What will it take for people to stop looking back when it comes to women's progress? As a country we are stuck in a time warp of old assumptions that have completely gridlocked women's upward mobility. It's so bizarre!! People continue to assume that women are so far ahead and that we live just a step away from a feminist paradise because we have made so much progress.
It is a pile of garbage to buy into that idea. Yes we have made progress from the 1950's--------women now live a life that women back then could only dream about. Fine. Pat yourselves on the back for taking a leap forward. But a 60 + year victory lap? How lazy can you get!!!!
That particular period of progress has ended a long time ago. When you look at the ideals and goals of the 60's feminists, the goal was parity------women running 50% of everything in proportion to our numbers. Democracy usually infers equal representation. Have women achieved that state of parity? Not only have we not achieved it, we are almost as far away from it as we were in the 50's. Women run practically nothing in the United States today. Check out the stats in the right column of this blog and you will discover the ugly truth-------the U.S. ranks #70 in the world in female representation in government, women hold 6 out of 50 governorships (and no-----that's just not good enough!!!), 2.8% of CEO positions in the Fortune 1000, and on and on and on. You can talk about how things are better than they were all you want, it just doesn't change the stark reality that women run virtually nothing. And our country is worse off for not using that brainpower and talent.
What brought all of this on this past few days are two examples of this sclerotic attitude, one being the disgusting musical attack on Michele Bachmann and the other an article in the New York Times by Thomas B. Edsall where the contours of a new Democratic Party coalition were discussed.
You may be well aware of the "Lyin' Ass Bitch" controversy stirred up on Jimmy Fallon's Show by the band thinking it was being cute by introducing Bachmann with this insulting music. Bachmann rightly protested, received an apology, the band was "severely reprimanded" (whatever that means), and several people weighed in with their comments. The best way to handle this type of insult came by way of Rep. Nita Lowey who defended Bachmann against this misogyny REGARDLESS OF PARTY. Lowey said:
"The choice of song to introduce Michele Bachmann on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon last night was insulting and inappropriate.
I do not share Michelle Bachmann's politics, but she deserves to be treated with respect. No female politician---and no woman--should be subjected to sexist and offensive innuendo like she was last night.
The Roots, Jimmy Fallon, and NBC should apologize."
This kind of statement by Lowey is proper because all women regardless of political ideology suffer from sexist acts such as these, and when one of us suffers, we all suffer. Those kinds of sexist gestures when left unchallenged open the door for more of the same with impunity.
Contrast Rep. Lowey's reaction with the garbage issuing forth from the National Organization for Women's President Terry O'Neill:
"I am heartened to see that conservatives are learning how hostility toward women in public life functions and how it feels to be on the receiving end. However, I can't help but wonder why their outrage is limited to those they condemn as liberals for taking potshots at the Bachmanns and the Palins of the world. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are infamous for using sexist, racist, classist, homophobic remarks against anyone who doesn't march to his extremist drumbeat. NOW regularly calls out sexism directed at conservative women as well as feminists, and we often speak up to remind everyone, including our political allies, that these types of slurs are harmful to all women, and they need to stop. The Roots' song choice for Bachmann's entrance wasdisrespectful, degrading, and juvenile, and the bandleader's apology was weak. Thankfully host Jimmy Fallon and NBC stepped up with more sincere apologies. Now will the right wing start policing its own? I'm not holding my breath."
The problems with NOW and O'Neill's statement are numerous. First of all, why confuse political ideology with a simple calling out of a ridiculous display of sexism? The truth of the matter is that the left doesn't police its own either-----Bill Maher come to mind? And that is just the tip of the iceberg. In reality, both sides are just guilty as charged of fomenting sexist displays way too often. It's not just the right. It's is done by all sides-----and it is done way too often. I can understand how it can become exhausting constantly having to shout out and speak up against the continuing stream of sexist slurs that come our way. Having to respond can appear maddeningly selective because there are so many examples of this kind of sexism. But a REAL organization defending women against sexism would do just that-----defend and not divide.
NOW's statement really proves my point that women's rights have become hostage to party politics. Women's parity and feminism are so caught up in the party fight between left and right, we have ceased to remain current and relevant and we are fighting the past war instead of the present one. Although there are some differences between left and right, what does any of that have to do with the current state we find ourselves in where women run nothing? A weak argument can be made that the right wants to control women and keep them in the home, but that argument is not only old, it is inaccurate. There are lots of working women on the right, there are a number of prominent Republican politicians, and these women run up against the same glass ceilings that Democratic women do. And whether women have a D or an R next to their names, they are subjected to the same inbred cultural sexism that has resulted in women's advancement being stalled. It serves the parties well to keep us divided among ourselves because if women really united against our common enemies, we would be an unstoppable force and the current party warfare would whither. The parties can't have that!!
So one asks why is it that the lazy media are always going to NOW for a quote about women? NOW is a dwindling organization that represents a smaller and smaller slice of the female population. And in their persistence adherence to a party warfare that doesn't serve women's interests in any meaningful and current way, they are an organization looking backward instead of forward.
Which brings me to my second example, the New York Times article by Mr. Edsall. It was a fascinating article, and its focus was on how the Democrats are focusing on putting together a new coalition for 2012, one that leaves out the white working class. However, one of the statements illustrates my point that as far as women's politics is concerned, reporters are looking backwards and not doing any real thinking about where the state of women's interests lies these days:
"The better-off wing, in contrast, puts at the top of its political agenda a cluster of rights related to self-expression, the environment, demilitarization, and, importantly, freedom from repressive norms-----governing both sexual behavior and women's role in society-----that are promoted by the conservative movement."
The assumption of a statement like that is that Democrats are better than Republicans for women. That statement is taken as a given, but the reality is that it is just not so. If any party were good for women, wouldn't we women be in a better situation than we find ourselves in? Wouldn't there be more women cabinet members for instance? The Obama cabinet isn't any more female that the George W. Bush cabinet. Wouldn't one of the parties have been successful promoting and electing a woman president? And truth be told, there are FOUR FEMALE REPUBLICAN GOVERNORS and only two Democratic ones. Any case that one party is better than another party for women is disingenuous in face of the facts. There must be a reality check here and that reality check would produce the conclusion that women's progress toward parity is severely stalled out. And it is stalled out because the people who write about women and the ones who purport to speak for women are anything but progressive----------they are looking backwards, fighting old battles, celeb rating achievements of long ago, and they aren't taking on the real issues.
The press needs to stop being so lazy about the foment in feminism going on just below the radar screen. The old assumptions do not reflect reality. NOW speaks for maybe 10% of women and I am being generous in saying that. And women, we need to stop letting others do the talking for us. They are doing a terrible job, and if they were being graded in school they'd receive a D-. Why are we putting our destiny in the hands of people who aren't taking the long view into the future but instead are taking the long lazy view backwards? We can still impact a positive future for women, but not by being tired, cranky, and unwilling. We must speak up in many creative ways to get the job done and take the issue of women's parity and make it a reality, not a lost dream of long ago. We can do it----if not us who?