2020: The Year of Equality (I hope…)

Geraldine Ferraro, Democrat and first female Vice Presidential candidate with Presidential running mate Walter Mondale, visiting UTA, September 1984

[Before you start reading, let me clearly state that this post is NOT a political endorsement in any way, shape, form, or fashion. This is, however, an equality endorsement.]

Have your girl bring me a cup of coffee.

Have you been working out? You look tight.

You don’t want that job — it’s not glamorous.

You look scrumptious. 

These are all things that have been said by men about me or to me in the course of my life as a working woman. There’s not enough room here to list all the questionable, objectionable, disrespectful things that have been said to me outside of the office. So, I’ll keep this list and the following one to some of the things that have been said in the confines of the workplace. 

These statements are not by far the worst things a woman ever heard at work. And I’m not writing today to complain or play the victim or wallow in the past. I’m not writing because I’m angry or mad or triggered. 

I’m writing because of Geraldine Ferraro. 

I was 14 turning 15 when Ferraro, “Gerry” as she was called, was asked to be Walter Mondale’s running mate in the 1984 presidential election. She was the first woman (and the first Italian American) to ever be on a presidential ticket. And she could have potentially been the first woman president. 

Equality for women was right around the corner. I was sure of it! I was on the Gerry train, even though I wasn’t old enough to vote. Here was a woman who had reached the top! She was in the good ole boys club. She was smashing the glass ceiling to pieces!

I thought that with a female vice president, by the time I graduated from college, there’d be no stopping us. I thought that, as little girls are told, we really, truly could grow up to be anything we wanted to be — that I could be anything I wanted to be — even president!

Well, that was 36 years ago. 

And we still haven’t broken through the glass ceiling. I’m not sure it’s even got a crack in it.

As a young girl, I had every reason to believe I could do anything I wanted. After all, my grandmother was, for a time, the only female bank president in the state of Alabama. (You can read how she got there here and here). My grandmother’s sister was a business woman and instrumental in bringing the oil industry to Citronelle. My mother was a business owner. I was encouraged to study and work hard and go to college…all that good stuff. 

No one ever told me I couldn’t be or do something.

Until I was grown and went to work. 

Shut up and do what I told you to do.

You’re too pushy.

You’re not qualified. (When clearly I was.)

In 1955, the Alabama Journal wrote this about my grandmother:

She’s not smart. Or capable. Or qualified. She’s nice looking (very nice looking). And these people apparently made some wild and very stereotypical assumptions about nice looking, white-haired ladies because I can’t remember my grandmother baking anything more complicated than toast, much less a pie. She could barely cook at all!

But that’s what ladies are supposed to do, right? Bake pies. Not lend you money to build your house. Not extend credit to your business. Not run a $2,000,000 banking business. (That’s nearly $20,000,000 today, in case you were wondering.)

They should be at home, baking pies.

But that was the 50s. We’ve come a long way since then, right? 

According to CNBC, women in 2020 earn $.81 for every dollar a man earns. And if you’re a Black woman, you’re only making $.61 for every dollar a White man makes. But I bet you’re working twice as hard to get a little more than half as much. And taking care of your family. And, in these pandemic days, probably homeschooling your children too.

Now enter Kamala Harris, the Geraldine Ferraro of 2020. And somewhere there’s a 14-year-old girl thinking that equality for women not just White women, but Black and Brown women too is right around the corner. She’s sure of it! She’s on the Kamala train, even though she isn’t old enough to vote. Here is a woman who has reached the top! She’s in the good ole boys club. She’s smashing the glass ceiling to pieces!

This little girl thinks she can be anything she wants to be — even president!

Because she’s full of hope and excited by possibility, she doesn’t think anybody will ever say about her or to her:

Have your girl bring me a cup of coffee.

Shut up and do what I told you to do.

You’re too pushy.

Have you been working out? You look tight.

You don’t want that job — it’s not glamorous.

You look scrumptious. 

You’re not qualified. (When clearly she is.)

Even though they will.

This month marks one hundred years since The Nineteenth Amendment to The United States Constitution prohibited state and federal governments from denying people the right to vote based on their sex. My grandmother was 17 years old, she’d already graduated from high school, and had begun teaching when women got the right to vote in 1920. Black women would not realize the same right until 45 years later. Kamala Harris would have been a year old when The Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed. 

But even with amendments and acts that say women are equal, pervasive and systemic gender bias tells us every day that we are not. Code words, interruptions, dismissive behavior, and microaggressions tell us every day that we are not. Watching the credit for our ideas and hard work be given to our male counterparts tells us we are not. The distinct lack of female representation in high-level, professional positions, science, and technology tells us every day that we are not. 

My paycheck tells me I’m not. 

That’s why as a woman, I say as emphatically as one can that this inequality can no longer stand. We cannot allow it to continue one more minute. 

Women, if you are in a position of privilege or power, use it to bring another woman to the table. If you see sexism (or racism, or ageism, or bias based on sexuality or transphobia) in your workplace or just out in life, say something if you safely can. Don’t tear other women down. Build them up. And they will return the favor. 

Now is the time to come together so that one day, when that 14-year-old girl reflects on her life and career, the words she remembers are:

Would you like a cup of coffee?

Do you have all the information you need to do this job?

You’re goal-oriented and confident. You have many of the qualities we look for in a leader.

Self-care is important. 

This job has your name written all over it.

The muffins the client sent were scrumptious. Now, tell me your ideas for their project. 

You’re ARE qualified. You are CLEARLY qualified.

2 thoughts on “2020: The Year of Equality (I hope…)

  1. Brava! I remember the Mondale- Ferraro ticket. My mom was incredibly excited while I (rotten cynic that I was) saw it as a Hail Mary pass the Democrats were trying against a popular incumbent.

    Then the Republicans added Palin in 2008. Still a loss, but both parties had tried.

    Four years ago, two childhood friends and I watched the last day of Hillary Clinton’s campaign together with excitement and wished our own mothers were alive to witness this. Obviously, there was more time to wait.

    I don’t know what the future will be but one thing has surely changed. Putting a female on the ticket no longer feels like a desperate “Hail Mary” pass. And maybe that’s a measure of progress.

  2. Yes, and yes and yes again. We need to try for another ERA, I cried when the last one “didn’t make it”. I cried and am still depressed that Hilary is not in office. I cry tears of anger and sadness every time Trump opens his mouth. We need women in every position of power. I truly hope and pray you are right Audrey. The time, 2020, may be late, but we are all ready for it. Thanks.

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