I am a dinosaur in the equal rights arena, having grown up in the sixties (that’s 1960s, to you smart-alecks out there).
As a school girl, I suffered my share of ‘inappropriate touching’ without telling a soul. I was counseled by another student that I should never get a grade above a B because the boys wouldn’t like it. “Shut up, look good and act stupid” could have been my school motto.
Fortunately, I had another passion: I played the trumpet. I was pretty good at it. What I wasn’t good at was playing the trumpet while marching. The mouthpiece bumped against my lips causing them to bruise. I practiced evenings on the football field, marching up and down, until I could take the exact amount of steps between yard lines while holding a high C, steady and clear the full length of that field. Those of us who could do it were allowed in the marching band. My looks and smarts didn’t matter. The band bus might have been geeky to the rest of the kids, but we were hot stuff to us. I was proud.
Then I went to college and tried out for the marching band. That’s when I learned accomplishment was no better a predictor of success than your looks. Girls weren’t allowed to march, regardless of the music they could make. Girls in dorms had a curfew while boys didn’t. At my sister’s school up the road, girls had to wear skirts to class even on days when the Michigan storms were achingly cold.
We were second-rate citizens, like it or not.
When I graduated, a potential employer needed two promotion writers. One had to be male to have management potential; they’d found that candidate, so I was allowed the second job. From then on, I watched for signs of glass ceilings although the term didn’t yet exist. That kind of discrimination happened twice more that I know of, and no doubt a great deal more often than I can prove.
Other women like me finally made it into management. We taught the women we hired the skills to do a good job, plus the dangers of giving in to second-ratedness. When we could prove it, we tried to stop it. We were “strident” and “aggressive.”
Women’s rights are again on the agenda; now seems very much like back then. I hope young women don’t lose the fight for equal pay and treatment … let’s face it, all human power begins with money. Be vigilant. Be discordant if you unearth a barrier for yourself that does not exist for men. Overcome your feelings of vulnerability with courage.
Might you lose? Of course. You won’t be as “liked” or as “nice.” You might not see the forces working against you. But a chance to raise daughters and sons as equals? Now that’s a battle worth fighting for. Please don’t let that chance slip into extinction.
Linda B. Myers is a founding member of Olympic Peninsula Authors and author of the new historical novel “Fog Coast Runaway,” available on amazon.com, at lindabmyers.com or at local retailers. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook.com/lindabmyers.author.