My loves, as you know I’ve spent a great deal time over the last year questioning the decline of discourse between the sexes. I have no illusions that there was more civility before this year -- online comments prove that time and time again -- but there was at least the appearance of propriety in public discourse. All bets are off now with Donald Trump having riled up the far-right members of his base. The chants of “tramp”, “whore”, “trump that bitch” rang in the air at his rallies, while he offered up thinly veiled invitations for those who might exercise their 2nd Amendment rights if only her Secret Service detail would give up their arms.
I have discussed the daily maneuvers in my work life between uncivil comments, innuendos and outright proposition. I don’t believe that if Hillary Clinton is elected President the situation will improve. In fact, I think that sexism will get worse. Too many people have become too comfortable with expressing the baser aspects of their personalities. This backlash is portrayed as a response to political correctness, as though our skin as women has grown too thin to take a joke. In actuality, these rejoinders are due to the crumbling of one of the pillars on which this country was built on.
We were founded on the premise that all men, specifically white men, were created equal. Our Declaration of Independence isn’t talking about women, nor people of color. We were chattel. Women couldn’t own property, enter into a contract or even earn a salary until the slow introduction of the Married Women’s Property Acts. These started state by state in 1839 and weren’t passed unilaterally until 1900. Our right to vote wasn’t guaranteed until 1920, although Mississippi didn’t ratify it until 1984. We weren’t deemed equally qualified to serve on juries until 1947. In 1971, the Supreme Court outlawed private employers from refusing to hire women with pre-school aged children. 1972 brought Title IX and the prohibition of sex discrimination in all aspects of education programs that receive federal support. Roe v. Wade in 1973 presented the novel idea that we should have control over our reproductive rights. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act came along in 1978 and prohibited discrimination based on pregnancy. Marital rape became a crime in all 50 states in 1993.
Steadily, but too slowly we have attained the rights and privileges that have long been available to men. Some are still consistently threatened, such as reproductive rights and access, and other pieces of legislation aren’t fully enforced. When the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, women made 59 cents on the dollar. By 2004 the figure had risen to 77 cents but has increased by less than half a penny every year since. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research does not believe that the wage gap will close until 2058. Some men probably feel disenfranchised by these gains, as though they’re sitting atop something akin to a Jenga tower. As each piece of wood is slowly pulled out from the bottom and sides, they feel like their foundation is crumbling round them. If you weren’t raised to believe that women were men’s equal, these changes must feel like quite the bitter pill instead of the changes that are necessary to advance our country and our society.
That’s why we must be prepared to combat the increased sexism and misogyny that will inevitably arise from a potential Hillary Clinton presidency. Donald Trump didn’t create it; he boldly encouraged it to come out into the light. More and more, women are speaking out and refusing to swallow the commonplace. We can’t gloss over sexism and let business as usual continue. Equality for women advances not only the individual woman, but the family unit, as well. Our work for change and reform doesn’t end with the election, but starts at home with the children and men we interact with daily. It must happen in the workplace for ourselves and for the women who have yet to be hired. We can’t be silent. Our founding mothers demand to be heard.