Friday, April 18, 2008

Feminism: Have We Come A Long Way, Baby?

I have been a feminist my entire adult life. My mother was one of Utah's pioneering feminists. In the sixties she started the Utah chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus. She was famous for organizing marches and demonstrations protesting the Mormon Church's treatment of women and it's strangle hold on the political life of Utah within the state and in the nations capitol, through it's elected representatives. Maggy won many awards for her work on behalf of women and for giving voice to women's issues. She was the legislative aid to Francis Farley, our first female Utah State Senator.

At one of the award celebrations, sometime in the 1980's, while all these powerhouse women were congratulating one another on the great strides they had made toward equality for woman, I stood and asked the only question of any real relevance regarding the progress that had been made for women--"Why is it that women are making less today in relation to men's pay than they did in the 1940's?" I was not real popular that day. It was not an issue anyone was willing to address when they were so happy to talk about Karen Shephard's election to the Untied States House of Representatives. She served one brilliant term, and then was replaced by the incredibly mediocre Enid Green, the Mormon republican who opposed her. A woman, yes. Progress, no.

So now here we are, almost thirty years later and nothing has changed. Women are still making sixty some odd cents to every man's rapidly shrinking dollar. And now while still making sixty some odd cents to a mans dollar, women have a new hoop to jump through in order to be hireable, and promotable. It is the Beauty Quotient. For an insight into how far we are going backwards, baby, read Naomi Wolf's book, The Beauty Myth.

One last point while we're on the subject--every young woman I meet and then get to know a little, when asked if she is a feminist, says, "No, I'm not a feminist, but I do believe in equal rights for women." Where is the progress in this fear of the label "feminist?"