May 26, 2010

Thanks to MediaFail

A week or so ago I joined the twitter feed for @mediafail and this morning clicked a link to the NYT, which I browse through daily anyway. The alert was for an article entitled 2010’s Debates Still Trapped in the 1960s, and though I am more a product of the 1970s than the 1960s, I was appalled at the lack of fundamental understanding about history's effects on the present exhibited by this article's author. I don't know how old Matt Bai is, but his argument reminded me of many an argument I've had with women younger than myself about feminism.

To say that race issues are nuanced today obliterates the fact that it was anything but nuanced in the 1960s. Had people not died for civil rights throughout the South in the 1960s, nobody could make the Tiger Woods and/or Barack Obama arguments about nuance that appear in Bai's article. To cavalierly say that times are different now not only fails to recognize the sacrifices made toward equality today, it also fails to paint an accurate picture of the country we would live in had the struggle not taken place.

When businesswomen in their late 20s or early 30s tell me that they are not feminists, I want to call them, as my friend Ellen would, "asshats," but as a civilized Coffee Party member, I'll refrain. I was lucky enough to have joined the professional workforce in the mid-80s, after the first wave of women had paved the way. Even so, I still contended with men who refused to take me seriously. I remember transforming a program at the City of Dallas from what previously had been a clerical dead-end into an extremely successful program that added hundreds of thousands of dollars into the City's coffers (that would otherwise have never been collected), and yet, until I practically threw my master's degree diploma at the face of the City attorney I'd be working with, he thought I was just "another female clerk."

For many the road had not only been paved but re-surfaced by the time they started their career journeys upon it, yet because their path has been smoother, they can't or won't recognize that they are living the lives of feminists, bought and paid for by the women that came before them. Whether it's complacency or they've bought into the "Femi-Nazi" trap, it's worth remembering that women still don't earn as much as men for doing the same job.

So please, Matt Bai, Rand Paul, and all you others who would have us believe that we live in a nuanced world today and need to change our worldviews in acceptance of it, please stop trying to dupe me. The fight by women and African Americans is still being fought. Yes, the world has changed and we no longer deny black men lunch-counter seats or chase women around desks, but the fight must continue. Women still make, on average, 79 cents for each dollar earned, on average, by men, and in the South, 47% of the population does not believe our president was born in the U.S. When that changes, come back to me and we'll have this discussion again.


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