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Bill Britt

Opinion | Remembering Women’s Equality Day

Bill Britt

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Women’s Equality Day came and went on Sunday with little to no fanfare. Each year August 26 is set aside to commemorate the anniversary of women winning the vote.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex,” the 19th amendment reads, as of August 26, 1920.

But if anyone thinks women are treated equally—even in the United States—they are either delusional, dishonest or utterly ill-informed.

The Woman Suffrage Amendment was first introduced on January 10, 1878, it took three generations of women fighting for it to finally become law and that was accomplished by one vote. “That one vote belonged to Harry Burn, who heeded the words of his mother when she urged him to vote for suffrage,” according to Women’s History.

Nearly 50 years later in 1971, Representative Bella Abzug, D-NY, successfully introduced a bill designating August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day. Part of the bill reads that Women’s Equality Day is a symbol of women’s continued fight for equal rights and that the United States commends and supports them, as noted at according to Women’s History. “It decreed that the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of woman suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality.”

Perhaps I missed President Donald Trump’s proclamation on the wisdom and virtue of the women’s movement.

President Trump’s attitude toward women is a prime example of why women still struggle to be seen as equal.

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Recently, a young man in the presence of some strong women said that women had achieved equality with men and that it was a settled issue that needed no further discussion. I was tempted to feel sorry for him when those women were finished, but I wasn’t.

“Women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men—despite the fact that over the last several decades millions of more women have joined the workforce and made huge gains in their educational attainment,” according to a study on “Women’s work” and the gender pay gap conducted by the Economic Policy Institute. The study also found that “Within-occupation gender wage gaps are large—and persist after controlling for education and other factors.”

In other words, women are paid less for the same work. That’s inequality.

But this isn’t the only area were women face a tougher climb then there male counterparts.

As a young boy, I watched my mother put on a dress, high-heels with a matching purse to go to work. She was a businesswoman who was willing to fight for her place in the workplace alongside men who thought her place was at home.

One day, she had a meeting with two men at a local bank to discuss a loan to expand her business. As she recalled, the men spent more time eyeing her legs and breasts than listening to what she said. She made her case, thanked them and proceeded to the door. With her back turned to the men, one said to the other, “What a bitch.” My mother turned around, marched back into the office, poked the offending man in the chest and said, “You have no idea how big of a bitch I can be.”

Later on that year after my mother had secured her loan, the man who called her a bitch was unemployed because he had squandered an opportunity for the bank to make a successful investment.

I remember my wife years later telling me of the sexual harassment she endured at her first job. She didn’t take it, but she lost her job.

But these stories and even more horrific ones can be told by countless American women.

Some studies suggest that white males are feeling oppressed. Yes, this is a real thing. White men who have controlled our nation for centuries are feeling poorly about their lot in modern society. Grow-up. Please stop whining. If you are losing out to women, minorities and other thems and theys, it’s on you, and not some vast global conspiracy to keep the white man down.

A woman’s right to vote was hard-earned, and they still have to be smarter, work harder and be better than the man next to them to be considered equal in most quarters of society.

A movie titled “Iron Jawed Angels” should be required viewing at schools across our state because it graphically tells the story of the women who fought for the vote.

Karl Stig-Erland “Stieg” Larsson, a Swedish journalist and writer, wrote the bestselling series “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels. Larsson’s trilogy is a disturbing tale of how society devalues women. Its original title was “Men Who Hate Women.”

Of course we see hatred toward women writ large today as they are called pigs, dogs and worse from the White House to Main Street. Name calling is a weak males first response, sexual objectification is also present and then there is violence.

According to examination by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), nearly one in three women (31.5 percent) experiences physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in her lifetime.

Data gathered from the 2011 NISVS report found that in the United States, 19.3 percent of women are raped at some time in their lives, and 43.9 percent experience sexual violence other than rape

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I have been fortunate to have lived my life around strong, independent women who encourage me to be a strong, independent man. I can say without a doubt that I’ve learned more about being a good man by being around these women than I ever learned among men.

So, a day late—because we don’t publish on Sunday—I wish to say to the women of our state: Thank you for being our mothers, sisters, wives and examples.

Women should be recognized as equals every day, and for unheralded deeds and challenges they undertake to make our state and nation better. Without you, we are nothing.

 

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