Young Women Need Feminism

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Kathrine Switzer made history in 1967 when she participated as a registered runner in the Boston Marathon. Despite rules barring women from competing, Switzer signed up and managed to run the entire marathon, despite an official physically trying to drag her out of the race. Fifty years later, Switzer jubilantly ran in this year’s Boston Marathon, leading a group of 100 women runners.

After the race, Switzer was quoted as saying,  “If young women today take for granted the fact that they can compete like men in the sport of running, that’s fantastic. That’s what we wanted when we began working for acceptance.” (amightygirl.com) I’m not so sure I agree with her.

I think it’s a problem that young women today don’t realize how many rights women gained only through the activism and struggle of their forebears. It has been less than 100 years since women won the right to vote in America. Even in more recent history, women were discriminated against in the workplace and barred from many rights that today’s woman takes for granted.

In the 1960s, for instance, women could be refused a credit card, and married women had to have their husbands co-sign to obtain one. Married women were also listed on passports as simply the wife of a man. Most of the Ivy League schools barred women from admittance until the late Sixties and beyond. And only married women with menstrual difficulties were allowed to purchase contraception in the early Sixties.

Even as women began entering the workplace in greater numbers, they faced widespread harassment and discrimination. In the 1960s, women earned approximately 60% of what men earned, largely due to the occupations that were open to women, but also because men were looked at as the breadwinners and therefore in need of greater compensation. This was quite overt, as evidenced in the comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show, in which Mary’s boss quite clearly states that she is being paid less because she is a woman.

Aside from salary issues, women were subject to sexist and discriminatory policies at work. For example, a woman could be fired because she became pregnant. Flight attendants in the 60s (called “stewardesses”) were subject to height, weight, and attractiveness qualifications. And stewardesses could be fired for getting married. After all, the predominantly male clientele on flights wanted unrestricted access to attractive single women whom they could sexually harass with abandon.

This week Fox News icon Bill O’Reilly was forced to resign under allegations of sexual harassment, following his old boss, Roger Ailes, who also left the media giant amid such accusations.

Back when I was a young working college student, there was no such concept as “sexual harassment.” Women were routinely subjected to unwanted comments and advances from co-workers. I remember being forced to kiss my boss – on the lips! – on my last day of work at an insurance agency. There was no recourse available to women until Gloria Steinem’s exposé of the Playboy enterprise brought to light the rampant victimization of women in the workplace.

Today many of the rights women take for granted are imperiled by a conservative movement that wants to relegate women to their past restrictive roles as wives and mothers. Particularly in the area of reproductive rights, legislation is intruding upon the rights of women to obtain contraception and other medical care of their choosing. And as indicated by many recent high profile instances of sexual harassment and domestic violence, as well as the current pay gap of 20% between men and women (aauw.org), women still need to fight for our rights, not take them for granted.

Many young women today dislike the term “feminism,” seeing it as a pejorative term for a ball-busting hater of men. What they need to realize is that without feminism, they would not be enjoying the freedoms and rights they enjoy today. And without continued feminism, those rights may slip away in the future.

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Lamestream Media Indeed

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On May 15, The New York Times published an in-depth article about Donald Trump’s history of sexism and sexual harassment of women. The article barely caused a blip in the general media. There was some backlash from conservatives, and one of the women in the story said her comments were misconstrued. Trump, of course, declared the Times article completely discredited, and the mainstream media went quietly away, like a cuffed dog with its tail between its legs.

For years conservatives have decried what they call the “lamestream media” for its liberal bias. This includes the venerable New York Times. “Fair and balanced” Fox News was supposedly a reaction to this bias. But from where I sit, all the fawning attention given to Trump shows just the opposite. No matter what outlandish statements Trump makes about women and minorities, no matter what idiotic pronouncements he makes about what he will do as president (the latest: “I will unsign” executive orders made by Obama), the news media go out of their way to portray him as a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States.

This morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the pundits spent an outsized amount of time hashing over allegations about the Clintons that date back to Bill Clinton’s presidency, allegations that Trump has dredged up in order to deflect attention from what a horrid candidate he is. They gave legitimacy to Trump’s claims that Bill Clinton was guilty of rape, a serious allegation that is completely without foundation. And apparently the irony was entirely lost on Joe Scarborough et al. when they discussed Bill’s alleged sexual harassment of women. No one brought up the numerous women in Trump’s organization who have claimed Trump said demeaning and inappropriate things to them on a routine basis, not to mention the women who said Trump made unwanted physical advances.

The news media are also spending an inordinate amount of time on polls that show Trump with a slight lead over Hillary Clinton in the general election. It is as if since Donald Trump became the clear Republican nominee, the media have gone out of their way to help him. At the same time, they have escalated their stories questioning Hillary Clinton’s ethics and honesty. They portray her as a heartless shrew and talk about how disliked she is. This thinly veiled sexism is an example of the double standard surrounding the two presumptive presidential nominees.

Even Megan Kelly, who was vilified by Trump and accused of being “on the rag” as recently as last fall, made nice with Trump and sat down to an interview with him in order to reveal his softer side. I’d like to see Chris Wallace chat by a cozy fire with Hillary Clinton and ask her about her role as a grandma in order to reveal her softer side.

While media outlets keep beating the twin dead horses of Benghazi and Hillary’s emails, Donald Trump gets a smile and a shrug from reporters, as if to say, “What are  you gonna do? He has to be himself.” Sure, comedians make fun of Trump, but they’re part of the left wing Hollywood contingent, and as such, their mockery is dismissed as elitism.

I’d say the lamestream media title is well-deserved these days. It’s just not favoring the liberal elite the way the Sarah Palins of the world would have you believe.