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Every Day Is Women’s Equality Day

August 26 was Women’s Equality Day. Two hundred years ago, women in the United States had very few rights and practically no choices when it came to a career. Women were not allowed to own property, they had no rights to their children after divorce and risked being homeless and penniless if they did leave their husband. By the mid 1800s, women’s option began to open, but ever so slowly. The first wave of female workers produced teachers who wanted to include girls. These teachers were harassed and the schools they taught in were terrorized. Rocks were thrown through windows and schoolhouses set to fire. By grown men!

During the second half of the 19th century, strong women came forth to circulate petitions, give speeches and publish newspapers to rally women(and forward thinking men) to rise up and demand equal rights.

The biggest issue, and one that stretched on for decades, was for women to acquire the right to vote. Some of the pioneers in this effort were Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, and Lucretia Mott. Later in the century, Alice Paul emerged as the leader that took up the cause, giving her life to the victory which was won in 1919 and put into federal law in 1920. Similar activities were happening in the UK, which was arguably a more violent movement. The extent of the drama in the US was that the women who were arrested for chaining themselves to the gates of the White House were imprisoned and while there went on hunger strikes until released.

Since then the push has been for the passing of equal rights amendment, which was first introduced in 1923 by Alice Paul. It was then again introduced in 1976 and since then has been ratified by 37 states. That’s only 1 short! Only one more state has to ratify it and then it can become an official amendment.

This is a very exciting time. Which state is going to go down in history as the one that finally got us there? Virginia, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina or Utah?

Until then, let’s make every day Women’s Equality Day and celebrate how far we’ve come without the amendment. Someday soon we’ll make it official!

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Yes ERA!

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Motto of ERA

Forty seven years ago, in 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment fell three states short of becoming an amendment to the United States constitution. At last we have arrived at what may be the crest of the wave to success. Illinois and Nevada passed it recently and now it’s a race between Virginia and Missouri to close the gap.

Alice Paul, a suffragist, was the author of the original amendment, which had slightly different wording (and had a hand in its subsequent revision). She saw it presented to Congress in 1921, just a few years after right to vote was granted to women. But it got caught in committee by the opposition and it never was debated or voted on. Almost 100 years later, we are on the verge of seeing her vision(and the vision of so many) become a reality. Why did it take so long? Aren’t equal rights for women something we all can agree on?

Sadly, no.

You may be surprised to learn that it’s passing was(ironically) sabotaged by women who were against the ERA. The resistance within the ranks of women stemmed from the thinking that the amendment would shake the very foundation of traditional women’s roles and disturb family structure. They thought that the legislation would take away certain privileges away from women, like being exempt from the draft and being excused from doing physically demanding or rough work.

Abortion—was and still is—a hot topic around the amendment. Opponents are fearful that the amendment will make legalized abortion part of the constitution. Gay marriage is also a consideration. Even though the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, it(along with Roe vs. Wade)could be overturned.

As far as the draft goes, there are strenuous physical requirements to being included in combat. Some men don’t even qualify. Not all women will fulfill those requirement in terms of front line combat. The fact is that as a group, women are physically smaller and weaker. If a woman who meets the requirements wants to be trained to fight, it should be her right to do so. In the case that there are children at home, one parent at least should stay with the children and perhaps that should be left up to the parents to decide which. Women are already an important part of our military. Why should they not go into battle if they desire to do so? It’s my opinion that these details will be sorted out—from the foundation of women being allowed to do what men do when they have the desire and ability.

Even without he ERA, women have swept the country with brilliance in every way imaginable, permeating every occupation and every corner of life with creativity, ingenuity, sensitivity and tenacity. Even without the ERA, women are doing largely what we would be doing anyway. The absence of the ERA hasn’t stopped us from progressing.

So why do we need the ERA?

Although many of us enjoy equality in the workplace and in other areas, we do not technically enjoy equality in our legal standing. Those of us who are victims of gender discrimination have little federal legal framework to support our seeking justice. We need the ERA in place to be fully protected. We need that security to give us the confidence to demand what we know is rightfully ours, but currently may shy away from simply to keep food on the table.

For those who discriminate against women, the ratification of the ERA will be a clear message that the game is up. They can no longer use discriminatory practices without risking litigation in which they could lose money, reputation and business status.

For men, there are benefits as well. They will have a stronger position in divorce courts, where mothers are many times seen as the more nurturing parent. That is not always the case. Men will be able to more confidently demand the custody they deserve and seek the child support they need.

Over the last 100 years men and women have lifted up the torch of the ERA, reaching for its acceptance again and again, keeping the flame of the ERA from being doused. And we will continue to call for its ratification and subsequent permanence in the constitution.

The United States was founded on freedom, which will ultimately prevail.

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After more than 300 years of being the main character in an iconic story, the Gingerbread man, who ran away from all those pursuers, can’t escape the stigma of being a victim. In the story, the gingerbread man jumps out of the oven and runs off in search of freedom. But the joy of freedom eludes him as he discovers that the world is a harsh place. He is constantly pursued by a series of hungry animals. He manages to outrun them, but is finally outwitted by a fox who tricks him into riding on his back across the river, then gobbles him down on the way. Perhaps this story, first published in 1875, was originally created to scare children, as many fairytales were designed to to like Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel, which encouraged young ones to stay close to home.

The image I’m presenting here is from a shirt currently being sold in the boys section of Old Navy. As you can see, the gingerbread man is up against impossible odds; in what universe can a cookie expect to chop through cement and remain unharmed? After everything he’s been through, the Gingerbread man is wise to toughen himself up and get some martial arts training, but he is still naive in way way he’s going about things.

The question about the evolution(or devolution) of the gingerbread man started last week when I was out with my ten year old son, Alex. My son’s friend, Brad, was joining us with his parents, Jon and Barbara for dinner. We met up at Old Navy first. We were browsing when Jon and Brad came running up to us, holding up this shirt, all excited. Barbara and I immediately expressed gut-level responses to the latest plight of the Gingerbread man and verbalized our thoughts. She found it violent. I found it lacking in empathy. Jon and the boys couldn’t understand why we found it disturbing and he bought the shirt against Barbara’s wishes.  During dinner, Brad proudly wore the shirt, which I had to look at for the next hour and a half. Barbara whispered to me that the shirt would be going “bye-bye”.

Over the course of the next few days Barbara and I explored the reasons why this image was offensive to us. It’s just a cartoon picture of a cookie, what’s the big deal? We tried to do it, but just couldn’t see the value of it or the humor in it.

I thought about what the symbolism of the Gingerbread man might be. He came to life with a strong impulse to be free, but he didn’t exactly enjoy his freedom. How does this translate to the human experience?

Every day—every moment!—is an opportunity to be reborn, start anew. We can alter outcomes with enlightened attitudes, actions and words. We shape ourselves like dough to become who we choose to be. We can opt to look at obstacles from different perspectives and effectively change our trajectory by focusing on what we want. This story also has lessons on being our own advocate. We must teach our children to stand up for what they believe, in a way that is constructive and strengthening. Running away from problems just makes them worse because you can’t run away from yourself and most problems can ultimately be traced back to the self—our thoughts create our beliefs which create our language which create our experiences which create our level of fulfillment.

The couple is childless and this living cookie might have been a blessing. The gingerbread man might have missed out on love and attention they would have showered him with. He didn’t even stick around to see. He ran off without hesitation into the wide world without the tools or understanding to deal with the challenges he encountered.

The gingerbread man was—and perhaps still is—naive. If he had talked with the woman or stopped and defended himself against the animals or if he had tried to strike a bargain that he could get them more cookies to eat if they would spare him, perhaps he would have survived. If he had realized the fox was deceiving him, maybe he could have run in another direction and hidden himself.

The gingerbread man on this shirt clearly has the goal to be stronger, but lacks the good judgement to do so in a constructive way. He didn’t think the consequences through. On top of that, he’s going for brute force rather than smart strategizing. As a result, he is experiencing pain and suffering once again. And we are encouraged to laugh at his misfortune.

“Oh, snap.” It’s a light-hearted phrase, to be used in the event of spilled laundry soap on your hands or dropped candy. To use it in reference to the breaking of a bone, the loss of a hand, and the pain that must follow, shows a lack of compassion and understanding.

My intention these days is to increase awareness of the world around me. Does this mean I don’t have a sense of humor? On the contrary. I love humor. But when does humor cross a line into insensitivity and cruelty? I think this image crosses that line.

If this shirt is a continuation of the plight of the gingerbread man, it has hit the mark perfectly. Trying to chop a cement block can be added to his list of bad calls. What bothers me most about this image is that a representation of low level thinking, of spinning wheels and the unwillingness to evolve. I would like to have seen one of these depictions: The gingerbread man beating the fox in a martial arts match or living happily with his family in a holiday scene.

This is an opportunity to clarify what our intentions are. I invite you to ask yourself as you go through your day, observing things: “Does this promote more love and appreciation, more compassion and understanding?” If the answer is no, then perhaps it’s not the best avenue to pursue. Maybe it’s not the best item to spend money on or the best information to expose our children to. Instead, it’s time for a heightening of our experiences, using images and words that support our best selves, our highest selves—our selves that use cement for building rather than for breaking.



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The March is On

On January 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands of women and girls of all ages, marched in cities all over the country to affirm and declare, announce and celebrate the power and equality of women. This conglomeration of women coming together for a common cause was, in my mind, a preventative measure. As of yet Donald Trump has not done anything to curb the rights of women over their minds, bodies and spirits.

The amazing thing is that collectively, women sense something is amiss, as only women can, with our incredible intuition and infinite wisdom. And that is that Donald Trump has shown a lack of understanding of what women want and need. More importantly, today was a declaration that we are not requesting, begging. We are demanding equal rights. We speak clearly, with a voice that represents not only us, but also our children, and our many supportive men. Sensitive men whose voices may be muffled by this administration.

Women came together to say, “Hey, we are watching you, and we can mobilize any time against you if you operate in ways that violate what is right. If you try to go backwards in the progression of women’s rights, in civil rights, in the environmental sanctity of our country, we will rise up!”

This march wasn’t just about women, it was about everyone. It was about maintaining where we are, and pushing forward for a better tomorrow with new ways of thinking, being, behaving. Ways that reflect the future we wish to create.

I am proud to be a female warrior and will stand up for what I think is right. I encourage you to educate yourselves about what is going on in your federal, state and local lawmaking offices and stand up for what you believe to be right. If we all do that, we have a good chance of being ruled by the people and for the people, as our founding fathers and mothers intended.