Sunday, March 10, 2019

Good And Mad

                                                                                                written 3 March 2019
                                                                                                published 10 March 2019

            I have been a reader and student most of my life, wanting to know what is going on in the world around me, and generally feel well informed.  But the more I learn, the more I know there is to learn, and occasionally I am reminded of how ignorant I am.
            For example, author Rebecca Traister was a guest on "Real Time With Bill Maher", which opened my eyes to the cultural oppression of women.  She notes that most woman are alert to sexual assault all the time, and live their lives accordingly, while men are mostly unaware of the issue. Sexual harassment isn't about sex, it's about power and oppression.  Respect for the other is the essence of democracy and equality.  If half the population justifiably fears the other half, that's tyranny, not democracy.  After seeing the interview, I read Traister's 2018 book "Good And Mad: The Revolutionary Power Of Women's Anger", where she describes the angry response to Donald Trump's election as the third wave of feminine political action.
            The Declaration of Independence in 1776 asserted "That all men are created equal".  This radical social experiment was in contrast to the inherited power of nobility in Europe, but equality was still limited to white men, and women were considered property under the law.  
            The first wave of feminine activism began with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848 and produced a "Declaration of Sentiments" asserting "that all men and women are created equal".   "... when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce (women) under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security."  Most of these pioneers did not live to see the results of their activism, as the 19th amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was not adopted until 1920, culminating this first wave.
            However, social oppression of women persisted in the culture and laws covering divorce, property rights, employment rights, and pay equity.  After two generations of women voting and holding political office, the second feminist wave emerged in the 1960's.  Inspired feminist writing, the civil rights movement, environmental concerns, and the Vietnam war, led to a surge of social legislation, including voting rights and clean air and water laws.  The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which barred sexual discrimination, was passed in 1972, and the Supreme Court affirmed a woman's right to an abortion in 1973.
            The American economy peaked in 1972, and the economy stalled due to rising inflation and corporate concentration, distracting attention from social issues.  Conservative social backlash killed the ERA in 1982 when it failed to be ratified by the necessary 38 states.  This marked the end of the second feminist wave.  
            In the following 38 years, opposition to birth control and abortion has unified the right wing of society, and the Republican party consistently legislates voter suppression, which served to disenfranchise poor women, among others.  The election of Trump, an unrepentant misogynist who defeated the first female candidate for president, unleashed a third wave of feminist activism.  Traister's book articulates the rage felt by women and describes how this rage empowered women politically in ways not seen for decades.  "They thought they could bury us, but didn't know we were seeds".  
            The #MeToo movement expressed this rage, bringing the culture of sexual harassment out of the closet and into prime time.  Men are now afraid that their actions might be misunderstood, meaning for the first time, men experience what women have lived with for centuries: a wary regard for the opposite sex, which might bring about cultural changes of equal respect.
            The third wave increased voter registration of women and election of more women to office.  After the 2018 election the House of Representatives is 29.2% women (127 of 435), the most ever, and the Senate is 23% women, a good start.  Men have ruled the world for millennium, waging endless wars, bankrupting the planet, bringing us to the brink of destruction in the sixth mass extinction.  This is National Woman's Month.  It's time to let them run the show, they can't do worse!