Among the many great highs that the Women's World Champion Soccer Team brought us was their constant reference and wholehearted allegiance to Title IX. It has become rare these days to hear any woman attribute her success to changes brought about by our Movement. It is regrettable, but there may be good reason for this.
Wouldn't you think that there would be cause for celebration, even a few fireworks? Is it not a marvelous anniversary that should be cherished by all proud Americans whatever their gender?
It isn't. It is mostly ignored, EVEN BY WOMEN, because of an unceasing campaign of misinformation and spin. While most of us are aware of OVERT backlash when we experience it, few have noticed, or perhaps have chosen to ignore, the continuous COVERT backlash funded and disseminated by the political/religious far right.
One part of the ceaseless onslaught against our reason has to do with the law and our pride. Another has to do with our reproductive rights and our guilt. Both are doing unimaginable harm to our Movement.
The affirmative action laws broke open the anti-woman gates of education, sports and employment for women and we madly and joyously rushed in to the Promised Land. The land we had learned of in our history books. The land men lived in.
After a few years, the murmuring started. We heard the whispers. "S/he only got the job because of the quota or because of that civil rights law. Plenty of other people were better qualified."
We noticed as male African Americans reacted. They wanted, no, they EXPECTED AND DEMANDED, to be employed for their skills, for their ability to do a good job. Comments like that hurt their pride.
It took women much longer to come to the same conclusion. Now it is commonplace. She knows she has worked hard and has been chosen for her skills and does NOT want the world thinking that she was a part of that quota system.
How did this come about? Do these women really think that they did it all by themselves? We doubt it. What they reject is the carefully constructed characterization that the media has helped the far right project on our Movement and the women who are associated with it.
The media labeled our Movement using the "F" word (GenderGappers 1997 - 11). The political/religious far right made it synonymous with evil (F-nazi). They have marginalized us and shoved us out into the lunatic fringes of our culture. Our rightful place has been taken over by those people the media calls WOMEN -- females who do not make waves, females who support the status quo.
In addition to this, many women (and men), who have shared the rewards of the Woman's Movement with us, have been brainwashed into believing that we condone the murders of babies. We have been adamant in insisting that a woman owned her own body. This meant that she had the right to choose, that she had reproductive freedom. For years now, this concept has been fiercely attacked with the focus being on what THEY labeled "partial birth abortion."
They isolated a necessary medical procedure from our quiver of choices. Then the political/religious zealots inundated the media and Congress with pictures of cute, perfectly formed obviously months old babies claiming that these are what the F-word-ists wanted to horribly dismember -- JUST ON ANY WOMAN'S WHIM.
In the past, abortion was a strong issue for the majority of women. It was a right to be guarded even if never used because it was every woman's right to choose and might become a necessity for some women. It was arguably the defining issue in previous gender gaps.
Today, polls indicate that this is no longer the case. HOWEVER, the same polls show that abortion IS the defining issue for ALL of the GOP presidential candidates and the party base.
Are women being taken in by the baby killing propaganda and entertaining guilt feelings? There has to be some reason for this change in attitude we have noted. We base our appraisal and conclusions on the polls that _consistently_ show that the majority of women favor gun controls AND a woman's right to choose.
Yet, these same polls show that a majority of WOMEN (even in CALIFORNIA, which overwhelmingly supports gun control and choice) would vote today for Bush, a candidate for president, who is AGAINST gun controls and choice. Go figure.
Few women have the courage to identify themselves with a cause that has been viciously maligned, as ours has been and still is, especially if they have gained some status in their profession.
Incidentally, the same sort of demonization was done to the word "liberal." Many, even today, will deny that they are liberals saying instead that they are "moderates." Today, the "L" word, like the F-word, is always used in a tone of contempt by the right toward the political left and our Movement.
Not convinced of the powerful meanings that some words have been given? Think back to the recent presidential scandals where the media continuously charged our Movement with responsibility. It never asked labor or lawyers or any other group that supported Clinton to justify itself.
And who did the media put up against our demonized leaders such as Smeal and Ireland? Women. Right wing women became the knights in shinning armor doing battle against the adulterer on behalf of women everywhere.
We were clear and accurate, you know. We argued that we voted for him to be president because of an agenda that included us, not for sainthood, but no one listens to the demonized.
We must NOT allow those who attack our human rights, to shove us further into oblivion. We will always cherish and honor the women who brought us this far and we will always work and dream of still greater opportunities for our daughters.
August 26th should be a National Holiday just like the 4th of July.
We note with sorrow the passing of Donna Allen, media critic, author, labor activist, Women's Movement pioneer and founder of the Women's Institute on Freedom of the Press. She died July 19th of a heart attack at age 78.
Copyright 1999 Renee T. Louise and Ruth M. Sprague, Ph.D. These articles may be republished for noncommercial use only, provided that they are copied intact, and that this copyright notice is attached. Address all queries to: twanda@ConnRiver.net.
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