Today, August 26th, Women’s Equality Day, commemorates the 88th year since the ratification of the 19th Amendment. However, I am not so sure the holiday is appropriately named. If we are celebrating women’s equal right to vote, why not call it “Women’s Suffrage Day” or “Those without penis privilege get the right to vote day.” By calling it “Women’s Equality Day,” there is some indication that we are celebrating the fact that women actually have equality in this country, which of course, we do not.
A number of factors would need to change for women to have equality in the USA. Archcrone from The Crone Speaks reminds us that “women have not yet realized equal status with men,” detailing the following facts in her “Happy Equality Day” post:
- Women only make $.77 to a man’s dollar. Could you use the extra 23 cents?
- The US has no guaranteed medical leave for childbirth; we’re trailing 168 countries in the company of only Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.
- The US is near the bottom of the list – again – in our public support for quality childcare for children of working parents.
- Our access to affordable birth control is now under attack.
- And our right to safe, accessible, legal abortion is threatened as never before.
- And finally, women still only make up 16 percent of our representatives in Congress.
George W. Bush, far less wise than Archcrone, in his proclamation released by the White House, puts quite a different spin on the day:
As we look back on the journey to women gaining suffrage, we remember the sacrifices of people like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. More than 160 years after the Seneca Falls Convention, we celebrate the spirit, leadership, and hard work of those pioneering women. We also recognize the women who continue in this tradition by acting as role models in their communities, helping raise the next generation of Americans, leading in their professions, and serving in the Armed Forces protecting our country. These women are continuing on the path set by those who came before them, so that all Americans can realize the great promise of our Nation.
Hmmm, I wonder about his emphasis on recognizing women as “role models in their communities” and even more so about women as “helping to raise the next generation of Americans.” Role models? Who is exactly a good role model according to GW? Can such a role model be a feminist, can she be queer, can she resist the militarized imperialism of this ‘promising Nation’ and still be a good role model?
Even more patronizing though is the nod to women’s primary role being that of mother, of “helping raise the next generation of Americans.” Pardon me George, but your proclamation smacks of paternalism, of letting women be ‘good role models’ and ‘good mothers’ – or, in other words, nice to look at, nice to ‘model’ the supposed ideals of our patriarchal nation, and nice to raise your kids.
As for GWs reference to women “serving in the Armed Forces protecting our country” – well, he conveniently leaves out that on the one hand, women are not allowed to serve in equal capacities in the Armed Forces and when they do serve, they are very likely to be raped and sexually harassed, and on the other, that this so-called war on terror is not about “protecting our country” but about spreading US imperialism. He of course also forgets about that very important mother — Julia Ward Howe– who called for “Mother’s Day for Peace” not so we could all buy Hallmark cards and hothouse flowers, but as a day to resist war and empire.
So, George, forgive me if I find your proclamation patronizing and vapid. I am sure you did not write it yourself. You are hardly qualified to give a speech on women’s equality, let alone a speech that would lend credible analysis regarding just how far we have yet to go before women have full equality in this nation. I look forward to that day. Sadly, it has not yet arrived.