Tag Archives: feminism

Marco Cochrane- safe for women

Gloria Steinem: October 2014 Associated Press

When the women’s movement started, there was not even a term called domestic violence. It was just called life. When  we think of violence against women, for instance, we understandably think mainly of other countries, where the degree of violence is much higher. But what is also true is that if you added up all the women who have been murdered by their husbands or boyfriends since 9/11, and then you add up all the Americans who were killed by 9/11 or in Afghanistan and Iraq, more women were killed by their husbands and boyfriends.”

Marco Cochrane is a sculpture of a series called Truth in BEauty presented at Burning Man for a  years who asks “how can we have women feel safe?”  It’s a profound and astounding question when you consider the landscape of where we are with violence against women.   Speaking not just on women who are violated, but as well when they don’t feel safe to express themselves:  their happiness, their joys, their pain and their perspective.  The tech world is making moves to have the tech environment which is majority men welcome women in such a way that they feel seen, heard and full participants in the work place.  They want the contribution and creative input from women, and they want them to feel safe in working with their companies.

So the question Marco raises can be looked at in various ways.  One way is to look at the history of women and violence, or more to the point to look at what has been ignored, denied and patronized when women call out abuse by a man in the workplace or in the home.  The very sense that that has been the norm may have a lot to do with women withholding themselves and their experience of the world-part of which tells them women are not safe.

The scandals exposed recently in the abuse by NFL husbands and boyfriends on the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Woman Act of 1994 brought the world’s attention to a condition that has been tolerated, ignored or justified by the business of sports and their performers. University of California Berkeley, among other esteemed universities and colleges who have been called to the task of taking seriously the safety of their students with responses that are more of consequence to the offenders of the acts of rape and assault. In the military, the officers who have generally been the responsible agents for addressing violence against women are facing having those incidents out of their hands and into the non military legal professionals.   The United States as Gloria Steinem states is just now becoming aware of the reality that has been under the radar of bureaucratic systems that minimalized the consequences to the abuser. Violence has an impact not only on the victim, but is integrated into how women feels about themselves and their safety. Marco Cochrane in a recent interview offered a window into how women feel and what the effect is of living in the world where they may be unseen, unheard and may have to deal with the potential of  physical attack or assault.

INTERVEIW WITH MARCO  JULY 2014

Marco Cochrane with his wife Julia Whitelaw Cochrane, a collaborative attorney in Marin and partner to Marco served as the interviewer at the Innovate Berkeley event July 2014, and brought a new consciousness with a simple but profound questions.

“What would it be like in the world if women felt safe and what would it take to have women feel safe?” Internationally known for his exceptional series Truth is Beauty in The Bliss Project of Burning Man. Marco’s ‘Woman’ made from mesh wire a 55 foot essence and form of a woman reaching with every inch of herself toward the sky. She is felt as well as seen, and celebrated at Burning Man’s annual celebration in the desserts of Nevada.

Marco is speaking at the Innovate Berkeley event at the Impact Hub Berkeley as creative artists, writers, welders, designers and mostly people excited about life and its possibilities gather for his presentation. Marco describes himself as the child of hippie parents raised in Berkeley in his early years. He was introduced to antiwar and feminism viewpoints and by age 7 was aware and sensitive to the possibility of the need for radical change from that young age. He was aware of the insanity of war and saw how people treated each other and wondered why and what that was about from early age. The inequity of how some were treated well, and others not was an early observation that didn’t make sense to him, and gave ground to his challenging rather than accepting these disparities. The radical question of what it would take to have women feel safe comes from that realm of consciousness and also in his attention and focus not just on the inches and hills and valleys of a woman’s body in the process of sculpturing the Truth is Beauty series.   But over time with the subjects he noticed their silence, the holding back, the absence of exposure behind the unspoken speaking by women around him.

Marco’s question “What would it take to have women feel safe” brings to mind that because of their silence, the withdrawal of their presence, humanity has less to work with. Marco expresses the value that women feeling safe and free to express would make their feminine energy to the world. He has observed his response, his speaking is available to him, and that is not the case with women. He observes that men don’t need to have permission to speak, that men fear other men, knowing they themselves carry so much aggression at all time, perhaps from fear of survival, but they sense it in other men. The violence against women, rape and abuse by men he sees as a coping mechanism to keep women silent. The effect is to shut down women.

“We need the direction from women that would make the world a different place.” He does not mention specifically what we all know if we read the newspapers. We have a world where rape and assault, not just in far off worlds, but in our military, in our universities, in our churches, in our schools are constantly being revealed. The revelations generally come through exposure by a woman who at significant cost to herself and often under duress speaks out. She may not be believed, her character and behavior may be attacked; her life can be at risk.

The emphasis of Marco’s message is that the different energy that women contribute and its potential to the world is where the world will find its answers, and that will come through women feeling safe.

If women felt safe, their silence would end and the feminine energy of connectedness, transparency, creative possibilities would be available to the world, and is needed to handle the problems we have in creating a sustainable world, the world we have to deal with now, Marco points out. Women feeling safe did not come through the feminist movements or the hippie movements of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, he observes. He says that at every gathering ike the one we’re attending tonight, someone brings up at this point the work of One Billion Rising and Eve Ensler to defend the value of the work of feminists which he values, but it doesn’t change his experience of how women feel and how that affects what they say and what they do and what they keep to themselves that is lost to the world.

Marcos is intent on the challenge of having women feel safe being taken up by all. The implication is that everyone who wants to see the end of violence against women and in the world needs to be up for the job. He suggests “Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Do it because it’s fun, not generosity,” emphasizing the difference and making clear there is no exchange or obligation to be expected by making the effort to do the right thing.

“Its going to take all of us to do it,” Marco says in closing. In saying all of us, I am reminded that everyone means women as well as men making it safe for women. Women making it safe for women to speak out is the basis for women’s groups or the sanctity of the chosen friends with whom we share ourselves without editing. Sometimes our sisters, sometimes our daughters and mothers, but it doesn’t come with the role or relationship status. The sense of safety that we have as women with other women is born of trust coming from consistent experience of having our thoughts, expressions and emotion-ourselves valued.

But out here in life, in the office, meeting or social event-family reunion or class- it is not assumed those conditions will be there for us. Our job as women coming from the perspective presented by Marco is it’s our job to make it safe for women. Just as well as the men-maybe even moreso, we must honor the women around us –their perspective, their vulnerable moves out to express what lives in their hearts and minds, their value, their gifts.

Marco has traveled around countries far and wide to speak to people about Truth is Beauty, his magnificent sculptures celebrating the beauty and spirit of women, but it seems that his quest is in making it safe for women, and what that can contribute to humanity is also his gift. Who women are and what they have to contribute is a work of art he presents to the world. That opening is an opening is as high and solid as the 55 foot sculpture Woman – and then some.  Truth as Beauty provides that reach for us all.

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Feminism and women in prison

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Feminism and women in prison is one of the earliest movements in social history.  Primarily efforts by feminists in the 1920’s, then again in the  1940’s were made to better the condition of prisons that stored the girls off the streets, homeless and poor, often abused with no family or kin.   Currently, the reality of women in prison and the cost to women and our world has recently been evoked because of a netflix series  by Piper Kerman Orange is the New Black that contributes to a new awareness about prison for women today.

Orange is the New Black, but really a puddle jump.

KPFA of Berkeley interviewed  author Piper Kerman, of Orange is the New Black  and she reported a startling figure. Kerman said that women in prison, state and federal, has been an increase of “800%” since her incarceration. She also emphasized that the majority were non white, thus orange in her title is not a pun so much as it is a reference to the fact that more women of color are in prison than white and the increase of women in prison is beyond alarming.

Fact checks of prison data reveals that 1 million women have gone through the criminal justice system since 1985, with 200,000 confined in state or local jails representing 7% of the prison population. The rate of incarceration of women has doubled since 1985 with 30% black women, 16% Hispanic. In 2005, a black women was three times as likely as white to be incarcerated, and Hispanic women are 69% more likely to be incarcerated as white. 40% of the criminal justice cases of conviction were related to illegal drugs with 80% of women receiving more than a year in jail, as reported by Kerman quoted in her KPFA interview 5/5/14.

What does this represent for the nation? It reflects the fact that women may not have the funds for lawyers, and like the male non white convicted there is a lack of education and treatment for drug addiction for these women. It seems to represent also that there is growing numbers statistically proportional to male incarceration.  Both males and females of color are more likely to be in jail.   Case after case reveals that non whites receive more severe sentences, are consistently found guilty to crimes they did not commit.  Sadly, we hear this, read this on line, in the newspaper, on cable, etc.  It is not news.

Even so, the astonishing increase of women in prison has not been information well represented.   For Piper Kerman, her book providing a cast of characters as she does, her goal is to increase knowledge and compassion of the state of women who are imprisoned.   The popular Netflix show based on her book and her experiences in jail for Kerman has put Netflix in strong competition with HBO and Showtime for an audience that was very receptive and enthusiastic about the series.  A social responsibility seems to be at the base of Kerman’s altruistic and genuine interest in making public her experiences in prison.  “Without the contact and support you can gain from the other inmates, prison is impossible.”  It is hard.  It can take your life away is her message.  Who are the women?  The girls who didn’t finish schools, from abusive relationships as children and as adults, with no particular training or future.  In prison, Kerman recalls, she knew she had a life outside and the Ivy League school and status she had before has been hers to regain.  The book and the network series have us know:  for many women, prison is a puddle jump away.  The decisions made by young girls with no back up and no particular place in the world.

Kerman points out the destructive elements of incarceration on families who are left behind, children, parents, siblings-all a cost rarely measured. Prison does not rehabilitate, prison does not educate or provide any future hope, but basically keeps the person confined and constrained to conditions that do not allow progression to a productive life outside. It is alarming that women have increased in the numbers they have in state and federal jails. It is a cost we feel in our lack of public funding for schools, trainings or childcare that could support young women trying to make it.  Profoundly,  Kerman emphasizes that  Women in prison suffer HIV and Hepatitis C in large proportion,  with few if any true health standards around their care.  Much of the pelvic inflammation and chlamydia symptoms have no symptoms, so go untreated.

Orange is the New Black makes  known facts that illustrate that treatment, psychological and medical are what is needed in the treatment of incarcerated women.  Given the reported cost of $104,000 per inmate in prison, a much better use of the taxpayers’  dollar would be to treat and educate women to return to society.   Piper Kerman, like most of the women she met in prison, did something against the law not foreseeing the possibility of the consequences that would follow years later.  She has returned and is contributing with her knowledge of women in prison.

Where is feminism in this conversation?  Piper is a feminist for sure, and knows her own value, has lived through her mistakes and is looking to have the conditions and problems she saw women facing in prison be seen, acknowledged and changed.    She stresses the lack of humanity in how these women are deal with in prison,and the cost to all society with their exclusion from the ability to rise as she has from the crushing defeat prison can be for anyone.   A barefoot frontrunner, Piper Kerman sounds like she is not going to stop till she gets some results from a society that is waking up to the news that prison is a business we can’t afford to support any longer.

 

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Sex, Women and Power

 

Karen Colusa, artist 2011IMG_0703

Gloria Steinem:  “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

Sex, Women and Power came as a new chapter for the new woman and changed the human potential for how men and women lived their lives.   While living through the abrupt interruption of the life around me in the revolution of the late 1960’s;  new perceptions and ideals even with  its cost provided a political and social chaos from which sexual liberation led to the choices I began to recognize that were mine to make.  Feminism-though I didn’t have a name for it- was what I felt like a hot knife to a still cold center of my being  as a child when I was a witness to contempt and lack of dignity afforded those considered less strong, less seen-the unconsidered, the other.   The concepts I could not name, but I felt  when I witnessed the inequity, injustice and pain administered with authority by those in power.  The urgent push to stand in the cracks rather than enter either the realm of those holding the power or those victimized was where I placed myself.  The passionate and uncompromising places I found in the cracks were the signposts and directives of my life, and the purpose of this book is to identify the process of feminism-equity and justice-for men and women,  inside and out, and the  call for the future we must secure.

Women’s rights born under the blanket of civil rights fifty years ago shares some of the history-the struggle for equality, finding a place at the table with equal rights and privileges as citizens with access to choice and responsibility has been a process shared between women and minorities. We argue that the structured systematic condition of placing obstacles to equality for race and sex are less overt, but live in the condition of the need to exclude and deny that process of exclusion in an attempt to maintain established white privilege and power.

Women and their sense of power are a thread that is the life-force, the motion and the expression of the feminism- that I address in this book.  Personal is the political for the women, the barefoot frontrunners, who took the steps to bring into their lives,  their dignity and their choices,  fulfilling the potential of equality.  One by one, in small and large measured and unmeasured ways often, the progress over the past fifty years is profound.  It reveals a pattern of empowered by sexual equality  that is  followed by full participation in all realms of business, political, medical and scientific achievement.

 

PART ONE – WOMEN describes  the path  of women through interviews, historical context and intimate essays of the changes experienced that redefined of women and the society around them .   Interviews with women who were born in 1940 initiated the process of recognizing the specific agents that created social and sexual change.  With the Women’s Movement and Civil Rights movement in the background,  women lived under the radar but were the instruments of significant change.  It was about how they lived their lives with  a response step by step, trial and error to a new world of choice and responsibility .  It is also the story of the women who came together in the 1920’s in the trade unions, then again in the 1960’s to forming the ethos of feminism.   NOW, and the Women’s Liberation Movement impacted and changed the political structure by their relentless demand and attainment of worker’s rights and  equality in the workplace and in the home.  But it was all the women who followed who took the movement to a transformed society.

 PART TWO – SEX describes  women  as they gained access to choice and responsibility to determine their own lives.   The world changed for women with the first birth control pills in 1964, and then the Civil Rights Bill of 1965 that determined prejudice against minorities, women and immigrants could not exclude their participation and inclusion in The Great Society we aspired to be.  The  atmosphere of the late 1960’s was  that of challenging assumptions about who we were as a country and as human beings, as men and as women.   Assumptions about our roles and identities gave way to the cognitive dissonance inspired by  the new freedoms and new choices and new responsibilities that came often in chaos and confusion.   The future was unclear, but the  demonstrations and anger from the universities to the streets of Chicago, LA and New York demanded a look at our priorities and  participation in the world.     Affirmative Action in 1965 was the starting point for many, within the scope of civil rights and President Lyndon Johnson’s insistence in fulfilling the intention of the Civil Rights Act.  Preferential admission to universities and jobs enhanced access for women, and minorities in an attempt to reverse discrimination.  The timeline shows that sexual and political power seems linked to the new history by women, and changes in social roles and by both men and women.    Sexual and political changes over the span of the  years of social revolution  illustrate how new patterns emerged in how people lived their lives.

The women who stepped forward in Seneca Falls in 1848 or in Afganistan a week ago, give weight to the position  of women who impact their circumstances and the world around them. Significant and a crack in the hardened ground of patriarchy, class regimentation, we see girls like Malala Yousafzai who have broken through the fear and contempt, and will not be stopped. In our own country, ground is broken for non violence against women who have had the courage to come forward and break the chains of sexual abuse in their homes, in our military, in universities, and in the athletic sports world. We have moved forward significantly, but in our poorest and most crime ridden local communities today, there is recognition that for girls,  lack of education and property make less possible access  and entry into the workplace.  It all begins for girls with the means to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancies in order to progress and make into a sustainable life.  Planned Parenthood has served women since the days of Margaret Sanger in the 1940’s. Roe Vs.Wade has added to their support of women to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, but predominantly, Planned Parenthood has served as a source of education and service for all income levels to guide their management of  health and well being, sexual education and birth control. Predominantly, the sexual revolution of the 1970’s brought the recognition of women as sexual beings with desire and appetite unrelated to their roles as wives and mothers.

 

The PART THREE – POWER  is the product of call in 1970 for the sexual and political liberation of women that made for the ongoing transformation underway worldwide for women, and for humanity. Women getting together with women and calling for change and taking on the openings provided to women with Affirmative Action was the action taken.  Led by the voices of the women in the movement, but achieved by the women who stepped forward into the potential for liberty brought on by the social revolution.  It was each women who chose to take on whatever part she saw for herself to achieve her place, her position of being a free woman.  The brave actions of these barefoot frontrunners brought on the markers of feminism we find in the world today.  The role of fathers, the definition of family, the high representation of women in professional and political positions of power are all the work of the women who came before.   Feminism has always been about social justice and social equity, and we find  today the work of Civil Rights undone is where the energy of feminism lives in Black Lives Matter.  Sexism and racism begin always with the exclusion of the other seen as a threat to prevailing power.    Marriage Equality in 35 states is a major win for Civil Rights and Women’s Rights,  But those left behind, the women and the people of color, may be the next level of identifying and bringing the needed light and attention to the wounded people abandoned by unsustainable economic dynamics .

  New family patterns have emerged that include a variety of ways in which people hold and define their lives.  Who people marry and if they marry are new questions with new answers as we move forward.  The dignity and individual expression of living life as we choose for men and women is the move toward a better world most agree.  And yet, there is a serious attempt to take women’s rights back to restrictions and limitations lived through before women’s right to choose and birth control.  Guttmacher Institute described in 2011 as the War on Women’s Reproductive Rights.   In 50 states, there are 1100- reproductive revisions designed to restrict access to abortion and birth control services in in 24 states.  Republicans in the house are waging a war on women through attempts to deny birth control in the Affordable Health Care system; their efforts are to take not just women but the law itself back to what was gained by Roe VS Wade in 1973.  These legislative proposals from Georgia, Texas and Pennsylvania as well as Louisiana, Ohio and North Carolina are designed to take women back, not forward and ultimately society back not forward to the future we’ve left behind.

Knowing how we have come this distance considering the magic and the mastery that directed the course of women’s liberation and civil rights brings a stark recognition of the value of these past fifty years.  And an urgency  to keep what has been attained, and reach deeper and harder for those left behind.  Affirmative Action ended in 1984, but there is talk of bringing it back.  There is also a movement to train and teach women and young black boys and girls to code and enter the tech world with its cavernous need for workers as unlimited potential is the direction of that world.  Yes We Code is such an organization with Start Ups all over the country bringing inventors and youth together unleashing the imagination and competency accessible in this union.  Further the goal of feminism has always been since Seneca Falls in the 1920’s a solution to the people thrown away in prisons.  Prison Reform is at the front of the work going forward for  those who aspire for a world that represents the goals of humanitarianism, peace and justice.   That is the power we discuss in this book.

This work is dedicated to all the women making the effort to include themselves, bring their talents, desires and wants to their world and our world.  The new woman today is an expression of bringing their eyes and heart to meet the unmet challenges for humanity. Their power to language and shoulder the means to free themselves, and in turn to free others.     To all the women and men who work  to lift the corners of darkness and fear in the glaring light of racism and sexism, this is the new world we require.   Ferguson, Baltimore, Oakland, New York City are not the exceptions, the people there have exposed the substantial work left to do to fulfill the goals of the Civil Rights Bill, and free men and women from the bigotry that robs them of their own peace.   That truly is the power we will need to meet the challenges ahead.

 

 

 

 

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1960’s New Sexuality for Women and Men

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1940-1970  REWRITE INCLUDING UNFINISHED FEMINISM PERSPECTTIVE

 

For the women born in 1940, they have to know that the women who informed them of their roles as women came from the place of their own experience where the number of children and the conditions of their lives were a consequence of the man and the family and the community in which they lived.  By 1950, as the highest level of babies were born in the United States after World War II, new paths emerged.  It’s hard to imagine what life was like during World War II where most people’s families  hung in the balance of the men at war and the sacrifices everyone made to support the war.

POST WORLD WAR II

Many men returned broken, many did not return at all.  For the women who had been working in the factories, farms and shipyards, those jobs were returned to the men and they returned home.  The VA loan provided the means for many to leave their families of origin and the single family home purchase, as well as the things needed for the home-the refrigerators, the sofas, the toasters, and produced the post war boom in the economy very much needed.  This is where in 1963,  Betty Freiden’s book  The Feminine Mystique opened the conversation with women about the “Cult of Domesticity.”  First a rumor among the powerful women in New York who were openly and stridently challenging the “status quo” but then a gradual revisiting occurred across the country of who women were and what they wanted.

covered in __________________________

Prior to this time, the conversation about women and their sexuality was framed in the medical context of function or dysfunction.   The function of sex to procreate and without the benefit of choice had women again rely on each other to find their own way of dealing with their husbands’ and society’s expectations of them.  The general issue was that women were not supposed to want to have sex out of marriage and so if there was no sex in the marriage, neither party had a place to take their concerns except their doctor or their chaplain.  The conversation brought up by Betty Frieden had women talk to each other about their own personal sexual experience, and the myth of “married bliss” was exposed.

The Dichotomy

THE ANTI WAR MOVEMENT:1964-70

Attitudes would change drastically during this period of time.  Life magazine did articles  on alternative lifestyles that were springing up.  It wasn’t just about philosophies, but had a very intense center if experimentation with male and female roles.   Young men drafted every day would face a war in Viet Nam that they neither understood, nor supported.  Prior to this time, the small voices of anti war rhetoric were an outgroup not even recognized by the population.  But young men torn from their families and communities with a war that became increasingly alien to them, and ultimately to the general population. It was messy.  Families had fights among themselves about their positions regarding the Viet Nam War.  It seemed unAmerican to not support the war. It was the young men who were drafted, and college campuses began to engage in protests against the war, and some engaged in  the Anti War Movement across the country.

The culture of politics and sexuality 1970

Bringing the women together for the anti war and civil rights  movement provided a format for women to consider their own roles in society, as well as to challenge the status quo of following along with the country’s attitudes about the war and about civil rights.   Jane Fonda in her antiwar activities became the focus of national attention in her kacki jeans with braless t shirt, no make up and long untethered hair.  From college campus to the  film industry and the media,  from California to New York, a social movement protesting the war and demonstrations that resulted in Ohio State where a college student was killed had the country aware of change underway the late 60’s.

Jane Fonda speak in 1970 at Stanford University,  conveyed the message of protest well as she spoke of her genuine support of the young soldiers who were dying in Viet Nam.  Her real intention was to support men and help share the burden the men were carrying for the country.  The long hair and blue jean clad young men on college campus represented the fact that the social and sexual identity of women and men was impacted by the changes underway in the country.  Masculine and feminine roles, with both men and women reevaluating their roles and their choices in determining the course of their lives and their  own choices in sexuality.  Life magazine had articles about the risk of loss of sexuality with men and women dressing the same with their blue jeans and t shirts, communal living and operating with the same level of sexual freedom.     Peace, justice and love were not just what the young people embroidered on their t shirts, this was a lifestyle they hoped to bring to the next generation.  Free of racial and sexual prejudice, out of the achievement orientation of the 50’s, they sought a new generation’s dreams of an equalitarian  society.

The Youngbloods,  The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob  Dylan were the messengers of the new society seeking freedom and a world without war.  The clothing styles at I Magnin’s and the social pages of the San Francisco Chronicle conveyed the message of the potential of this new society of brotherhood and love.  

As it turned out, the sexual revolution of the late 60’s did impact the standards and behavior of the culture.  However, by the 80’s the communes were emptying, people were back in the harness of the lifestyles they had found lacking in imagination and creativity.  People had lives, they needed paychecks, and men and women went to work to have those lives that spilled out into the suburbs from the cities.

See what Barefoot frontrunners is all about

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1960 Feminism and sisterhood

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The history of feminism from suffragettes to millineals is about the women and men who established the measures of women’s rights, civil rights  and living toward equality  and freedom to choose their politics and their sexuality.  Fifty years after the Civil Rights Bill, there is the challenge to reduce those rights, not just a whisper but a roar in forty state bills in process that would limit not just abortion, but birth control in some cases, and as such reducing the power for women to choose the use of their bodies.  The barefoot frontrunners are the women who have led and continue to provide the measures of equality as a reality in daily life.  They step out on unpaved roads and byways to claim equality and dignity for humanity.  As Nelson Mandela, Nobel Laureate stated, “Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression. ”

Barefoot Frontrunners is about women’s rights, civil rights as lived through,  and makes the claim that  the future of humanity depends on carrying forward the goals of feminism.  Embedded in the Civil Rights Act of 1964,   discrimination due to race, country of origin or sex became unlawful.  But further, the civil rights act provided the affirmative action plan with preferential  access to jobs and education.  Politics was personal, in as much as it was the living day to day in this period of chaos and change that took policy to reality.  A transition for women born in 1940 who came of age at the time of the Civil Rights Act.  Their intimate stories of sexual and political change convey a view of the pattern that is in process world wide.  Significantly, Birth control and women’s right to choose also became accessible to women in 1964, and provided the other side of the equation by which women found their path to freedom and equality.

Barefoot Frontunners argues that the sustainable future the planet needs and wants begins with feminism.   Feminism, humanity and sustainability are wedded in what will have that transformation take place.  Collaboration and cooperation is the future that is sustainable whether we talk about the weather or the economy, and the women of the world are moving toward that in whatever measures are available to them.  Malala Yousafzai, Gabby Gifford are referenced in this work because they both reflect and inspire the spirit of modern feminism by their own steps, they represent the power of their presence in the world.

Barefoot Frontrunners seeks to establish the debt owed by all women to those who have come before us, the gains they have made, the ground they have established as they lived through and brought forward the measures of equality we work with today.  The history of how the rights, privileges and legal changes came to be is a history unknown to many women today, and it is important to recognize and carry forward the goals of feminism.

Barefoot Frontrunners  sounds the alarm that those rights and privileges achieved primarily by having the birth control and choices available to women in how they have children and when although legal for over 50 years, there are grounds for concern about the  serious challenges in state legislation to reduce those rights.  The so called War on Women is evidenced and provided in daily the work of the GOP congress is to reduce women’s rights and reduce the power women have shown in their impact on the changes underway.  Politically and  economically, there is a committed effort  to take women back not forward to a future of their choosing.  The context for modern feminism is to carry forward the work of the previous generations to achieve equality and dignity, and to encourage and support education and choice for women around the world who strive to achieve that for themselves.

The Interviews

The women age 70 who were interviewed tell their story of living through the sociopolitical changes of their lives 1940-2014, where much of the  transformation to sexual and political freedom took place.  These women  responded to an email invitation to share their story:  how they  found themselves consistently  had much to do with finding each other from Seneca Falls in 1848 through the fifty years, it has been about a few women who opened the conceptual doors to freedom for many.    The barefoot frontrunners interviews, for instance, came through a woman’s circle that has met for over 35 years in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The group meets on the 3rd Thursday of the month and is hosted by one of 4 women who have been the hosts for this length of time.  There are women who have come only once or a few occasions over these years,  and some who have become regulars, but most have attended no more than three times.  The population is mixed in education, income, marital status and age and race.  There was a large response of over 50 requests by women to participate in this research for barefoot frontrunners.

WOMEN’S GROUPS

Every woman interviewed brought up the value of women friends and women’s groups.  The past fifty years of personal and political passage with economic and legal ground established provided the path to equality as a concept and a context through which the range of choices for these women in day to day was their individual process. 

 Born in 1940,  when it was illegal to have a book on family planning by Margaret Sanger in a book store, each new freedom with each change in the culture and in the world around them reflected in the laws provided both opportunity and challenges.  What they chose an how they chose provided new dilemmas and new responsibilities for them. They were the frontrunners, leading themselves down unknown trails often trial and error being the means to take on the new roles that resulted in the home and workplace. These women were the barefoot frontrunners, in as much as  there was the breaking from the known to the unknown of new identities and responsibilities.  It is safe to say that those who responded were interested and motivated to tell their stories because they were happy with their passage.    Easily several hundred women received the email offer to be interviewed for this research, consistently the ones who participated reported the positive end of the spectrum:  good health, vitality, enthusiastic about their current life and optimistic about the future.    Those who self selected participation would seem to reflect a positive deviance sampling,

We will talk specifically about the fact that for many women coming through the years of change, there was little or no direct experience with those who led the issues and practices of feminism.  In fact, for some there was a total lack of identification and a sense of strong alienation to the images they saw on television or read about in the newspapers to the strident representatives of feminism and social change of the 60’s.


Let’s start with the interview with Carol in the same woman’s group for over 33 years, as well as what she calls now her Palm Springs  golf group.  Jean brought up the women who sustained her after her husband’s passing with annual trips abroad.  Mother’s groups of decades was commonly reported long after there were no children in the lives of the women who participated.  There were many reports and descriptions of how women have relied on each other through periods of transition and  changes.     Consistently through the stories they told, the comfort and creative aspect of being with other women to face life’s changes was a familiar theme  of the women who came forward for an interview.  Sexuality, vitality and enthusiasm for their lives was the consistent finding of these women who elected to respond happy to tell their stories and pleased with the outcome of their journey to the modern context of feminism.

The conditions for change always included alliance with other women in the reports that were given.    For women, growing up in the family of origin, there were changes in location, marital status or career that set up the need for change.  Often the dynamic was unexpected and nor welcomed.  In the face of a crisis and chaos, new choices were presented and with that, shifts in identity and lifestyle.  A disruption to the status quo provoked discomfort and painful departures from the expectations assumed to be what the future was to be.

Each woman provided a description of their process, and the changes that came as a result.   The path for women  born in the 1940’s who passed through the counter culture social revolution of the late 60’s and early 70’s, the choices and options available to them were part of those shifts.  While these women were living their lives, change was underway.  President Kennedy in 1961 brought together a group of women who were educated and experienced from the campaign that elected him to take on the role he offered them to change history for women.  They were the Commission on the Status of Women, and they came up with what they termed “injuries of sex” to women at home and at the work place.  When these women could not get a response to the need for change within the government as a Commission, they left the government and became the powerful source of change within the Woman’s Movement that stirred the nation to recognition of the need for social change.

In 1964, two significant game changers occurred as well.  First,  the  1964 Civil Rights Act prompted granting women more preference in entry to college and jobs through Affirmative Action.  Birth Control in 1964 and Roe VS Wade in 1973 granted choice and access where none existed before.     For the women who told their stories for barefoot frontrunners, their experience of the changes around them were mixed.  Each of their histories relative to the changes underway were shades of recognition and access to college entry, womens studies, and new views of what was available  to them in their lives.  They married, had children, divorced, many crossed the country to get to Northern California.   California was the mecca for those who aspired to the the counter culture presented on television and the magazines as the New Society.

Many of those interviewed said explicitly ” I didn’t  want a life like my mother,”   and yet they had no roadmap for the new choices, the new responsibilities they would encounter.  The transition was trial and error to some extent, and there were many women who looked askance at their sisters and mothers and daughters and decided they wanted no part of the revision of the roles for women.  Tension between the women who chose the path of uncertainty inherent in this new conception of living life, and those who stayed with the traditional was real and expressed in leaving behind family members who no longer spoke as reported by some of the women.

As Anne, 72, described it:  I didn’t want my mother’s life or to be like my mother, but I had no idea how to do my life otherwise.  And every time I failed at some part of my life-my marriage or my kids or my kid’s school, or a job and money, I compared my life with my mother’s and felt a failure.”   It was the peers, the women who were making an effort to go back to school, advocate and support change who found comfort with each other in moments of loss and confusion as reported by the women interviewed.

Jane, 71,  spoke of it as “the consistent challenge to be a free woman to make my own decisions, to deal with my mistakes.  It was hard to learn how not to feel like a failure when I fell short of where I thought I should be.  It was hard to get back on track sometimes when I really didn’t know  where I was going.”

SUPPORT SYSTEMS

“Counter culture Explosion” is how the period of the late 60’s are described by Sylvia born in 1941.  She, like others, found the life she could not have dreamed possible and as she navigated her way through college, graduate school,  the work she wanted as an artist she was fulfilled. The women friends with whom she shared her intimate fears and passions were her consistent support system.  “Family is just not something I’m good at,” Sylvia says.  Today, her broken relationship with her family in the midwest and her daughter  are the only regrets she has in having taken her life full on defining her own terms. “My friends are my family,” she says and the sense of loss that she still carries that is evident.

CURRENT RELATIONSHIP STATUS

Of the sample of 100, serial monogamous relationships were reported by most of the women:  6 never married, 18 married once, 29 married twice,  4 married three times; 19 currently divorced with no  partner, 21 living with other than partner, 3 widowed.

THE WOMEN AND THEIR CHOICES

 Phyllis, 72, worked 32 years for a government agency.  She has a pension and her social security.  Her retirement allows for travel with her golfing buddies on a regular basis to Palm Springs.  She is well set, more so than her male friends with whom she has lived in a serial monogamy situations, never married.  Active in her younger years in  Women’s Liberation, she now has a Ladies golfing group who plan getaways three times a year that gives her a life design that works for her.  Still she feels the empty place where “something might have been” that she can’t actually describe, but still has a longing for.  It might be the ‘road not traveled blues’ that she describes in not having had a family or a marriage, but overall she sees she is in a stronger position than her women friends who married, many of whom are single now either as widows or as divorced.

 Patricia, 71, in her interview also relies on her friends for company in her life travels.   She was told as a freshmen when she came to study law in college that the courtroom was not the place for women, and was encouraged to choose anthropology instead as an undergraduate.   There is still the sense of bitterness as she tells this story, even though in the end over time she got her Ph.D in Psychology.  She views her work as a means to encourage people to choose what works for them and has been successful in her work as a coach.    The mother of three children, she expresses strongly that her only regret is her choices in terms of the men she married.  She is single by choice, and happy about it.   She meets monthly, and has done so for 34 years  with a group of professional women with whom she feels consistent support and intimate contact through the years.  As she describes her life, she expresses enthusiasm for the fact that just in recent years she is much more confident about herself than she has ever been in her life previously, lives with a boyfriend of 12 years.

Catherine, 71, a retired Stanford Ph.D in Electrical Engineering still has lunch every week with Alice with whom she worked in Cupertino in 1996.  She was the only woman in her physics lab and struggled for two years behind the overt preference the professors gave to the rest of the male students.  This was 1975, and the belief that men were the primary support for families she feels is why the professors openly gave  preferential treatments to men, a frustrating part of her academic history.  After a severe and painful setback academically relative to the “second class”  status she endured in her physics department, she took leave and  some time for herself with her sisters in Santa Barbara.  Once she had recovered and was well again emotionally and physically,  she returned and did complete her Ph.D which to this day she feels was one of her biggest accomplishments.

She has officially retired from her lab work position that resulted from completing her doctorate, and is satisfied with the career that left her comfortable and well set for her retirement.  Although she is looking for another job because even with retirement and social security, she finds it hard to live the life she wants within the confines of a budget. She lives alone, never married and no longer looking for a partner.

Anna, 74, in her interview reveals what many women  saw in entering a new path emerging for women.  With a family of 4 children, she entered Laney College and explored a new world she had never considered at  Esalen in studies with Claudio Naranjo, becoming a follower of his work and community.  She found her place in that communal living in the 70’s and is still resides  with that group.  Claudio Naranjo, known for his work with MDA in rehabilitating people to get past their fears and limitations had a powerfully positive effect on Anna.  Although her experience in the 70’s was a long time ago, she feels the presence of the impact of those days on her today she shares.  The group changed significantly when Claudio Naranjo left the group she reports.  She is quite happy with her life and has just begun a new relationship with a new boyfriend after being single for seven years.

SEXUALITY

With few exceptions, the women interviewed stressed their ongoing interest and enthusiasm for sex.  It would be interesting to study the level of interests of women prior to the sexual liberation shifts in attitudes of the 70’s to see if the interest in sexuality is the same or different.  But for most of the  women over 70, even if currently inactive,   sexual experience, good experiences of intimacy and a trust with a valued partner were all acknowledged as very important.  For those single, they specifically spoke of their desire to find that special relationship in a partner relationship, not necessarily to be married.  In this group, those in a relationship, married or cohabiting made it clear they were there by choice and not obligation.

Sarah 74 spoke of her days of exploring her sexuality as a young woman, leaving one lover for another and the marriage she entered into only 14  years ago.  Her husband now has Alzheimers and she said in a confidential tone that these are the sweetest days of their lives together.  “He lives in the moment, and this has resulted in our having the best sex we’ve had in all our years together.”

Dianne 72 as well as four others mentioned the fact that because of their partner’s medication, sex as they knew it was no longer an option.  Dianne said that she and her husband just “don’t go there” and have pretty much forgotten about that part of their lives, and continue to enjoy each other in different ways.  They have a Sunday social group that they have been part of for years, enjoy the Berkeley Rep matinees and are happy with how their lives have evolved.

THE ROADS CHOSEN

It seemed that for these women and the many who reported their lives similarly, they were at varying levels of awareness of the changes that were underway for them in the 60’s.   They had the benefit of choice in childbearing and marriage after 1964, having experienced the world without choice in their earliest years.  They made changes in  life partners, had children and navigated the waters of choice with ups and downs, wins and losses not without significant doubt and worry about their lives outside the script of their parents’ lives.  Measuring their success was a variable that changed over the years.  Only one reported real regret in choices that she made, and that was the men she had married.

Significant was the fact that these women were self sufficient only by how they chose to live their lives, having scaled down with social security being the principle means of support.  Alternative senior groups around Berkeley and Oakland accounted by some the means to live life as well as they did due to shared expenses.  Only three reported a pension that allowed more choice in lifestyle.  For sure, those who were cohabitating or married , or widowed.  Very few did not mention the need for extra income that they met by making small amounts of money through creative ventures, like house sitting, dog sitting, driving and shopping for others, or other services in the community for which they were paid.   The women who chose to be interviewed would seem to represent the positive deviance of the aging unmarried or widowed woman challenged and active in determining the means to maintain their lifestyles.  They were all in good health, two having recovered from breast cancer years before.  They presented an enthusiasm for their lives, and enjoyed the opportunity to talk about their lives.

The power of relationship  was consistent in all the reports made by these women in telling their stories.  Through their women friends and groups, church groups, travel groups and interest groups,  the paths they described sustained them emotionally and physically.  Most had shifted careers as they shifted identities over the course of their lifetimes.   Only two  reported the issues of sexism deeply in bedded in some workplaces.

THE POWER OF CONNECTION

Over the sewing circles of the 30’s or currently,  or in more current times, the women who gather to work together at for instance Hackermoms  in Berkeley, there is evidence that women have always come together to  inspire, conspire, and encourage each other’s desires.   Their shared  interpretations of how they want to live and the choices that are available to define their life’s course have been a source of reference for most. Women, as opposed to men,  seem more flexible in terms of willingness to be led and to lead others to to life choices and identity.  The thread throughout their lives and the lives of women throughout history is  connecting, with each other and in the process expanding the notion of who we are as women.

LONGEVITY

We know demographically  that women live longer than men, or have in the past but there are indications that women are gathering along with their increased participation in the work force, the medical problems seen as a result of work and stress.  But the skill of connecting and socializing are emphasized as one of the reason for women’s longevity exceeding men’s.

It is a well known fact, that senior women have better skills for maintaining and creating connection and community than men, attributed to their roles based on competition and isolation and independence that have often been their orientation on the job.  The women interviewed for Barefoot Frontrunners by virtue of the self selection  brought chose to participate, and represented the choice of connection and community in their responses.

For the women who lived through the fifty years since the Civil Rights Act, it began often with breaking the rules that had been unselected in their growing up, and finding the right path.  Discomfort, confusion and pain were definitely accounted for in their process.  Being good, being pretty, not being bold or bossy, waiting for one’s turn-all of these social skills needed to be reconsidered and that process was often accounted for in the interviews.  Often these women, as barefoot frontrunners, had to rely on their intuition and inspiration rather than social approval or access.  It could be said that the response to pain in the world is from those experiences of marginalization and intimidation many women experienced in the workplace or academic environment.  Affirmative Action got them in the doors on jobs and college campuses, but the process of individuation they encountered was difficult and painful as reported by some.  The Barefoot Frontrunner’s response to the pain in the world is to take the step out and towards a place lacking support, guidance or protection.  The indignities and injuries of the world are made visible by those who see and feel the inequity and exclusion because of their own experiences.  By simple acts of courage over the years of change and transition in the 70’s and 80’s, these women interviewed through small and large acts witnessed and participated within their lifetime, a full shift in what it is to be a woman.  By how these women have  lived their lives, their daughters and granddaughters have the power to determine the choices brought forward to them.   Born of a social revolution and civil rights bill in the 60’s, those rights and legal principles are the law of the land but under severe challenge now in congress.  How will this generation respond?

The women’s movement, the Anti War movement, the civil rights movement  stimulated the polarity of views that allowed for social change and change in how women were perceived and how they perceived themselves. .   The civil rights act of 1964, Affirmative Action all created the opening through which many women passed to get the education, the job and the life of their choosing.

Fifty years of civil rights and women’s rights has brought change in western civilization.  It’s a bell that cannot be unrung.  It is the promise for all civilization as we learn over and over again that all women, all people deserve the life of dignity and choice.  And that all societies who take into account the value of equality for true prosperity and growth will be the future.  Economies that account for the underpaid woman or man doing the same job are the future.  An ecology that brings sustainability to the resources we share as a planet we share-that is our future, that is the context of modern feminism.

 

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World War II-birth control and the New Deal

Against the State, AGainst the church, against the silence of the medical profession, against the machinery of dead institutions of the past, the woman of today arises.

 Margaret Sanger 1940 

WORLD WAR II-the New Deal and birth control

For the women born in 1940, sex was dangerous.  There was no support for choosing to be pregnant or not.  Sixteen million men and women were in World War II and 8 out of 10 high school graduates were in the military service.  Jobs needed at the shipyards, in the farms and the family businesses, such as my grandfather’s gas and oil business, were managed and run by  600,000 women until the war ended and the men returned.  The New Deal had not come about by President Roosevelt, and so the women and children depended on the extended kin and family and the church as support to them.  There was 4% divorce at that time, and mostly the husband, occasionally the wife left the family and disappeared and were never heard from again.

After the war, 28.6% women worked out of the home, and there was a mixture as people lef their families of origin during the war and then after with the use of the VA loan and the VA  bill for college.  Under FDR and the New Deal, the single family credit and social welfare gave a basis of support for the nuclear family that emerged post World War II.  In general, women did not go to college, drive or own property, serve on juries or lease apartments.  But for the women who did attend college, Home Economics was a major and a minor course considered appropriate.  Feminism, if identified or spoken of, was not a thread throughout the culture and its meaning to most was ambiguous, related to a few women and men who held a standard of equality as a social good, as well as an advance for women.   The pejorative word attributed to women at the time was to point out the lack of what was considered feminine graces and value.

Sexuality studies

It would be the case that Freud studied  the sexuality of women relative to their function in producing children and being a responsive partner to their husbands.  Kinsey and Masters and Johnson took the study of the function of sexuality in the lives of men and women, using scientific methods to measure effects of sexuality, function and dysfunction for both male and female.  But the topic of women’s desire and the  emotional content relative to women and their sexuality would be considered much after women had access to birth control in 1964, Civil Rights and Roe VS Wade in 1973.

The Mystique and the pill

The consciousness and the history of women’s sexuality evolved from the early days of Margaret Sanger raised the issue of comstockery.  Women being used to bare children to work on the farms providing their own free labor.  Then in 1951 at age 72, Margaret Sanger got a small grant for Gregory Pincus and the Worchester Foundation to research the process of ovulation with injections of progesterone that prohibited ovulation and pregnancy.   G. D. Searle also engaged in the process of the study of progesterone to address birth control.  However, it was Carl Djerassi in Mexico City who created the progesterone pill.  Again, the focus for women to be in control of their ovulation to manage their family size was a new idea whose time had come because of the relentless and passionate work of Margaret Sanger for over 40 years.  For most women, the issues around their sexuality were contained in the effort to be pregnant when unable to conceive, or the attempt to get help from their family doctors to monitor their cycles and pregnancies.

By 1961, birth control was still illegal in Connecticut but Dr. C. Lee Buxton, the Chairman of the Yale Medical School of Obstetrics and Gynecology, but finding a way to help women conceive was very much the effort of the medical community.  In the process of identifying the means to enhance potential pregnancy through progesterone, the unintentional consequence was the established knowledge that ovulation could be monitored and managed.   Women talked to their doctors to get the news of the availability of birth control pills.    By 1963, 1.2 million American women used the pill.  By 1967 12.5 million women world wide would use the pill for birth control.  It would be in 1972, that the federal government ruled that the states could not prohibit unmarried women from the use of the pill for birth control.

But what did women want in the bedroom and out of the bedroom was the question that now came up in the conversation.  In 1963, the best seller book written by Betty Friedan, “The Feminine Mystique” began a conversation among women, in pairs, in groups and ultimately in a movement about this intimate part of their lives  and how it connected to their personal liberty.  Cheryl Hite and the Hite Report, Erica Jung and Fear of Flying also created a new awareness for women about themselves.  They talked with each other and validated experiences about their own sexuality, their desires, their feelings about their sexuality.  They did not take this conversation to  authorities such as doctors and experts.  Even in the realm of sexuality, the communication between women about their lives has been a basis for changes in the identity and behavior chosen by some.  Always woman to woman there has been the igniting and inspiration to fulfill their commitment to liberty, deepened by their exposure to each other  from the days of the Suffragettes to the world we live in today.

This shift in culture, in knowledge and practice of  women determining their choices in their area of their sexuality was not entirely welcome by all women and a great deal of society considered the consequences of this social change.   Newspapers and magazines featured articles about the threats to the family in giving women more choices about their sex lives. The perceived threat was that women would be like men with this new freedom and would in their freedom challenge current morality and standards.

The New Deal also changed the family structure. Prior to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s social security, aid to children, and social services, family and only family and church were responsive to concerns, difficulties and finances of how people took care of themselves. With the New Deal, and World War II’s Veteran’s Loans, a new middle class would result with new homes and the ability to gain access to middle class through the VA educational benefit. The individual could function outside of the group, and mobilize toward a new concept of the single family unit.

WHERE WE LIVE

While concern for a new society that might result from freeing women of the constraints prior to birth control,  a deep divide  among women who didn’t identify with the strident provocative tone of the Women’s Movement in the late 60’s provoked a schism, and had the women’s movement ultimately lost impact over time.   The polarities among the women, in families, in social groups, in colleges drove the national conversation further into conflict.   1973 would widen the gap even further with the Roe VS Wade decision.  Just as today in the current political atmosphere, there is challenge and conflict over the value of Planned Parenthood over 40 years later, and women choosing their destiny.  Further, the freedom of women and their choices are being challenged in over 40 states within the nation who are attempting to go back in time and bring back the constraints, restrictions to women’s ability to choose to bear children.

The new family, the new woman and the new social consciousness resulting from the 1970’s has 41% of women being the breadwinner in their families. Women are now able to conceive with a donor rather than a partner. The choice to marry is not a necessity for survival, parenting or sustaining a livelihood or being part of a community. Clusters of communities based on interests are a common core to many lives, not at the exclusion of family, but in addition. 2013 was reported by PEW research to be the first year that the majority of the population held the status of not married.   A new group identified are individuals who live with one or more unrelated people. The future has taken power not just to women in life choices, but clearly to men and women of all ages. The New Deal and birth control opened these doors to individual choice and destiny.

 

 

 

 

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1840 to 2014: What feminism calls for today

Journey for Women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

               Where it all began

We have established that he beginning of women’s right all begins 72 years before the 19th Amendment was passed and the beginning of  women’s rights.  Two women in 1840, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott attended an AntiSlavery Convention in London.  Elizabeth Stanton’s husband was a participant in the  Antislavery Convention,  but the women were refused seating due to their sex.  Elizabeth Stanton, the only non Quaker,  prevailed and the women did gain entry.  Stanton and Mott then went home and  brought together women and men who identified  “18 injuries and usupations” toward women at the Weslayan Methodist Church in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848.  In attendance were 300 people with forty men.   The “Declaration of Sentiments,”  and nine resolutions proposed to reflect that “all men and all women were created equal, and should have equal rights and privileges”  All but one of the resolutions was agreed upon, but not woman suffrage.  It would be Frederick Douglas who would persuade the convention to accept the woman suffrage resolution .  (The National Portrait Gallery.)

Further we know that the Woman’s Rights Convention in Rochester, New York would follow days after the Seneca Falls Convention, and a year later Worchester, Massachusetts would host the convention.   This work  would be the continued work of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and temperance worker Susan B. Anthony in 1851 that ultimately secured the vote for Women 72 years later in the passing of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

Political entry and  inclusion of women in congress started in 1920 with Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman in congress who opened the doors to the women who followed.

With the right to vote, with women advancing in to property ownership and being elected into office, another impact to change was the birth control efforts in process.  As early as 1916, women could attend the Margaret Sanger Clinic in New York City for birth control use of diaphragms.    But it was Margaret Sanger in 1938 who demanded address from the public of the plight of women and children as free labor in factories and the farms, the comstockery abuse of women and children, as well as the fact that the bearing of many children broke women’s backs and spirits.   Sanger wrote many publications on birth control in response to the number of  women having unlimited pregnancies and children, often dying young.  Margaret Sanger‘s book arguing against “comstockery”  changed the course of history, though book store owners who carried it on their shelves had up to five years in jail as a possible consequence under the law of the times. She would become the first president of Planned Parenthood in 1940s.  Her work is the basis for the right for women to choose the use of their bodies, and Founder of Planned Parenthood remains the consistent address and support of women’s rights.

Women coming together, then and now, has been and remains the source of personal and political change for women.  In New York in the late 50’s, Bella Abzug and others began to openly question the economic and social status of women.  Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique delved into the area of women’s sexuality and  became a bestseller in  1963.    The distinction to her book and the stir it created was that it was unlike other work, such as  Freud and Masters and Johnson.  Science had only looked on women’s sexuality in terms of  dysfunctions-inability to fulfill the role of wife and mother.  The new questions for women and their sexuality was around their choices and their benefits relative to pleasure.  Books like Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and Cheryl Hite The Hite Report  stirred up for women a better knowledge who they were and what was available to them.  The link between sexual power seems to correspond with political power in the world.  Women became more willing to talk to each other about their issues, their intimate lives as well as their views on the world around them.

WOMENS GROUPS

The link between sexual liberation and political freedom was a personal and political experience unevenly spread around the country.  A change in consciousness allowed women to recognize the choices they had in determining their own lives.   The Women’s Movement of the 60’s as viewed by historians like Estelle Freedman and Ruth Rosen that was to become of public discourse was a “white woman’s movement.”  Women,  moving individually and collectively, often with a great deal of conflict and dissension among themselves and polarization of interests still had the courage to ask important questions of themselves and the world around them.

                                Accidental Feminism

When President Kennedy was elected, he acknowledged the work of 40 women who had helped him get elected in 1961 to a new government post: Commission on the Status of Women in 1961. President Kennedy is sometimes referred to as an “Accidental Feminist” because he was not known top be specifically interested in women’s rights.  His goal was not to spur on the goals of women’s rights, but to acknowledge the work of the women who had helped him get elected in his campaign of 1961. These women identified the “injuries of sex” for women in the workplace and in their homes and identified the measures of women’s rights to address those injuries.  These women would depart from the government position,  and bring their expertise, knowledge and abilities to the Woman’s Movement and  make headway for change for women, pushing for their inclusion in the civil rights act in congress.

We know from history that in 1964, the Civil Rights Bill  presented to congress had an addition at the last moment.    Historian Ruth Rosen reports the “unintended consequence” taken by House and Means Chair William K. Smith was to provide civil rights for women.  Smith wanted to see the Civil Rights Bill fail and at the last minute added women’s rights assuming that would kill the possibility of its passage.  However,  the Civil Rights Bill  prohibiting prejudice of racial or country of origin, or Sex passed.    the bill was changed right before the vote to “race, country of origin or sex.”   The Civil Rights Bill of 1963 passage of   Women’s Right’s, and affirmative action to give preference to those excluded from power and position were the groundwork for equality within the structure of the bill.

                                      Struggle with identity

In 19644% of women worked out of the home, and divorce was at a 4% level.  It was not  clear to many women across the country what the right direction was and each woman really had to choose to tune into the fledgling freedom of choice offered her, or hang on to the institutions and bureaucracies of identity and so shrugged and tolerated the new context of feminism that  arose in the Womens Movement.  There was disparity and conflict within the movement and many women did not identify with the women active and vocal in its demands for equality.  Trial and error, exploration was possible and many women were aware of and responded to the new ground available to them in the years to come.

                               Transformation

 The timeline of social, economic, political and sexual freedom that began over fifty years ago shows up today in the Pew Report of 2011.  In 1960, 11% of mothers went to work to support their families, and today it is 40%.  Women now make up 47% of the workforce.  These are mostly single mothers who support their families but there are also a significant number of mothers whose income is larger than their husbands, making them the primary earner in the family.   The “dramatic transformation we have seen in the family structure and family dynamics over the  past fifty years,” is described by Kim Parker, associate director with the Pew Social and Demographic Trends Project.  The trend is a result of the long term demographic changes, including higher rates of education with more women graduating from college than men and has its basis in the 1960’s women’s movement, it is reported.

The Pew study also reports that the economic decline in the past seven or eight years has resulted in fewer jobs in industries predominantly held by males, such as manufacturing, construction and labor jobs.  Corresponding to these changes is a record low marriage rate. 2012 was the first year that the married population was not the majority. Also in 201240% of all births were in single mother households without marriage.

The changes in how people organize themselves and the choices they make about  marriage and children is the world of today.   Women and men choose their lives by a different criteria than their parents or grandparents. Two million  Men choose to work at home and parent their children; women consider not a valid choice not to have children; same sex families as well as those who chose to live alone all have the range of options of their choosing available.  Equality of choice in family planning comes directly from Roe VS Wade and birth control.  Representation in election campaigns points to the active role and large impact of single women in political life.  All the more alarming that there are 1000 state bills in process in forty states that seek to reduce women’s right to choose, and even to give access to birth control.  The Affordable Healthcare Act political forum extends to employers seeking to not extend birth control accessibility to their employees.  The attempt to reduce women’s rights at this stage of development seems outrageous.  But it is real, and calls upon all human beings to be concerned.  Going back is not the direction most would choose.

                                  Call for leadership

There is an indication of an attempt to  revert the civil rights of women established over the past fifty years.  Voter’s rights of minorities is where civil rights are being attacked in another realm.   Historians Ruth Rosen and Estelle Freedman do not see a resurrection of a woman’s movement as the leadership that could respond to these attacks on equality and choice and power for women and minorities. Rather each of us, any of us, have an impact in our daily lives to be concerned and active citizens.  With the 24/7 news around us, we can grow numb and have the sense of inevitability take the energy of a response to the conditions around us.

Barefoot Frontrunners came from the stark recognition of the path along which human rights, women’s rights have evolved.  The first wave of feminism of the 20’s, the second wave in the 60’s had an impact, made a difference, opened the road for humanity to engage in the realm of feminism: equality, inclusion and transformation of roles and functions as individuals and as a society.  The voice of women has never been more needed as the world gets smaller and issues of any part of the world effect our world. The women who have been left behind, due to race and class and the economic and religious constraints within which they live, some feel we have to bring along to get along in the long run.  It will always be the barefoot frontrunners that widen the path, open the door and seek to empower those left behind.  It begins now, and every day.

“Sisters, bloody feet have worn smooth the path upon which you tread.”  Estelle Freedman No Turning Back-the History of Feminism and the Future of Women

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