Clinton advisor Geraldine Ferraro, the first and only woman to have been a major party VP candidate in a presidential election, views herself as a victim of racism. Yesterday she said, "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white." Hillary Clinton, a Senator from NY who may well be the first major party female candidate for President, can't stop boo-hooing about being a victim either. A male dominated press corps has counted her out. She always gets the first question in the debates. There is a right wing conspiracy against her and her husband. Her fellow Democratic candidates are 'ganging up' on her. If the Clinton campaign isn't careful, it will set the women's movement back a generation or so.
Let's be pragmatic for a moment. As women, it is not in our best interests to be viewed as victims who must remain on the defensive to survive professionally. A good fight over substantive issues? Count me in. An uphill battle? Fine by me. Viewing friends (and myself) as victims because we are women? No thanks. That is a load of psychological baggage that I am not willing to carry.
I commend the courage and chutzpah of early feminists like Geraldine Ferraro, Hillary Clinton and Gloria Steinem. Now that many glass ceilings have been shattered, most people support (at least in theory) equal pay for equal work, equal opportunity in education and equal opportunity in the workforce. Both men and women hope that their daughters will have the same opportunities as their sons. This is a meaningful sea change from a generation ago when middle class women stayed home and took care of the children while men brought home the bacon. The battles fought by the first generation of feminists have in large part been won.The feminist issues facing us now are different from the ones that we faced a generation ago. From Moms Rising (www.momsrising.org):
- Three-quarters of American mothers are now in the labor force.
- A full quarter of U.S. families with children less than six years old live in poverty.
- Nine million children are without healthcare coverage and many more are under-insured.
- Fourteen million children are unsupervised after school. 40,000 of these are kindergartners due to a lack of affordable after school programs.
- The U.S. is one of only four nations without any form of paid leave for new mothers. (The others are Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea.)
- Women without children make 90 cents to a man's dollar, but mothers make just 73 cents, and single mothers make even less -- about 60 cents to a man's dollar.
- Mothers are 79% less likely to be hired than equally qualified non-mothers.
- A recent study found that mothers were offered $11,000 lower starting pay than non-mothers with the same resume for highly paid jobs, while fathers were offered $6,000 more in starting pay.
- Of the twenty most competitive economies in the world, the U.S. is the only one that does not require employers to provide paid sick days.
Gender roles must be re-evaluated through the lens of current feminist issues. It will require a long and thoughtful conversation. It will take a lot of listening by all those involved. The less baggage everyone brings to the table the better.