" series that Esri mentioned in an earlier post.


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