As an older woman, I am working diligently to cross the divide that separates us. I’m not talking about the divide between the right and the left, or the believers in conspiracy and the believers in science.
I’m talking about those who remember what it was like to grow up female in our times, and those who do not.
I heard this over and over again in the last elections from women far and wide:
“It does not matter to me that (Hillary or Amy or Kamala or Alexandra or anyone else) is a woman. I only vote on the basis of (whatever).
This leaves me both joyous and heartbroken. Don’t misunderstand: It is beyond wonderful that women’s rights have come to a place where our sex should not enter into a conversation about our ability. Hallelujah.
And yet, for a generation of women to have no remembrance of what it was like to grow up disadvantaged is to me, devoid of decency. It is an amnesia of the worst sort. It’s like denying that apartheid, slavery and anti-Semitism ever existed because it is not seemingly a problem today. It is like saying that you have no idea why some take a knee because there is no more racism. It. Is. Mindboggling.
I might also point out that the LGBTQ movement is missing a letter. While we are quickly adopting rights and raising consciousness for many in need, the Equal Rights Amendment never passed. Whatever happened to the W?
This discrimination is deeply rooted in western society. We fought battles to vote, to work, to get equal pay and equal opportunity. Ruth Bader Ginsburg could not get a job after law school. When I came of age abortion was illegal, birth control was hard to get, and women routinely died while trying to control the destiny of their bodies.
I’m guessing that you probably think this all happened in a world long, long ago and far, far away. But that’s not true. There are still countless injustices happening today.
When my mother divorced my father, she could get a job (at much less money than a man), but she could not sign for an apartment, a credit card, or buy a car without a man’s signature. My father had to help her get those things so she could get on her feet.
When my first husband took off across the country with another woman, he used my credit card to pay his way. He purchased gas, a car, lodging, alcohol and more which I had to pay for. When I called the bank and asked to cancel the card, the bank said they could not. I had to pay for his affair because we were still married and therefore he was entitled to my salary.
When I began my career, there was no question that I would make less than a man in an equal position. At the time, it was 60 cents to the dollar. Today it is 81.6 cents to the dollar. So yay, for progress I suppose.
Today there are still women in the world who cannot drive, who cannot vote, who cannot be educated, who are circumcised against their will, who are forced into marriages at the age of 12. There are women stoned to death in public and women murdered for the shame of being raped.
It’s comforting perhaps that in the West we can think of women’s rights as a thing of the past and that March, dedicated to Women’s History Month, as being worthy of a postage stamp. But to me, this amnesia of the struggle is a wound; it may have a Band-Aid but it still festers. I cannot help but feel the sting when someone tells me that it is no big deal that we have a female Vice President. To me, it is a very big deal.
I am working to cross the divide from those who remember, to those who do not. But I for one, will never forget what it was like to grow up less than. Nor do I think I should.
Michelle Berman Marchildon is an award-winning writer in Denver, Colorado. She is a longtime ambassador for Kiragrace for many reasons, including that it is a company run by women, for women, and which supports women throughout the world. www.MIchelleMarchildon.com