It never crossed my mind that I would need to explain feminism to my daughters. After all, I lived a strong and independent life and worked hard for my own accomplishments.
I never told them how lonely it is to fight for women. I never told them about the personal prices that I had to pay to defend women who were being raped by the current culture. I never explained to them the reality of how difficult it was for my mother to get a job as a bartender. My mother was, literally, the first female bartender in a free standing bar in 1968.
The biggest prices that women pay are the economic ones. After all, if you have money, everything else can be bought. Women have always, systematically, been kept out of the most lucrative jobs available in America. This is why it was so important for my mother to get that bartending job; it was the highest paying job in the industry.
At work in the 90s: when I spoke out against a male physician who was denigrating women in our treatment facility, I was marginalized and had to work in a hostile environment. Ignorantly, I finally resigned and the women who came to the facility for treatment continued to be put down and insulted by the Latin physician who thought shaming was okay.
My daughters were with me when these things happened to me. I didn’t explain any of it. I realize that in retrospect, it only meant that mom didn’t like her job anymore. I must have discussed it; I must have made some words for it. I didn’t explain it enough.
Being independent was not about getting away from men, it was more about ensuring that I had choices in my life. I thought I was demonstrating the right life, in spite of a male dominated culture. It wasn’t that a man beat a woman: it was more that nothing would happen to that man when he beat that woman. I was fighting the structure of a culture that allowed women to be beat; that kept those women in minimum wage jobs, that made child care impossibly expensive. When I was young it was actually impossible to get child support. Fathers of young children roamed free while the mothers were chained to child care and bare minimum wages. That was my world reality at age 20. Women stayed in hurtful marriages because the alternative was so much worse. Add to that, the fact that many women were sexually blackmailed by men more powerful than they. Landlords would demand sexual favors and no woman without money or family was safe in this environment.
Today, life is much better for women, but not nearly as good as it should be, not nearly equitable. My daughters are not aware ~ perhaps~ of this long and dark road that women have had to go down in the last millennium (or so). Trust me on this, it has been a dark road. When European daughters were being raped by uncles, brothers and fathers, Freud called it penis envy and the whole world believed that hundreds of women were just having sexual fantasies. Indeed, it has been a dark road for women of all classes.
Today, we are able to articulate so much of what was deprived of us before now. Now I hear people talking about the “pink tax” and I am so thrilled that it is now “a thing”. Yes, not only do women make less money than men, but then women must also pay more for everything that they need and purchase. Dry cleaning a woman’s shirt is 4.99 and a man’s shirt is 1.49. I am told by the dry cleaner that a woman’s shirt is more difficult to press. Why? No answer.
This culture is a structure that many men do not wish to be a part of. My son is passionate about fairness and would not participate in any of these crimes against women. But these crimes continue unabated. Women are still being beaten and murdered by their spouses at an alarming rate. Incest continues and perpetrators walk about freely with no one the wiser of the crimes.
We still don’t have enough female senators and certainly not enough female CEOs, and those women in power are often there as a function of being co-opted into the male world.
Why would any woman in her right mind, in America, vote for Donald Trump?