With the help of men who also believe in our cause, American women have come from a place where we were seen but seldom heard to a situation in which capable women can credibly run for president and preside over Congress.
This does not mean that such women — or the rest of us seeking to be equal — are free of hurdles. On the contrary, women like Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi are widely disrespected, especially in the conservative climate that has clouded the nation’s perspective since Ronald Reagan. Determined women competing in the real world, and trying to survive within their professional and personal circles, understand that they often walk in minefields of lasting prejudice.
What is sometimes worse, especially for a woman like me, who has toiled in the vineyards of female equity for more than a quarter-century, is the notion that we ought to somehow just accept that some women-haters cannot be changed and should, therefore, be tolerated. It is difficult to imagine anyone asking for such tolerance regarding a racist or an anti-Semite.
Only the gay community (which has been more victimized by hatred than women) can really understand how women feel about their endless battle. Gay men and lesbian women, in fact, have always been well-represented in the ranks of the women’s rights’ and other human rights’ movements. They know firsthand how bigotry stings, and, sometimes, even kills.
Though a woman can now seriously run for the highest office in the land, excel as a business leader, and even put the fear of God into those who would oppose her, we are probably decades away from similarly widespread openness about sexual orientation, in political races and elsewhere.
A few courageous men and women have run for office “out of the closet” — and many have been elected and re-elected — but legions in the public and private sector still hide under a cloud of marriages of convenience, steadfast denials, and even blackmail.
Women have no choice. Short of choosing to dress like a man, write under a male pseudonym, as 19th-century authors sometimes did, or go the full route of sex-change, we are what we are — female. Love us or hate us, we have no closet.
We like to believe things are getting better. Certainly, women have more opportunities now than in the past. At the very least, we have legal options for fighting discrimination in the courts. But I worry that the advancement of women, like Hillary and Pelosi, will give the false impression that we have arrived (or, as some would see it, “gone too far”).
Full equality still eludes women, as it does our gay neighbors. For the sakes of our grandchildren, we must keep working for a day when “gender” and “sexual orientation” are as valid as “race, color, or creed” in the litany of unacceptable reasons for holding a person down.
: This Just In
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