“Are you gonna work for her?” asked a male coworker and fellow officer, referring to my new boss.
“Will she be your boss?” asked another.
When a third asked a similar question, I asked him if he had a mother. With a strange look on his face, he said, “Yes.” My reply: “Your mother was your first boss.” Then he looked at me as if I had three heads.
This was the US Army in winter 1967. It was my first job as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant. My second boss also was a woman, a US Army Major.
I’ll never know what it’s like to be a woman; but for decades I observed how they are treated. From my own experience as a black American, I have a lot in common with women’s struggle for full equality. I have many examples of ways society has “legislated” me, limited me, and derailed my ability to thrive as a fully actualized adult. Society treats women similarly despite their phenomenal efforts.
According to the United Nations, women do 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the world’s food, yet earn only 10 percent of the world’s income and possess a meager 1 percent of the world’s property. In this country, women with PhDs are paid the same as men with baccalaureate degrees.
Some 100 million women and girls are missing around the world. Why? Where are they? Samuel Smith, a Christian Post reporter, says they are trapped in sex slavery, killed by selective abortions or domestic violence.
In the United States, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has languished in Congress since 1923 because some 13 states have failed to ratify it, and women continue to be denied their rights to legal equality and full ownership of their own bodies.
In 1995 there were 938 clinics that provided the full range of reproductive services to women; now there are fewer than 600. Defunding efforts seemingly are growing; some 313 corporations have agreed to stop funding Planned Parenthood, though most of its funding comes from the government.
What is the reason for attempting to close down Planned Parenthood? Some believe that at least in part it’s because “the birth dearth of white babies.”
Diversity trainer and human rights activist Jane Elliot says some white people are frightened because “There aren’t enough white babies born in this country.”
Why are women seen as less than? It is inescapably true that far too many continue to view women as less capable, less valuable than men. Not only do male policy makers fail to see the strength, insights, and wisdom women possess, they seem to incessantly wage war against them. Example: During 2013, legislators pushed for some 700 provisions about women’s bodies, of which 694 directly related to abortion. In formulating policy, funding, and lawmaking, most politicians (males) are not gynecologists to prescribe, dictate, and legislate what women should do with their bodies.
But as some evangelical and conservative forces work to limit women’s rights, women are mobilizing a powerful new wave of resistance. During the 2018 midterm elections, 116 women were elected to Congress, totaling 126 for the 116th Congress, the highest number ever. As of January, women make up 23.4 percent of the US House of Representatives.
However, misogyny remains among legislators who craft laws imposing Draconian punishments — 99 years in prison for a doctor who performs an abortion, irrespective of whether the woman is a victim of rape or incest, or is facing the prospect of pregnancy that is clearly headed for failure. Under these laws, the woman’s body becomes the property of the state. During the confirmation hearing of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Kamala Harris asked him if he knew of any laws giving the government power over the male body. Not a one.
Since Brett Kavanaugh now sits on the Supreme Court, we must keep asking: Are we seeing women in their fullest capability and wisdom and helping to ensure they have what they need to succeed, as is done for men?
Globally, nationally, and locally, women need partnership, not alienation. Women deserve full empowerment, not restrictions. They merit an end to male dominance.
How do we share influence more equitably, stop the war against women, so they experience their social, economic, political, and educational power and thrive?
David Whitfield is founder of the veteran-owned Intercultural Leadership Executive Coaching, and a member of The Olympian’s 2019 Board of Contributors. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.