When Equal is Not Equal: Women, Legislation, and Economic Freedom Today
By Sherri L. McLendon
That little girl I was believed I’d see equal rights for women in my lifetime. I believed I could do anything, even become president of the United States if I wanted. I could make my own money, and live the life I chose. But the grown woman I am now, in reality a constitutional minority in my own country, now legislatively and economically disenfranchised on the basis of gender … well, the grown woman I am now is angry. Can I declare this particular sentiment very clearly? I’ve had it up to my raised eyebrows being marginalized.
When women “got the right to vote” in 1920, my great-grandmother Sinie Hurst Carter hitched her mule to a buckboard wagon and drove around the northeast community in the Okefenokee Swamp and picked up all the women to take them to the courthouse, despite the opposition of their husbands and fathers. In 1923, the now-revered first wave feminist Alice Paul authored ERA, and it was introduced in Congress for the first time. Frankly, there is no way a generation of women with that much pluck would set much store in our CONSENT to allow a non-representative male voice to continue to create second-class citizenship for women systematically by whatever means at their disposal almost a century later.
Our health, our rights, our ability to earn and spend, our ability to reclaim the feminine, sacred and mundane – these are all under attack. We are working harder, and we are not getting “fair value” for our efforts. How is that equal under the law?
Recently, the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate (of course, along party lines). If passed, it would have amended the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and provided greater protections for women from wage discrimination. Women now make up more than 50% of the work force. But, all things NOT being equal, a woman can expect to be paid about $10,000 LESS than a male counterpart for almost any professional level job she holds with all other qualifications being equal.
In the end, Equal Rights Amendment failed to be ratified by the 1982 deadline because the effort fell two states short. Neither my home state of Georgia, nor my adopted state of North Carolina, would step forward to assure my full rights as a U.S. citizen. A woman, Phyllis Schaeffer, rallied the conservative voice to oppose the movement – something we today are witnessing again in the modern Republican party, in which women are leading a conservative opposition to women’s rights. In 2012, the National Organization of Women and other organizations tried to revitalize ERA. I’ve signed the petition on the White House website in hopes that our voices will be heard.
In order to be the change we wish to see in the world, we have to cease to CONSENT to participate in economic and legislative relationships which cement our less-than status. We must value ourselves enough to ask for money in fair exchange for our work and our gifts. We must invest in ourselves, in our businesses, in our futures. We must declare unacceptable any circumstances which dictate otherwise. We must insist on self care and health care, so that we do not feel tired and broken. We must create sustainable relationships based on fairness, not codependency. We must source whatever we need to create viable ways out of the current situation. I move we:
• “take back” our bodies, mind and spirit
• retain our rights to make choices about our persons, safe from violation and misogynistic legislation.
• assume an eco-feminist perspective in which the bodies of the peoples are seen as analogous to the earth
• “decolonize” our bodies and our planet
• “transform” the way the next generation of women responds to women’s issues through the transmission of women’s culture and history to those of both genders
• “gather” the women, mobilizing individuals and resources to bring about the change we need to see in order to be recognized as full citizens
• “survive” the negative effects of patriarchy, anti-feminist rhetoric, unfavorable stereotypes, historical or social persecution, and economic inequality
• rise up as truth-tellers, for we no longer consent to victimization
• “develop” women’s access to resources formerly denied them on the basis of gender.
• step into our “sovereignty,” as full owners of our persons, not extensions of husbands, fathers, or sons
• claim our true “identities” as women. The dominant power elite often decries the femininity of a woman-centered perspective
• act as equal partners in the American franchise
• “recover” women’s community
• support equal status under the law and in our spending and earning
I invite you to join me as women step fully into their power as the leaders we are, declare our sentiments, lend our voices to the dialogue and take the individual actions necessary to change our individual outcomes – and those of our daughters and granddaughters – for the better.
So be it.
Sherri L. McLendon, MA, OM is a marketing public relations and content strategist in Asheville, NC. She owns and operates Professional Moneta International, specializing in helping exceptional entrepreneurs with a higher calling accelerate their money-making communication strategies and deepen their mindfulness practices in business so they can help more people, grow personally and professionally, and improve their sense of value and worth. Her clients need the expertise and support necessary create the change they want to be in the world and close the gap between their unlimited growth potential and their current limitations. Sherri also maintains McLendon Bylines, a copywriting and e-business services hub.