I began to see them in Virginia. Signs in their car windows proclaimed their aims on a pilgrimage to our nation’s capitol. Cruise America vans filled with women, rest stop bathrooms full of females headed to the seat of power held overwhelmingly by men.
I decided to join them and make this journey to Washington D.C. the moment I first saw the Facebook post announcing the Women’s March. I was blessed to have my husband, two of our daughters and two of their friends join me.
I have a hundred reasons for making the trip, but for me they all coalesce around one singular aspiration: I want to live in a society that respects females enough to hold males accountable when they touch females without their consent — no matter how rich or powerful the males may be.
You see, I had my “pussy” grabbed as a small child by a family friend old enough to be my grandfather. I am not alone. One in five girls (as compared to one in 20 boys) are victims of child sexual abuse. Ninety-one percent of the victims of rape and sexual assault are female.
Consequently, I’m not too fond of any man who uses the power of wealth, position, or physical strength to force himself on an unwilling female. He disgusts me to my core — where the little girl I was still lives.
For her sake and for the sake of my daughters, I refuse to accept the excuses (“Boys will be boys!”) or delude myself (“He didn’t do it!”) or applaud (“No more political correctness!”) the disrespect inherent in our newly elected president’s actions and words in regard to women.
The slogan of the Women’s March was “Women’s rights are human rights,” a phrase coined by that “nasty woman” Hillary Clinton during a speech to the United Nations. The phrase seems self-evident and redundant, but in much of the world, women are viewed not as full, sentient humans, but as extensions of their father…then their husband…and finally their son if they’re so blessed.
While my country has made strides in women’s rights, it doesn’t lead the world. In fact, it’s not even in the top 10 on the World Economic Forum’s list of the best places to be a woman. Women in Iceland and Northern Europe fare much better than women here on several fronts — healthcare and government representation just to name two.
The move toward greater equality starts with one thing -RESPECT. Respect that a woman’s body is her own just as a man’s body is his. Respect that women have aspirations that are inclusive and exclusive of parenthood just as men do. Respect that women are 51 percent of the talent and brain power available in the human pool. Respect that emoting isn’t always weakness anymore than stoicism is always strength. Respect that “male” isn’t the norm by which females are to be measured — it’s just male.
It’s difficult to garner respect when the man holding our highest office has demonstrated through words and deeds so little respect for women. His behavior greenlights boorish, sexist attitudes. Yet, his disrespect motivated more than a million men and women to make a journey to our nation’s capitol and raise their voices in unison. I was proud to join them.
Today, many men, particularly white men, in our country feel as if they must constantly apologize. As women and minorities have realized gains, some men feel they have lost. I respectfully submit that life isn’t a zero sum game. Others achieving more equality doesn’t mean their gains have oppressed the majority or the privileged. Rather, the playing field is slowly being leveled.
I’m married to a white man. I married him, in large part, because he believes in my right, and the rights of our daughters and sisters, to be paid fairly, to be treated with RESPECT, to be unfettered by a glass ceiling and to have access to affordable health care determined by themselves and their physicians – not by predominantly white, male legislators. In short, to enjoy the same rights and opportunities afforded to men.
Many men, and even some women, feel that there’s no need for women like me to march. They believe women are treated equally and assume, I suppose, that the millions who marched in cities around the world yesterday are whiners. In our country, the data doesn’t support their view.
According to the Center for American Progress, although women have outnumbered men on college campuses for almost three decades, have earned at least a third of law degrees since 1980, were fully a third of medical school students by 1990, and, since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees, they have not moved up to positions of prominence and power in the U.S. at anywhere near the rate that you would expect to follow such attainments — particularly in a society that deems itself a “meritocracy.”
The Center points out that “In a broad range of fields, their (women’s) presence in top leadership positions—as equity law partners, medical school deans, and corporate executive officers—remains stuck at a mere 10 percent to 20 percent. Their “share of voice”—the average proportion of their representation on op-ed pages and corporate boards, as TV pundits, and in Congress—is just 15 percent.
In fact, it’s now estimated that, at the current rate of change, it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country.”
Progress creeps, at times. Respect is hard to obtain, even when deserved. And so I, and the like-minded, will continue to march.