By Amy Simon
It’s Women’s History Month 2010! Yay! Another month to call attention to the gals.
March 2010. Hmm. Let’s see. How are we gals doing? Well, we have Sarah Palin out there doing stand up and shoppin’ for a reality show. She is just breakin’ all the rules. Gosh, I remember when she first came on the scene. I was intrigued, curious and hopeful, as I always am about a new woman on the scene. Then she got everyone all charged up with her (speechwriter’s) lipstick jokes and I became (and remain) terrified that she’ll end up on a poster next to Eleanor Roosevelt. God Forbid.
We’ve got Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Candy Crowley anchoring big news shows. Good. Sonia got in, Hillary’s keepin’ the peace and Obama’s got lotsa gals doing big jobs.
And Maria Shriver’s October Women’s Conference was just da bomb, with everyone from Eve Ensler to Richard Branson addressing all the challenges we women face, especially in light of the big news that for the first time more than fifty percent of American workers – PAID American workers that is – are female.
But. The kids still know a lot more about Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan than they do about Abigail Adams and Lucretia Mott.
MY daughter is turning thirteen. Becoming a woman and all. We’re Jewish and having the big B.M. (bat-mitzvah – bar for a boy). It’s a beautiful important right of passage. She has been studying and preparing for years! I am so proud of her. And I can’t help but notice how she stuck it out – when she was tired or frustrated or just not in the mood – but she didn’t quit. Did ya hear that Sarah Palin? She didn’t quit. Maybe someday she’ll grow up and be the president. She is learning now about how the right choice is the hard choice and how when you make a commitment – be it to do your chores or learn your Torah portion, you keep it. I wanted to quit several times. I wanted to quit reminding her of her responsibilities and I wanted to quit schlepping her every Sunday morning since she was four years old and then Tuesday afternoons and then Tuesday AND Thursday for tutoring. But like a lot of good woman (and jews) I suffered through it – though never silently. That’s just not my style.
Anyhoo, I like being a role model for my girls. I’m a divorced working mother. I don’t know. Maybe if some big book agent came at me waving a big fat check I could be persuaded to quit my job and go off and write about all the neat and not so neat stuff that happened to me in the last year. Of course, my children would probably think it’s OK to quit too, ‘cause ya know it’s not what ya say it’s what you do right? I have a sixteen-year-old daughter as well who really has her nose to the grindstone taking all those A.P. (Advanced Placement) courses for college. I admire her as much as I admire her sister. Ya see, high school has been really hard on her. It’s really hard anyway but then all this icky stuff happened with her dad and he split and she kinda dropped the academic ball a bit and she had to grow up a little faster than she should have.
I look at my daughters and think about how Victoria Woodhull (the first woman to run for President in 1872) was just fifteen years old when she tried to escape a horrible slave driving religiously fanatic abusive father and mother by marrying, only to learn she married an abusive philandering drunk. She learned that when she had her first baby at sixteen. Sixteen. But she didn’t quit or run off. Nope. She hung in there. Being a women’s history freak has given me the most wonderful appreciation of my daughters. As my sixteen year old prepares for college I think about all the gals who couldn’t go to college. Their parents wouldn’t let them. The school wouldn’t admit them. Society wouldn’t allow them. So they fought. Hell, Lucy Stone saved for nine years until she had enough to go to Oberlin – the ONLY College open to the gals ‘cause when she asked her dad he said, “what is the girl crazy”? She was thirty years old when she finally got in. She hung in there and became the first gal to debate in public and she was arrested for not paying her taxes (she said “well if I can’t vote I won’t pay taxes!”) and of course founded the Woman’s Journal and kept her name when she was married – oh I could go on an on. SHE – like so many of the gals I just mentioned was a real maverick. And Elizabeth Blackwell – America’s first female doctor – well she only got in to Geneva College on a prank. The all-male student body voted yes thinking it was a joke. And Belva Lockwood – the second women to run for President and the first woman to practice in front of the Supreme Court – well she went though hell every time she tried to get an education. She fought to get admitted to College, then to Law School, then to get her degree issued after she earned it (they didn’t wanna give it to her!) then to practice in front of the Supreme Court. She had to fight for every single solitary thing she got. But she didn’t quit. Nope. She stuck it out. “Stick–to– it-iveness” is what they called it when I was growing up. Perseverance. Look it up Sarah.
Now I have issues with organized religion with its history of sexism (see Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible), but a big fat tenet of the Bat and Bar Mitzvah ceremony is “whoever teaches their child teaches not only their child, but also their child’s child and so on to the end of generations. They are motivated to make a difference, to pursue peace and justice, and have the tools to succeed.” Yeah, this is right out of the “My Bar/Bat Mitzvah” Booklet given to us by our Temple. I LOVE my Temple. It is very feminized if you will. Our head Rabbi is a woman, the temple President is a woman, and there are loads of women runnin’ the place doing amazing things, role modeling and inspiring my girls. I love it! Social justice, giving back, being part of the community, helping those in need – this is what my children have been learning all these years at my Temple. The same things Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. and Victoria Woodhull and all the gals fought for and sacrificed for. I love the kind of women my daughters have grown up around and been exposed to. The kind of women who – for the most part – say what they mean and mean what they say. Who are hard working, terribly decent and highly principled with a social conscience. These are the kind of women my daughters have been taught and encouraged to be; by me, the school, the community and all those mavericks I keep talking about – the ones that never gave up or backed down. Ever.
My daughter is about to become a woman. She can do many things. But for some reason she cannot tell a joke. Not everyone can.
I’m glad Sarah Palin can. I just wish she could handle being the butt of so many. And, she should only be the kind of woman my daughters are turning into.