Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In 1970 feminism was dead

In 1970 I was a junior/senior in high school. The Vietnam war was going strong in spite of waning public support. My generation of young men who couldn't afford to avoid the draft through the expense of college were exposed to Agent Orange, unbelievable genocide, bombing  raids and hand to hand combat in a world away that left a permanent scar on them and my generation.  Many women of my generation are lonely and alone because those men who could have been their companions in old age did not physically or psychologically survive to middle age because of the trauma inflicted upon them in Vietnam. The nation did not learn the lesson of Vietnam and we now send our sons and grandson's on another pentagon war.  In 1970 women's liberation was just beginning to find a voice, but babies were automatically given their father's name.  If no father was listed the word "illegitimate" was likely typed on the birth certificate.  There were no child care centers in 1970.   In elementary school the girls couldn't play Little League and almost all the teachers were female.  In a few states it was still against the law for men to teach grades below 6th grade. In junior high and high school the girls took Home Ec and the boys took Shop and the prinicpalof the school was  a man.  Girls had P.E. and played half court basketball and volleyball, but no swimming, soccer, cross country or track.  The prestigious physical activity for girls was cheerleading.  Most girls didn't take calculus or physics but they planned the dances and decorated the gym.  If a girl "got herself"  pregnant  (this activity usually requires a male, unless you are the virgin mary) she lost her membership in the National Honor Society and is expelled from school.  Abortion is only legal in New York or available underground in Chicago and was very costly and basically unavailable. Underground abortion was very expensive and very unsafe. Sex education was non-existent and so-called experts were debating whether there was such a thing as the female orgasm.  Birth control consisted of  high dose birth control  pills that were dangerous and had a lot of side effects.  Contraceptives were largely unavailable to teenagers.  Other forms of birth control consisted of  devices our mother's did not talk about such as diaphragm's which were nearly century old and awkward.  Homosexuals were in the closet and not accepted as citizens.  The Miss America pageant was the largest scholarship program for women.  Women could not be students at Harvard, Boston College, Citadel, West Point, Columbia, Dartmouth or any other all male schools.  The women's colleges were called "girls schools".  Women tended to major in home economics, teaching, or english.  A student was lucky to have learned that women were given the vote in 1920 but were not taught about black or white feminists of history.  There were practically no tenured female professors at any school, and the college campuses were not racially diverse.  In 1970 14% of doctorates were awarded to women. 3.5% of MBA's were female.  There were no female priests, rabbi's or preachers.  Women made fifty two cents to the dollar earned by males.  The want ads were segregated "Help wanted Male" and "Help wanted Female".  In 1970 twenty states had female gynecologists or fewer.  Women workers could be fired for being pregnant, especially if they are teachers, since the kids they teach aren't supposed to think that women have sex. There was no such thing as sexual harrassment in the workplace and no place to take grievances.  Women could not be airline pilots.  Sex appeal was a job requirement, as was make-up.  In 1970 less than 2% of the dentists were women, but 100% of the dental assistants were women.  When a women got married she promised to honor, love and obey her husband and couldn't get credit without her husband's signature.  The divorce rate in 1970 is the same as it is today.  The woman's movement did not cause a higher rate of divorce.  In 1970 "domestic violence" is not a term, and not a crime.  In 1970 women were legally encouraged to stay in abusive marriages.  In 1970, the majority of babies were born with the women strapped down and natural childbirth advocates were just beginning to speak out on behalf of women and the unborn.  Radical, and I do mean radical, mastectomies were the norm.  In 1970 women were dealing with raising kids, managing a household, and being undervalued and underprotected by society.  The 1970's was the decade of woman's liberation that brought about the changes that women take for granted today, but the Equal Rights Ammendment was never ratified and remains unratified today.  My state of Arkansas has never ratified the Equal Rights Ammendment.  The "Moral Majority" lead by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and other powerful evangelicals was formed out of the fear that the feminist movement of the 1970's would destroy america.  They were successful in stopping the ratification of the Equal Rights Ammendment and the furtherance of the movement, but there was a little burst of equality and logic and reason that prevailed for a decade before it was shouted down as dangerous and suspect.  Is feminism dead?  Will women lose reproductive rights?  Will students ever be allowed to be taught sex education  in the public schools?  Will abortion become an underground and dangerous procedure for only the wealthy?  Will our  society ever let girls grow up without imposing sexism upon them?  Will homosexuals be given the same rights that heterosexual citizens enjoy and take for granted?  I don't know, but I don't want to go back to 1970.

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