I was going to wear pink — I’ve knitted eight pink hats so far — but as I was looking through my yarn stash and I found this skein of lavender wool, I thought of my grandmother.
Lavender was my grandmother’s favorite color. She used to dress one of us four girls for Easter every year, and you can tell by the Easter morning photos which one of us was the lucky one because she was dressed, head to toe, in lavender, with black patent leather shoes and white gloves.
My grandmother was born in 1888, and when she came of age in 1909, she didn’t have the right to vote.
It occurred to me as I held that lavender yarn in my hand that I could reach back and touch a time when women couldn’t even vote.
I said something in a Facebook post and a young woman answered that women’s rights were long established and not going anywhere.
Something snapped. Here’s this young woman with no sense of history, and I felt as though I had to say something.
I told her that women couldn’t sit on a jury until 1961 — within my lifetime and probably within her mother’s lifetime.
When I was in high school a girl who got pregnant had to quit school, but the boy who got her pregnant could stay.
When I was 18 in Massachusetts, it was illegal for a doctor to prescribe — or even discuss — contraception with a single woman. I had to wait until 60 days before my wedding to get a prescription, and the system was so paternalistic that I wasn’t the one who could get in trouble — the doctor was.
When I was married to my first husband (1972 to 1977), it was perfectly legal in many states for him to rape and hit me.
I couldn’t get a credit card in my own name, and my friend, who was a pharmaceutical sales rep with a master’s degree in nursing and an income of more than $50,000 a year (a fortune in 1975 and more than double what my then-husband made), couldn’t get a mortgage on a $35,000 condo.
We could be fired for getting married and often were fired when we got pregnant. If we were single parents, we still couldn’t get a decent job because men believed we should be home with our children and that we should stay with our husbands no matter what.
Women still aren’t guaranteed the same pay for the same work.
In fact, women have no equal protection in the US Constitution — the late US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said as much less than five years ago. What this means is that women have no grounds under the US Constitution to sue for discrimination (Read the 14th Amendment — it specifies men and does not include women).
In this culture, rape is seen as a woman’s fault. Where were you? What were you wearing? Why did you get in a car with him? Why did you invite him in?
Where was I? I was on a date.
What was I wearing? Dress and heels as is appropriate for a nice restaurant.
Why did I get in a car with him? As I said, we were on a date.
Why did I invite him in? I had a nice time at dinner and we were in the middle of an interesting conversation, so I asked if he would like a cup of coffee.
But all this, apparently, gives a man permission to “lose control,” and the blame is on the woman for being such a slut that she went out on a date.
When William Kennedy Smith was accused of rape in 1991, the victim was criticized for taking off her pantyhose. My question was: If you’re going to walk barefoot on the beach, are you going to wear your socks?
But he got off because she was such a slut that she took off her socks to walk barefoot on the beach.
I was just 3 years old the first time I was violated. Go ahead, try to make that my fault. I must have had a hell of a come-hither look, huh?
We have come a ways, true, but we do not have full equality.
We need to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s still out there and it is finding new life. It has been re-introduced in North Carolina, Virginia and Nevada, among other states.
We have demanded that other nations include gender equality in their laws, but we have yet to do it ourselves.
We need to guarantee women the same pay for the same work, and we need to give women equal access to high-paying jobs.
We need to re-examine our attitudes about sexual violence.
We need to ensure than women have access to safe and effective contraception and that your boss’s religion can’t affect your access to it.
Just 25 years ago, I handed a prescription for birth control pills to a pharmacist, who told me I needed a note from my doctor because the insurance company didn’t cover contraception for women, and they needed to know it was for therapeutic purposes (which it was).
I told him the prescription WAS a letter from my doctor, and that he would fill it or he and the insurance company would face a lawsuit. It was none of their business what I was taking the pills for, only that my doctor had prescribed them for me.
I’m not sure my threat would have been effective except for a young man I knew casually was standing nearby. He was using testosterone patches following testicular cancer surgery, and no one was asking why, he said.
“If I can fill a prescription for hormone therapy and she can’t, that’s discrimination and I would be very happy to testify on her behalf,” he said.
The pharmacist called the insurance company and told them he no longer would ask the purpose of birth control pills, but would fill doctors’ prescriptions, and if they wanted to object, he would join my lawsuit.
I got my pills.
But I’m tired of fighting for equal treatment when I am as capable and smart as any man.
And young women need to know that a lot of these rights we enjoy are not guaranteed and can be rolled back.
My Facebook friend was quite taken aback when I told her just how tenuous our rights are. My advice to her was to find and join a chapter of NOW and start fighting.
It’s your turn, Millennials. Come join us. We want your input because the way we’ve always done things has yet to get us full equal rights. We welcome you to the fight with open arms.