We ask justice, we ask equality, we ask that all civil and political rights that belong to the citizens of the United States be guaranteed to us and our daughters forever.
~ Susan B. Anthony
The words of suffragette Susan B. Anthony, spoken more than 150 years ago, sum up in one sentence what the women's movement seeks, demands from society. The fight for women's voting rights was won in 1920, but the quest for equality continues.
We've come a long way from demanding to be able to vote for a president to having a serious presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton. Women are making strides, making progress and still making do. Hardly a news story is written that doesn't mention Clinton is a woman, just as nearly all references to presidential candidate Barack Obama mention he's black. This labeling doesn't happen to John McCain. No one categorizes McCain as the male candidate or the white candidate. Pollsters ask if voters would vote for a woman or a black as if they were astounded that America would find itself in a position to even have to think about it.
Through years of baby steps toward equality, women have earned the right to do any job for which they qualify. In traditionally male-dominated occupations, the label "woman" is tacked in front of the names of female astronauts, police and firefighters, politicians and drag racers, carpenters and athletes. That label speaks volumes about the continuing struggle for equality.
When spoken by a man, its condescending connotation is that they've allowed a "little woman” into the big leagues. When spoken by a woman, it often denotes a group pride for one person's accomplishments. Both attitudes are flawed.
The women's movement will be a success only when it is no longer needed. When the labels are obsolete, so then will be the movement. Only when a person is judged solely by his or her abilities or accomplishments without regard for gender, race, religion, nationality or sexual preference will we be able to say we've won the fight. Unfortunately, 2008 is not the year to declare that victory.
The most pernicious enemy of progress is complacency. Women must be vigilant against prejudice, must protect the hard-won rights of today and press on to further abolish the labels that keep them from breaking through glass ceilings.
Strong women have led the crusade for women's rights since the Seneca Falls Convention of 160 years ago. The Women's Rights Convention, planned for July 19 in Washington Park, Sandusky, will commemorate those women, celebrate the journey of the women's movement so far and encourage women to continue to fight the fight through voter registration, voting and supporting their sisters. Show solidarity. Bring your daughters to the convention, bring your granddaughters, bring your mothers. All women are in this struggle together.
There was a cigarette (!) commercial celebrating women's place in society. It stated "We've come a long way, baby." To this American social critic Elizabeth Janeway replies, "We haven't come a long way, we've come a short way. If we hadn't come a short way, no one would be calling us 'baby.'