05 September 2008

Feminist Boomer

One can hardly be a boomer without being feminist. We are the perpetrators of the modern feminist movement. In 1970, the official launch of this phase, I entered the corporate world. Not by choice exactly. I had intended to be a writer or songwriter, but I lacked courage and I lacked resources. And I liked to eat. Quite by accident, I got a job as a gal-friday [remember that moniker?] at a marketing firm and because I was inquisitive and a quick study, I found myself suddenly elevated to a marketing analyst. The bottom rung on a ladder totally occupied by Harvard MBA's and former high-powered consultants and the only woman in a company that produced products for women. I didn't really want to be there but I found myself captured by the daily sense of productivity based only on good common sense, and an oppotunity to make more money in one year that my father had made in any five years of his life. I wasn't eager to be wealthy but oh how lovely to have money in your pocket and a savings account and a trip to the Caribbean each winter. I didn't exactly break any glass ceilings but I fractured a few. I wore pants suits with pride, although I steadfastly refused to wear those silk ties that truly serious business women wore in those days, and I remember an unexpected sense of achievement when I was refused entry to the Plaza Bar because I had pants on - I know this seems nearly barbaric now, but it was a rite of passage that we baby boomer working women endured. I mentored women in MBA programs both before and after I had my own. I stood up for flex time and part time assignments even though in those days they were anathema to the corporate big boys. I left my rising career slot at Lever Brothers when my first daughter was born because they refused me a 3-day a week assignment, despite my label as a "rising star" because, the personnel director said, "what kind of precedent might we set?" I withstood the advances of sales men at sales meetings, including the pressing of hotel room keys into my palm, and I resisted the advances of'[most]of my male colleagues, because it was bad form, although ultimately I married the man who had me at hello, but only after we were working at different firms. I kept my own checking account. I advocated for women's right to work and raise families or to choose one or the other. I educated my daughters to make lives of their own choosing and tried every single day to model such a life in order to prove it possible. And now, when a woman has advanced to a vice-presidential candidacy, I should be proud. Instead, I am ashamed that the candidate wants to ban books and drill into sacred land and holds her baby facing out as a talisman of motherhood, while neglecting to teach her daughter about safe sex. A woman who seems to see herself as a pit bull and behaves as such, and thus behaves more like a man, which I guess is her definition of feminism. Equal rights and equal opportunity, that's the essence of feminism, and the right to live the life of our own choosing, the same right generally afforded to [straight white] men. Opportunity not tokenism, that's what we're after, not opportunism or delusions of grandeur. I believe that we earn what we have, we seize opportunities worthy of our efforts, and we always, always consider the common good, not only for women but for all. Nearly 40 years later, we have part-time and flex-time and equal opportunity although still too often without equal pay, and we can have it all, but hopefully recognize that no one can be all things to all people and be equally good at everything. I've learned that good enough is often good enough, not to sacrifice goals or personal achievement, but because balance is everything, in all things. In the end, it is not our gender that matters, but our motives and our integrity. Truly, I want to be proud at this moment in history, but this is a set-back. And an insult to the many hard-working, experienced and wonderful women in important political positions who should have come first. Ironic that politics of the womb should be the greatest threat to equality for women since we first voted, and we need these votes to count more than ever. Vote for what matters, vote for the future in a way that fulfills the past.

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