My column from January 21, 2017.
I am a feminist.
It’s a word that far too many seem to find even more offensive than another word that begins with “F.”
Gloria Steinem said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
I do not hate men or believe I am better than them. I don’t feel I deserve special privileges. I believe that as a human, I should have equal political, economic and social rights.
Why do I identity as a feminist?
When I was born a woman could not apply for a loan or credit card without a male co-signer. Three months later the Equal Credit Opportunity Act was codified.
Harvard grudgingly admitted women, but did not abolish quotas or offer similar scholarships until the late 1970s – when it finally began using the same criteria to admit a woman as it used to admit a man.
A pregnant woman could be fired from her job without recourse until 1978.
While no law prevented a woman from serving on the Supreme Court, no woman was appointed until Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981. Today there are three women serving out of what should be a court of nine judges (one seat has been vacant for nearly a year).
Marital rape was not criminalized in all 50 states until 1993. And around the world 120 countries still don’t have laws against marital rape, and too many allow child brides — some younger than 10.
A women could not attend a U.S. military academy until 1976. Women could not fight in combat until 2013.
I grew up near the largest ski jump in the western hemisphere, but a woman could not compete in Olympic ski jumping events until the 2014 games in Sochi.
In my mother’s lifetime (in 1972) women could not enter the Boston Marathon. That’s the same year that Title IX – the landmark legislation that banned educational discrimination on the grounds of gender – passed.
While many only think of sports when they hear Title IX, it also opened doors for women in higher education. Before it passed it was legal to expel a pregnant student. Title IX allowed boys to take a home economics class and girls to take shop class.
Women could not serve on juries nationwide until 1973.
Before the Equal Pay Act of 1963, employers could openly discriminate against women by offering unequal pay for performing the same job as men. Unfortunately a wage gap still exists.
In my grandmothers’ lifetimes, women could not enlist in the military. It wasn’t until 1948 that Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.
In my great-grandmothers’ lifetimes (in 1920), American women finally received the right to vote. Until the Cable Act passed in 1922, an American woman who married a foreigner lost her American citizenship and had to take her husband’s citizenship — even if they both lived in the United States.
Today, a Women’s March on Washington takes place in Washington D.C., with more than 600 “sister” marches planned around across all seven continents, with at least eight marches taking place in Wisconsin. There are even marches organized in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and I admire participants for their bravery and pray for their safety.
The Women’s March on Washington’s stated mission is, “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health and our families, recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”
It was created to send a message to the new presidential administration that women’s rights are human rights. This is at a time when women still hold less than 20 percent of the seats in Congress, although we make up more than half the population.
While we’ve come a long way on the path toward equality, on a global scale there is still a long road ahead of us. Educating females is not a priority: Of the estimated 781 million illiterate adults in the world, roughly two-thirds are women.
Malala Yousafzai — who stood up to the Taliban and survived being shot for speaking out about education for girls — said, “I raise up my voice—not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard .... We cannot succeed when half of us are held back.”
In sexual assault cases we too often still blame the victim, if we believe them at all.
Females make up 98 percent of trafficking for sexual exploitation.
“Like a girl” is still considered an insult.
So today I stand in solidarity with those who gather in support of equality. And I will continue to march forward seeking it.