Aug 10

Ladies, You Are Second-Class Citizens!

In Brief—Females are being routinely discriminated against. It’s time to do something about this so all females can take their rightful place at the table. Get active today!

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The Corrosiveness of Sexual Discrimination—

Long ago in a corporation far away, I was an intern in the law department. A smart, capable woman was hired to be the second-in-command to the vice president who headed the department. The woman was the single mother of four children, one of whom was mentally disabled. Abandoned by her husband, she had worked as a waitress to make a living for herself and the children while getting her law degree. She persisted and graduated, passed the bar exam and became a corporate lawyer.

One day at lunch with her, I happened to mention that I had told my young daughter she could be anything she wanted to be. The woman stiffened and retorted firmly that I had done my daughter a serious disservice. To say I was stunned is a gross understatement. To hear this from such a strong and capable woman was mind-bending.

I have often thought about that woman and what she said. But nearly half a century later, as I look around at America and the world, her shocking retort seems almost prescient. Though she cleared some major hurdles that would have defeated most women of her time, the hurdles remain today albeit they are concealed in the culture and in the attitudes of way too many men who control society, not least on the United States Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg has nailed it when she says that the conservative majority and Justice Kennedy just don’t get it that their decisions result in women being reduced to second-class status and discriminated against. Their implicit and probably subconscious assumption is that females are less than males. She goes on to say that the conservative justices even ignore a woman’s voice. She is right, but it’s much more pervasive and insidious in society at large.

Again, from my past experience, while at ABC in the 80’s, I wanted to promote a very smart woman who had once been a high school teacher and left the teaching profession to become a secretary in our department. The vice president of the department, an older and otherwise very capable man, objected on the grounds that women were not fit to be more than secretaries. I’m not joking. Those were the words he used. Ultimately, I prevailed. Several years later that woman became a vice president at another broadcasting company. Unfortunately, the type of thinking expressed by my boss is still common and limits women’s chances.

Examples of Discrimination—

Look around you. Women make appreciably less than their male counterparts in the same or similar job. Women are denied jobs for which they are eminently qualified. Women (females) find their reproductive health decisions being restricted—mostly by male politicians—in various parts of America. The Supreme Court conservatives—all males—decide that a boss is entitled to discriminate against his female employees. Females are raped and their reports are ignored by the authorities and schools or they are accused of being “provocative” and enticing their rapist. If the female has been drinking, she is said to have consented to sexual intercourse. It’s a case of “blame the victim.” Such can be found any day in the press. It’s so common that it has become old hat.

In looking for the reason for this persistent problem, I have come to the conclusion that its roots grow from the soil of religion. As the Abrahamic religions are paternalistic with their male deity, our culture subconsciously absorbs the flawed assumption that females are less than males.

Wake Up!—

Wake up, ladies! You are second-class citizens. You are being discriminated against every day in a variety of ways. If you don’t see that, you are part of the problem rather than being part of the solution. Raise some dust. Get active. Change things. Complacency won’t get it. Show that you and your daughters are tired of being second-class citizens. Get mad. Make your voice heard. Voting is one of the best ways to get their attention. Vote for change!

14 comments

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    • Art Ulene on August 10, 2014 at 21:07

    Bravo!

      • Don Bay on August 11, 2014 at 15:49
        Author

      I genuinely appreciate your response to my addressing such an important issue for the women in America, indeed, in the world. I have been puzzled—”dumbfounded” is a better word—by the seeming lack of concern so many American women have been showing at the attacks and encroachment on their rights. Because of this, I decided to do what I can to make those seemingly unconcerned women aware of the problem they face. Those with an education, awareness and advantages not enjoyed by many women know of the problem, but too many seem to shrug it off or, maybe, just don’t care. I hope this piece will stir them to get concerned enough to start doing something about it. Time’s a’wastin’.

    • Linda on August 10, 2014 at 23:39

    While I might understand why the second-in-command, female lawyer said you did your daughter a disservice by telling her she could be anything she wanted to be, I strongly disagree with her. It is hard work and a struggle to achieve most goals. So for me, to NOT tell our children that, whether they are female, male of any race or ethnicity is a serious disservice to them and to society as a whole. I believe we owe our children our support and encouragement. Knowing that the path is rough, they need our support even more.

    The attitude that females are less deserving and less capable is ingrained in our society but we can choose not to place value in it or believe it. The second-in-command, female attorney’s retort to you is a defeatist’s attitude that denied her own success. Any man in that position would probably embrace his success with hopes of one day becoming the top dog whether it is actualized or not. The attitude of the female lawyer is the kind that can slow the progress of gender equality and negates the strides we have made.

    What I believe, too, is that if we do not change the way in which we raise our BOYS, the path to equality for women will take longer and be more tedious than it is. A co-worker of mine has a young boy and while she says she doesn’t have an issue with him playing with baby dolls or other “girl” toys, her husband does and so they discourage this type of play. No playing cooking in the toy kitchen or caring for a baby doll because that’s what girls do. Without saying it blatantly the message is, among other things, girl play is less than boy play. Yet, my co-worker is the primary source of income for their household and still, the activities associated with her role as a female and parent, are discouraged in play. It is hard to chip away this kind of early training that helps establish the inequality of gender that is ingrained in our society. Attitudes start early.

      • Don Bay on August 11, 2014 at 16:26
        Author

      From the incidents I related, it’s obvious that we are in agreement. That said, your last paragraph illustrates that the problem is complex. As you can see, some of the other people who commented feel that it’s not just a problem that women can handle. it’s a problem to which males contribute if not a problem completely within their power to change. You will see that I believe it’s a problem to which males contribute, but it’s one where women must take an active role in changing. Put more clearly, women must take an active part in making the necessary change. It’s not just up to the men to change the situation.

      Regarding your co-worker, it seems to me that in the interest of family harmony she is repressing her own desires and allowing her husband to set the tone. The result is that her husband’s discomfort is winning the day while her wishes are being ignored. Ewa has wisely pointed out a commonly overlooked issue: in most healthy relationships, compromise means that nobody gets her/his way. In the situation you described, the husband gets his way and your co-worker’s wishes get short shrift. They need to talk…but it may be too late. I hope you expressed your opinion. If you did, maybe your co-worker will give it some thought and raise her consciousness. Then, if they talk about it, the husband might raise his own consciousness. As you say, attitudes start early, but I’ll add that we’re never too old to learn.

    • susan Harris on August 11, 2014 at 00:52

    Linda, If I were your friend I would tell her to tell her husband to lay off their son and let him play with whatever he wants. I would bet that she leaves him at some point in their relationship, either physically or mentally. He sounds like he needs some Brillo on his balls.
    And Don…the words ‘Wake up ladies” rub me the wrong way. Aren’t we all waking up or am I deluded? I thought that was what we are doing here on this planet…well, at least some of us are. I resent being called a lady. Lady implies something that I have no intenton of ever becoming. I don’t like labels.

      • Don Bay on August 11, 2014 at 17:10
        Author

      As the writer of this blog, I have three goals: I must be as honest as I can, the pieces must be interesting enough to engage the reader and the title must be eye-catching enough that potential readers are drawn to read the piece rather than yawn and move on. In reading your comment, I find two things: you and I are in general agreement that Linda’s co-worker’s husband was wrong, and I succeeded in catching your eye with my title. In using the term “Ladies” I chose the word deliberately to draw female readers into the meat of the piece.

      I’m a lawyer whose medium is words. It’s not unusual for me to change a title several times before a title honestly states the content while also being eye-catching, even provocative. To do otherwise would be throwing away my opportunity to engage more readers. Though you have presumably been upset by my choice of words, my purpose is ultimately to convince my readers that this is an important subject and that they have the power to bring about change. Such was the case with this piece. Like the title or hate it, the content is important to the health of American society.

      As I mentioned to Art, some of my readers are educated and informed, but not all are so lucky. It’s those I hope to reach and move to action. You have been awakened, but there are many who have not, a problem you have recognized with the phrase, “…at least some of us are.” That’s a perceptive observation. I hope through this piece to bring about a small measure of positive change in a corner of our planet.

      • Art Ulene on August 11, 2014 at 19:47

      Susan…… Take a few deep breaths…. and lighten up, please. It’s pretty clear to me from Don’s summary line (the very first line in his piece) that he was using the term “Ladies” in a cutely provocative way. Read that first line again, and you’ll see that his story is about discrimination against women…. females…. NOT ladies.

      “In Brief—Females are being routinely discriminated against. It’s time to do something about this so all females can take their rightful place at the table. Get active today!”

      Frankly, I don’t understand why you are so afraid of becoming a lady. According to the dictionary, the term means nothing more than this:

      a woman (used as a polite or old-fashioned form of reference).

      Now, take a few more deep breaths…. and have a nice day.

        • Linda on August 11, 2014 at 21:05

        Susan, I loved your “he needs some Brillo on his balls!”

        Don, Susan, and Art: I understand the offensiveness in the title “Wake Up Ladies” as it implies that ALL women are sleeping or inactive or unaware of how they are discriminated against. Women, even uneducated women know how they are treated on a daily basis. Whether they act on it or not is another issue, which I believe is the point of your article.

        I also understand the intent of the use of this title, however, I will guess that if one wanted to be provocative and to motivate another group, let’s say an ethnic minority or race, the title “Wake Up Blacks (or African Americans or any other racial/ethnic group)” would have been avoided, no matter what the content consisted of that followed. What can happen and what maybe did, is that a title that could be offensive may stop the reader from really reading or digesting the important content that follows resulting in a loss for the writer. Focus is on the title and not the content. Being too provocative can be too much of a loss if you want the reader to really read with interest the content that follows.

  1. I agree totally with Linda and Susan, about every point they make. Please stop with the “wake up ladies,” meaning both the wake up and the ladies. The issue is men, not women, and I bet every woman who isn’t wide awake and active is being somehow smothered by the man/men in her life. We seem always to talk about “women’s issues” while not putting the blame where it belongs, on men.

    Working in South Africa as a gender equality activist and trainer, I get statements from men all the time that the Bible says such and such about men being the head of the family and superior in other ways. They also resort to the culture. I remind them, forcefully, that no matter what any person or book says, it is against the law to discriminate on many bases, including on sex and gender. No longer living in the US I don’t know the law in various states, but I’ll bet that most constitutions say much the same thing. It’s against the law to discriminate!

    Your blog needs to say “wake up men!” and make that case.

      • Don Bay on August 11, 2014 at 18:22
        Author

      On the assumption that you will read my replies to those who have commented, I suggest that you read my reply to Susan regarding the title and my use of “Ladies.” Was it eye-catching and even provocative? Yes, and you can be sure that I will be similarly provocative in the future with other pieces. I don’t write my pieces to anger readers, but I want them to at least read and ponder the content of the pieces I write.

      Your South African experience and the message you are working to convey appears to color your comment. I applaud what you and Chris are doing, but at the same time I must point out that South Africa is a culture that is different from that of America. The great majority of my subscribers, if not my readers, are American, so what I write is largely designed with that audience in mind.

      Your point that men are responsible for the deficits in women’s rights may be true for South Africa, but I can’t comment on that observation because I’m largely unfamiliar with African culture. There’s no doubt that the American culture is generally inimical to women’s rights, a problem that is clearly stated and that I attribute to the Christian religion’s male deity influencing the society as a whole. Also stated in the piece is that men are part of the problem, so that element was there even though it was not emphasized. Men are only part of the problem, but women are not without power. The problem is that too many women seem to be passive in the face of today’s attacks.

      Unlike you, I refuse to attribute the deficit in female rights solely to men. To do so is to assume that females are without any power and totally helpless. Given American history, women have been active in bringing about needed change. They have faced hurdles and opposition, but they have not been helpless bystanders subject to the opposition of men. My purpose is to stir today’s women, indeed all females, to oppose any effort by the forces of opposition to restrict advances in their rights. Women have power if they choose to use it. I am urging them to use their power.

      Is it necessary to enlist men in the fight for equality, female or otherwise? Yes, definitely, but to blame men for female inequality is overstating the problem. As Linda points out, inequality starts in early childhood. Both women and men need to join in overcoming the inequalities that exist. It’s a mutual effort. Women have power. They need to use it.

        • Linda on August 11, 2014 at 21:59

        Don and Jim: I am weighing in on this one, too, because “The problem is that too many women seem to be passive in the face of today’s attacks” is not enough for me to your response to Jim, albeit you had much more to say. There are many reasons why it might seem that too many women are passive and one might be that control is predominately in the hands of men. Recently, I saw the documentary “Nixon on Nixon.” In it Nixon recorded on tape his delight that his female nomination for the Supreme Court was disqualified because she did not have the required credentials. He tried to get a female on the Court but hey, none qualified; he’s off the hook. That was a long time ago, but change takes time and while we could have also assumed that many minorities were passive about equal rights because we didn’t hear their voices loudly enough when the power was in the hands of white males, so it might be with women’s rights and men.

        For me, Americans in general seem passive. When the Affordable Care Act was being debated, there seemed to be so many against it, even those who would have gained so much from it passing. Even after it passed, it seemed so many were still against it but reality set in and more than expected signed on, particularly young people. This is just to say, I don’t know really if the problem is that too many women are passive. I think it is more complex than to put the lack of women’s rights at the foot of women or men but frankly, I agree that men are a dominating factor in the lack of progress in this area because they hold the power.

        1. Linda, you’ve made exactly the point here: where there is an imbalance of power, the less-powerful party is severely constrained in what actions are available to her. History is filled with examples. When the less powerful rise up, the dominant group doubles down on repression.

            • Don Bay on August 13, 2014 at 09:28
              Author

            With all you have on your plate just now, I really appreciate your taking the time to submit a comment. Rather than respond to your observations in this forum, I urge you to read the explanation I wrote to Linda and read my next blog piece that will be posted this coming week. Take your time, and heal well.

          • Don Bay on August 13, 2014 at 09:22
            Author

          Since several of those submitting comments seemed more caught up in the title controversy instead of what I considered the important element in my piece, the real power of females, I decided that it was necessary to post a full piece on the subject that wouldn’t get lost in the little-read Comment section of this post. Therefore, out of frustration I have written a full blog piece that I hope will respond to the comments that readers have submitted. That piece will be posted next week, and I hope readers will understand what I hoped to accomplish in this piece. I am not ignoring your comments, but I am hoping that I can clear up what may be a misreading of this piece.

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