Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month

To all the women out there, this is your month.  The 2018 theme, Nevertheless She Persisted, could not be more appropriate.

I am sure you’ve heard the phrase, especially if you are connected to social media.   It came to life during Mr. Sessions’ confirmation hearing for Attorney General in early 2017. If you watched it on TV or saw a replay you will remember that Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, was protesting Sessions’ confirmation and reading a letter that Coretta Scott King had written in 1986.  Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, used the phrase nevertheless she persisted  after attempting to silence Warren during her reading.  Within moments feminists latched onto the phrase, flooding social media with the hashtag. I get it.  No one wants to be silenced when they have something important to say. No matter how you feel about the chain of events leading to this phrase, it sure became a loud battle cry.

The 2018 Women’s History theme of persistence celebrates all women who are fighting all forms of discrimination against women. Whether fighting for equal pay or against sexism in all its forms we need women and men who persist.  Persistence is what helps to create change.

It is always good to be reminded that women did not get the right to vote in the United States until 1920. It took more than 70 years of persistence for that to finally happen.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone were persistent women.  Thank God for them and all the persistent women who came after them.  Whenever I stop to think that it is possible I could have lived in a country where I was not allowed to vote because it was assumed that I as a woman was not concerned with politics or because my husband would represent me, I shudder.   I thank each and every persistent woman who spoke up, went to jail and filed lawsuits that would benefit me and all my sisters.

Today, we continue to be persistent about things like equal pay and sex or gender discrimination in the workplace. It is hard to believe that in 2018 these still exist. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it a requirement that pay scales be the same for identical work. Fast forward to 2015.  Women only earned 83% of what men earned in the same job.  Some more persistence is needed here wouldn’t you say?

Then along came the #MeToo movement in 2017. The magnitude of widespread sexual assault and harrassment, especially in the workplace, was brought to the forefront where it has always belonged.  Women from all walks of life are now feeling empowered to recount their stories.  I have my own #MeToo stories and almost every woman I know has one or more. I believe the intent of this movement was to shed some light on the magnitude of the problem.  While that worked thanks to social media I am conflicted with the end result.  Is it that we have to show one million examples before it is acknowleged as a problem?  Our culture has allowed this to go on since the beginning of time.  I am not sure that the sharing of these stories of Facebook and Twitter will change that culture.

Let’s be persistent in our conversations with men in power, our brothers, our husbands, our sons, our grandsons and our male friends.  They have to be included in our discussions about equal pay, equal rights and how we want to be respected personally.  I feel very fortunate that I have men around me who value women as their equal and support their need for persistence in having these important discussions.

Women have come such a long way from 1920 when first allowed to vote. We are doctors, lawyers, scientists, astronauts, and CEO’s. Think about what it has taken women to reach these milestones. It is a remarkable showing of strength, determination, resilience and persistence.

My life is easier thanks to all of the women who came before me. I hope that I have been able to do my part in ensuring the generations behind me have it even easier.  I hope in the remainder of my lifetime I see a shift that finally brings wage equity. I pray the sexual harassment culture that has been accepted for so long is toppled.

Happy Women’s History month to all of you strong, beautiful women. I am grateful to be a part of the tribe.

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day

On March 8th the world celebrated women, commemorating the movement for women’s rights.  The United Nations celebrates women with a theme.  This year the UN theme is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030.” A message from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that women’s rights today are being “reduced, restricted and reversed.”  As the economic gender gap continues to widen, Guterres calls for change by “empowering women at all levels, enabling their voices to be heard and giving them control over their own lives and over the future of our world.”  The sixty-first meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women began today and will run through March 24th at the United Nations.

Outside of the UN, the theme heard for this year’s International Women’s Day is “Be Bold for Change.”

I am sure you read about or maybe even participated in “A Day Without A Woman” last week.  Many of the women who participated were part of the Women’s March on January 21st, the day after President Trump’s inauguration.

Not just here in the U.S. but throughout the world women took to the streets to stand in unison on International Women’s Day.  They all have one thing in common and that is a sense of urgency surrounding women’s issues and rights.  Each country surely has its unique set of circumstances but there is commonality among all the women when it comes to equity and the human rights of women.

The day is also designed to encourage reflection on the progress women have made throughout the years .  It is important to have knowledge about the history of the women’s movement.  If you have a clear understanding of the history of women’s struggles for equality then you can better understand the uncertainty and fear that many women have today.

I have actually heard women say that a protest for equality is ridiculous. I heard that exact remark while sitting in a restaurant recently.  Two women were sitting at the next table next to me. They were about my age. They looked fairly well to do.  I made the assumption they were educated.  So what was it that was making them react negatively to the recent organized protests?  I did not lean over, introduce myself and ask. Instead I remained in my seat with my salad and I am not totally ashamed to say I continued to listen to them.

The dominant one did most of the talking and in a voice that made it easy for me and other patrons to hear.  The thrust of her conversation was around abortion and the need to abolish it. I think her friend may have disagreed a little but was overshadowed and only made a few protest noises while trying to change the subject.   The subject eventually changed to equal pay and the less dominate woman became more animated and offered her opinion as to why women should not necessarily get paid the same as men for the same job.  Her reasoning did not make sense to me but I tried to see it from her perspective and just appreciate our difference of opinions.

There is so much more to it than just the discussions surrounding abortion rights or equal pay.  I sometimes think people tend to compartmentalize one issue that resonates with them without fully vetting the wholeness of the situation.  Maybe it is human nature to do it that way, I don’t know.  That said, to all the women of the world, my wish for you is that you live in peace and be valued every day for all that you offer.

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”- Audre Lorde

 

Off the bookshelf:

The Women’s Liberation Movement in America, by Kathleen Berkeley

Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan

We Should All be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A Call to Action, by Jimmy Carter

A Thousand Sisters: My Journey into the Worst Place on Earth to be a Woman, by Lisa Shannon

 

Peace and Love,

Melissa

 

 

 

 

 

International Women’s Day 2016

International Women’s Day 2016

Every year on March 8th women are celebrated throughout the world for their economic, political and social achievements.  If you see a woman wearing a purple ribbon today you will know why.

The theme for 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality”

In the early celebrations of International Women’s Day, thousands of women marched in New York City demanding the right to vote and rights to better working conditions. Today, women reflect on the progress they have made in these areas and discuss ongoing issues faced by women worldwide.

The United States has come a long way since the first march in 1908.  Since then women won the right to vote and today make up about half the workforce.  Have we come a long way baby?

The United States ranks 28 out of 145 countries in an annual world ranking of equality for women.  Although we have made good progress, especially in the last decade, it is clear inequalities still exist and the United States is not as progressive as 27 other countries. I was a little surprised by this fact. One of the areas included in our ranking profile is the gender pay gap.

According the the US Department of Labor report (Q4, 2015), median weekly earnings for women in full time employment were about 80.4% of men’s earnings. The gender pay gap was carried across all educational levels.  While more education has been helpful in increasing women’s earnings, it has not been fully effective against the pay gap.

International Women’s Day is not just about pay gap statistics.  It is a time to understand and reflect on the continuing oppression of women and girls across the globe. Issues such as limited access to education, violence and adequate healthcare top the list of issues that will be addressed in different forums today.

I hope you take a minute today to research and better understand the equality issues that women and girls continue to face today. You might be surprised at what you learn and find some information that resonates with you.

To all women, I wish you peace, love, good health and continued progress toward your goals.

Melissa