A Thousand Points of Feminism

In a country in which women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, in a culture where only 61 percent of absentee fathers actually pay child support, it stuns me how quiet the women’s movement has become. Feminism seems to be an epithet, a label to be avoided.

Even worse are those people who think all the battles for women’s rights have already been fought. They’re probably the same ones who think racism no longer exists. They’re definitely the same ones who take for granted the progress that has, in fact, been made, and was, in fact, hard-won.

As a woman who has worked non-traditional jobs most of her life, I can tell you that there are plenty of battles still to be fought, just as there were many past battles that no one even thinks about. Here are two from my own family of unsung heroes:

-In the 1960’s, mastectomies were a lot more radical than they are now. They were so invasive that the level of disfigurement made breast reconstruction surgery a challenge to say the least. The first silicone breast implants came out in 1962, but they were very unreliable. My mother had her mastectomy during that period, and reconstruction was not possible in her case. Her insurance covered pads to pin inside her bra, but they were unnatural  lumps of cloth that looked like modified shoulder pads on a good day.

There were pads out there that were shaped more naturally, even including pseudo-nipples, but her insurance would not cover those. She argued with them for ages, stating that a woman’s self-esteem and dignity was worth more than the savings any corporation might get by denying her that right. No one questioned the need for a realistic prosthetic after any other type of amputation, after all. Eventually she won. Every woman in the state of Connecticut who relied on those pads to feel more “normal” has her to thank.

-Back in the early ‘70’s, my oldest sister, a senior in high school, wanted to take a photography class. She was told she couldn’t because boys and girls couldn’t be trusted to be in a dark room together. She raised holy hell, and eventually they gave in. Every female photography student in that school district stands on her shoulders without even knowing it.

There is still much for women to be outraged about, and even more for us to do. Every time you speak up and act up, it has an impact. Every little triumph makes the next one easier to achieve. Never give up.

Thanks, Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst. Every time I vote I think of you.

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