Some changes we have made, while some we have not.
As far back as we can remember, perceived ugliness and misconduct of this world has been blamed on women. Women have been oppressed, abused, raped and silenced for hundreds of years.
From Eve’s inability to control her desire for forbidden fruit to the women brutally murdered in witch trials, the labeling of feminine energy as toxic, disposable and harmful permeates western history and American culture.
Even Christopher Columbus was raping women and killing babies. 46 states celebrate what has been declared a national holiday to honor him.
Historically, rape and possession of women were so acceptable that the victors wrote about it in their own stories. In most cases, this is the only way it was ever documented, as it was these men who wrote history.
Since the birth of America, women have been speaking out against their mistreatment.
Women have been speaking out for equality since the birth of America.
Yet, it really wasn’t that long ago that women were ‘granted’ rights, at all. The use of the word granted, even to this day, is telling. Why would a person need to be ‘granted’ something to which they already have the right?
In 1776, Abagail Adams wrote to her husband — one of the leading founders of America, John Adams — about a future that women not only deserved but as she clearly stated, would not rest without.
Remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. — Abagail Adams
The first women’s rights convention, organized by women, was not held until 1848, 72 years later. This led to the eventual passage of the 19th Amendment, ‘granting’ women the right to vote, and decades of activism for women’s rights.
A real effort to curtail violence against women was not made until the signing of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, 218 years after Abagail wrote to John and only 27 years ago.
It may have required centuries, but many dreams of the women who founded America have been realized.
The first female doctor in America, Elizabeth Blackwell, graduated from medical school in 1849.
In 1869, Wyoming lead the way, as the first place in the world giving all women the right to vote.
Margaret Sanger began what would become Planned Parenthood in 1916 — the first birth control clinic in the United States.
The first woman, Jeannette Rankin, was accepted to congress in 1917.
Women were ‘granted’ the right to vote in 1920 when the ratification of the 19th Amendment was finally completed.
In 1960, the FDA approved commercial production of the first birth control pill which came to be known as ‘the pill’. This was a first for the whole world. Women were finally given a choice in having children.
President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, prohibiting wage discrimination based on sex and in 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson banned employment discrimination with the Civil Rights Act.
Women’s legal right to abortion was established in 1973 when the U.S. Supreme Court declared such protection in the monumental Roe. v. Wade decision.
The first woman, Sandra O’Conner, was sworn into the supreme court in 1981.
The first woman entered space in 1983. Her name was Sally Ride — fitting, indeed.
President Bill Clinton swore in the first female Attorney General of America, Janet Reno, in 1993 and signed the Violence Against Women Act in 1994.
It is now 2021 and burning for equality has swept over the nation.
Figuratively and literally. What has been slow-burning coal for many years has turned into a raging fire, fueled largely by racial injustices.
Discrimination and violence of all sorts — that have been a passion of the few and ignored by the many, for decades — have now become the focus of the masses.
Having the ear of the world on matters of justice and equality is powerful and it is beautiful to see the legions of Americans that are advocating for change.
It is our responsibility to make good choices in order to facilitate real change in these pivotal times.America — The Change We Seek
Real change happens not on Capitol Hill, but in our homes, in our hearts and in our language.medium.com
Real change happens not in the streets but in our own back yards.
Real change happens not on Capitol Hill, but in our homes and in our hearts. Real change happens when we stop turning a blind eye to what is happening where we live, work and play. It happens when enough of us take responsibility for all of our tiny little pieces.
Sexual violence and discrimination permeate the culture of American society. Rape culture is alive and well, although it has taken a sneakier form — abuse of power and exploitation of the vulnerable.
Strong fists have been replaced with strong positions of authority and power. Manipulation of the body has been replaced with manipulation of the mind, the emotional body, and the spirit.
Sexual violence is still condoned and allowed by the silent majority and it is especially prevalent in the American Workforce. It is only a strong fist that has been truly forbidden.
These are the facts of my experience and the experience of women all over our country.
There are laws in place to protect women from these debilitating forms of abuse, but the laws don’t matter as long as we don’t follow them. And too many times, we do not.
Since America was born, our foremothers have been advocating for the rights of American women. Here we sit, 244 years later, and the stage has been set.
2020 awoke a deep passion for equality in our nation. The audience has been summoned — people are listening.
The greatest question is, what will we say?
If our actions speak louder than our words, we must answer this question with what we do. I don’t mean what we do in the media or in the streets, either. What matters is what we do at home and in our personal affairs.
We have made much progress, but it is far past time to put an end to the insidious forms of sexual violence and oppression that still debilitate women across our country.
These are our daughters, our sisters and our mothers. They are living in a world where men are allowed to dominate, abuse and exploit them. This is happening in real life and in real-time — right now.
Why? Because people allow it. We allow it.
We go to the protests and we make our signs.
We say we stand for equality and we demand fair treatment of our people. We write beautiful things and ugly things, declaring freedom and justice for all.
We make demands from our government for marginalized people to have more rights, more protection and more acknowledgement.
We line the streets in unity and make monumental marches towards freedom.
Then, we go to work or out into our communities and don’t say anything about what we see.
There are so many negative connotations behind being what Americans call a ‘whistleblower’ that any American will gladly explain them to you if prompted. And as any good American Citizen would, most of us acquiesce to this American rule of thumb — don’t be a whistleblower.
If we do consider standing up and speaking out, we face the possibility of destroying our careers and threatening our own livelihood. Most people never even question things. Most, who do question things, stop at risking their own security.
We give our friends the advice of ‘not putting their own ass on the line’ when they come to us for guidance after witnessing or experiencing sexual violence or discrimination at work.
We go home and use words and phrases that give life to the belief systems that have robbed women of their rights in America for 244 years, in spite of all the strides we have made towards change.
We don’t say anything when we are eating at a bar, and the man next to us makes crude and sexually objectifying remarks to the woman who is serving.
We tell our daughters to put make-up on for their interview if they want to ‘look professional’.
The most important thing is not what we say while the world is listening, but what we do while the world is watching.
If we do not change our actions, then our words and our signs mean nothing.
We must stop turning a blind eye to sexual abuse in the workplace and in our communities.
If you are a human who works with other humans in an environment where you work towards a common goal, chances are you have witnessed some form of sexual violence. You may not have been aware of it, but it is ever-present.
I will make this very clear for anyone having any doubts.
It is not okay to use your power of authority over anyone to manipulate them into engaging with you sexually or emotionally. It is not okay to treat women better, pay them better and give them easier work when they provide sexual favors, wear more make-up, make themselves extra pretty or carry themselves promiscuously.
Giving leniency and better opportunity to the employees who gratify you sexually or otherwise is very illegal and it is called quid pro quo.
When an authority figure uses quid pro quo — spoken or implied — they are not only being sexually violent towards their victim but are engaging in sexual discrimination towards everyone else. Not only is the target a victim of sexual exploitation, but every other person involved is a victim of sexual discrimination.
Working in this environment is psychologically damaging to everyone present — especially women. The target of the abuse often suffers from lifelong psychological and emotional damage. In many victims, these damages lead to acute PTSD, severe and life-threatening addiction, self-harm, an inability to function in society and even suicide.
Many times the victims are naive and fresh out of high school, just beginning their lives and learning about the world. Other common targets are extremely vulnerable — women suffering from severe addiction, abuse or mental health issues.
Every time this happens — and it is beyond prevalent — there are people all around. We are all around. And, we let it happen.
We must stop using words and phrases that support sexist conditioning in our culture.
Many people are required to participate in the perpetuation of sexist ideals for sexual oppression to live on. Beliefs die without people. And, many people do participate, although some of us don’t know it.
There are many loaded words and phrases that are still widely used and accepted today — words and phrases that preserve the life of sexist belief systems.
There is a whole list of loaded phrases implying that women are irrational, overly-emotional and unstable.
Just to name a few…
It’s not that big of a deal.
You’re being irrational.
You’re too emotional.
You’re making a big deal out of nothing.
Are you on your period?
Just let it go.
Stop being so sensitive.
These are all implications of the same ‘general rule of women’ — dating back to the beginning.
The ‘general rule of women’ is as follows:
Women cannot be trusted. Women make decisions based on emotion. Women are irrational and run by their emotions. Because we must not be led by our emotions, we must not be led by women.
This belief system — that women are irrational and cannot make sound decisions — plays a huge role in male domination culture.
Women are automatically labeled by the male-dominated society as dramatic — hence the perception of anything a woman brings to the table is already diluted by the preconceived notion that women will ‘over-react’ or be ‘driven by emotion’.
If we participate in this dynamic in our own lives, we might as well throw away our signs and stop going to the protests — our grand gestures will be of no avail if we don’t change the way we live.
The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.
― Albert Einstein
Einstein is not talking about the President or the Politicians. He is not talking about the millionaires and the billionaires or the lawmakers and the judges. He is not even talking about celebrities and public figures. He is talking about people. He is talking about us.
The most important question is not about what laws can be passed or what words can be changed in the dictionary or banned from congress.
The most important question is not to be asked of the public officials, but of us.
The most important answers are not held on our protest signs or what we say, but in what we all do each and every day.
We are the answer to the most important question.
How will we each live and what choices will we make in our own lives? What will we do with all our tiny little pieces?
It is our answer to this question that will determine the future of our daughters, our sisters and our mothers.
May we choose wisely.
Written, with love, by Holly Kellums
Originally published on Medium.com
Featured image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay