Recent comments by presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann have stirred up the discussion about gay marriage once again. While speaking to a group of high school…
We’ve got a generation now who were born with semi-equality. They don’t know how it was before, so they think, this isn’t too bad. We’re working. We have our attaché’ cases and our three piece suits. I get very disgusted with the younger generation of women. We had a torch to pass, and they are just sitting there. They don’t realize it can be taken away. Things are going to have to get worse before they join in fighting the battle.
I’m pretty sure Erma was talking about me in that quote.
I was born in 1974, right in the midst of second-wave feminism. By the time I started elementary school, things had pretty much died down on the feminism front. We had a female Supreme Court justice. A woman ran for Vice President. Murphy Brown and Designing Women taught me that women were strong, smart, capable people. Feminism had done it’s job. Equality had been more or less achieved.
In my early 20′s, I was in an email ring with a bunch of women who were a bit older than me. They had actually lived through second-wave feminism and were often telling me that I needed to be more alert. They would tell me that while things were better, they weren’t perfect. And they would remind me that any freedoms gained could be snatched away at any point.
I suppose I knew this was a possibility, but it seemed so unlikely that I never gave it more than a cursory thought. Of course women would continue to enjoy the freedoms that they had. Of course men would listen to women about issues that affected women. Of course dignity and civility would be the primary mode of conversations. The need for angry bra-burning and protests was behind us. Certainly I wasn’t going to be participating in that. I shook my head at those old feminists and refused to listen to their warnings, borne of experience. You invited me to run with you and I sat.
Then one state after another began considering and passing laws requiring transvaginal ultrasounds before women could have an abortion. And bills about personhood that could stop the sale of oral contraceptives. And bills requiring women to say why she was taking an oral contraceptive. And fights about extending the Violence Against Women Act. And health care for low-income women being canceled. And celebrities call women that they disagree with sluts.
Suddenly those old feminists don’t sound so crazy. That torch that Erma was talking about is starting to look pretty dim.
I’m sorry I didn’t pay attention. I’m sorry that I rested on what you had done instead of being vigilant. I’m sorry that I allowed black and white thinking about complicated issues cloud my ability to see how women were being devalued. I’m sorry that I ignored inequality in the church and in society.
To Erma and all of you old feminists? I’m not sitting here any more. I know I’ve let things get away, but I’m running. And when it’s time to pass the torch on to my daughters, I’m going to be the old feminist running with them.