Friday, August 26, 2011

Women's Equality Day: What the hell does that mean?

Its 5 am and I am wide awake.  I lie in bed for a few minutes, thinking of things I need to find - coffee and side tables for my new living room; my son Caleb's karate outfit; and something productive and intellectually stimulating to do when both my children are in school.  Starting next week.  No (self) pressure of course.

5:30.  Might as well take this quiet time to write.

Yesterday (Thursday, August 26) marked the ninety-first anniversary of the constitutional amendment granting American women the right to vote in all U.S. elections.  In 1971 (one year before I was born), Congress designated August 26 as "Women's Equality Day," and every year since, the President makes a declaration on this day calling for further advancement of women's rights, and, hopefully, gets us thinking about individual freedom.  Click here for Obama's statement yesterday.

The 1920 passage of the 19th amendment was the culmination of a massive, peaceful civil rights movement by women.  While the movement began formally in 1848 at the world's first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, its spark was lit years earlier when two women - Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott - met at the World Anti-Slavery convention in London and got mutually pissed off when the convention refused to seat them and the other women delegates from America.  Click here to read more about how a social gathering (coffee chat at Starbucks, anyone?) between Stanton, Mott, Martha C. Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt led to the first major push for legal equality for women in our country.  

I have been thinking a lot the last couple of days about women's long history of organizing for social change.  Maybe its because I went with a group of new Denver friends to see the magnificent movie, "The Help" about a small group of women in Mississippi in the 1960s who write about their experiences as black maids, and the white children who are raised by them.  Please Run Do Not Walk to see this just-as-good-as-the- book story about the power of female friendship, the courage to stand up for what is right, and the ability a few people to make a big difference.  

Or maybe I've just been thinking about the female  experience because of my constant "inner mommy war," wondering if my desire to be the one to care for my children in their early years is also good for them, or if I'm being a poor role model, especially to my daughter, by cutting out on my career for so long.  

Maybe its because when my husband and I went to the bank earlier in the week to open new accounts, we were advised to have my husband be the primary account holder on a credit card application because we'd get a higher limit because he earns more.  More than zero that is.  It was like someone punched me in the gut.  

Yes, I know any 18 year old can get any number of cards that will let them spend their little American hearts away, and that I have a long, healthy credit history.  And, yes, I know that even when I do go back to work, Larry might be able to get a VISA that lets him buy a bigger television simply because of his choice in profession, not his gender.  Still, it was a hard moment to take for this third wave feminist who yearns again for the satisfaction of paid work but in her core wants to be the one to pick her 3 year old daughter up from preschool at 12:30 and spend the afternoon with her, and be there when her 6 year old son ends his school day and wants to talk.  

Anyway.  On a slightly lighter, but not irrelevant note, I am back from a break to get my family in order.  Just as I was finishing up that last paragraph, about 6:30 am, Caleb came downstairs ready to roll.  Helped Caleb get ready for school, fought with him about whether he could watch TV first, helped Adina get dressed, made me & the kids breakfast, made final additions (sunscreen, extra kippah) to Caleb's backpack, fought with Caleb over particular backpack contents.  Drove Caleb to school.  Went to Einstein Bagels to get Larry breakfast.  Went to Cherry Creek State Park to let Adina run around outside for awhile.  She is happily painting on the deck now, Larry is biking, and so, I am back.

On the drive to school, Caleb asked me if I'd decided "what I want to do for a job" yet.  Did he know what I was writing about when he appeared earlier with his morning demands?  I mean, I know he's heard me talking about wanting to go back to work soon, but it seemed ironic.  Funny too, that after all the times I've asked myself this question, it was the simplicity of an age appropriate answer for my son this morning that I liked best of all.  I told him that Mommy had done several different things in the past, and learned two important things about herself: 1) She likes to help people and try and make the world better and 2) The things she's best at are writing and talking.  So, she's going to look for a job that combines those important things.  Yeah, thats it.

Much more later I'm sure.  Til then, Happy Women's Equality Day right back at ya' Mr. President (a quick special thanks for Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor) and to all.

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