Votes for Women!

A couple of days ago it was Gloria Steinem’s birthday. She turned 80 and there was much blogging about it. I, being a rebel, decided to wait a couple of days before throwing in my two cents.

Gloria Steinem was born on March 25, 1934. Women had only had the right to vote for 14 years when she entered the world. There was STILL a shitload of stuff women weren’t allowed to do because they lacked a penis. Gloria noticed this as she grew up, and she didn’t like it. Not one little bit.

Therefore, Gloria became a feminist. A serious, kick-ass, in your face feminist. She wanted equality and by gum she was going to fight for it. Among other things, she started the feminist periodical Ms. Magazine in 1972, the year Fokker happened to come squalling out of the birth canal. That was 42 years ago but it’s not exactly a distant epoch, right?

By the time I was grown, Gloria Steinem and the second wave feminists like her had changed the world for women like me. For that, we owe them a debt of gratitude that is too seldom expressed.

When I was born in 1972, women (even nice, respectable married ladies teaching elementary school) could be fired for getting pregnant. A man could rape his wife with no legal consequences. Women had no redress if they were sexually harassed at work. Women couldn’t own a credit card or get credit in their own name. Before she was married, my mom had to have her Dad co-sign for her just so she could open a checking account at the bank.

My mom also wasn’t allowed to wear pants at her first job. It wasn’t until 1972, when Title IX was passed, that women couldn’t be required to wear dresses or skirts. Since the amendment wasn’t passed until June of that year and I was born in February, I can honestly tell my daughters that women weren’t always allowed to wear pants when mommy was a little girl.

Although “legal abortions were already available in 17 states under a range of circumstances beyond those necessary to save a woman's life”, abortion was still illegal on a national level and women were still dying from illegal terminations. In “1965, the number of deaths due to illegal abortion had fallen to just under 200, but illegal abortion still accounted for 17% of all deaths attributed to pregnancy and childbirth that year. And these are just the number that were officially reported; the actual number was likely much higher.”

Oh, and don’t forget that women were literally being drugged so they wouldn’t resist their second class status. Valium, AKA “Mother’s Little Helper”, was prescribed to women willy-nilly and ingested like tic-tacs, meaning that it was used for “anaesthetizing a generation of British [and American] housewives’ in the 1960s and 70s”.

Honestly, I really didn’t “notice” much beyond the playground and school until the 80s. If you want to see some better perspectives of life prior to a strong feminist movement, check out some first person accounts. As for me, I was never told there was a job I “couldn’t” do as a chick, but I was certainly taught to fear being accused of feminism. I grew up in the great feminist backlash of the 1980s and it didn’t even occur to me feminist weren’t evil man-haters until I started college in 1990. I became a third wave feminist. Nowadays, I throw a fit about the current War On Women that is the new resurgence of backlash. Since fear of women’s sexual and financial autonomy drives the backlash, birth control is once again The Enemy according to anti-feminists. The patriarchy hates it when women chose when and with whom to have sex and don’t “pay” for it with an unintended pregnancy that they are forced to carry to term.

The three female high court judges are doing their damnedest to save the birth control mandate that requires insurers to cover women’s contraceptives, but it looks like the Old Dudes Who Never Had To Worry About it will stab Lady Justice in the back and make sure she can’t use an IUD. Maybe we can all keep an aspirin in between our knees?

I bet Gloria Steinem cannot believe she is STILL having to fight this shit.

Recent Posts by Betty Fokker

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