We can start by looking at the pay gap with women earning, on average, 82 cents to every $1 eared by men.
Gender inequality has been much in the news this past month. Time magazine focused on women who have had breakthroughs and are recognized as “firsts,” in all fields including athletics, politics, science and the entertainment business. We also heard at the recent Emmy awards the many conversations concerning women’s lack of presence as the behind-the-scene leaders; producing and directing the winning television shows is a male dominated field.
Although we are not yet at full gender equality, It is good to pause and reflect on how far we women of the Boomer Generation have come, and acknowledge all the changes, for the better, we have seen just in our own lifetimes.
Starting in the 1960’s with the FDA approved birth control pill, women had more freedom to enjoy sex, as much as men, without bringing about a pregnancy. And, should a woman have an unwanted pregnancy, with the passing of Row vs.Wade in 1973, she could then choose to have a legal abortion, without having to resort to primitive and often dangerous means. The Sexual Revolution, as it was referred to, freed up women to determine their own personal choices.
Personally, as a young woman, I was not “a bra-burning radical”, however the “women’s lib” movement woke me up and spoke to me, and motivated me to express myself and protest... in a small yet meaningful way.
It was a summer day in 1971 when my house mate and I went to Boston University’s showing of several short films addressing feminism and the women’s movement. The three films brought us a new sense of empowerment, so rather than going straight home, we decided to do something special, have a drink at the Ritz Carleton Hotel, across from the Boston Common
Seating ourselves at the bar, the bartender came right over and said,
“I’m sorry ladies but you will have to move to a table. We cannot serve unescorted women at the bar.”
We were a bit stunned.
“Why,” I asked. “I see men sitting here alone or with their friend; what’s the difference?”
He replied, “I’m sorry but if you don’t move to a table, I will have to call the manager.”
“OK, you do that.”
Just then a waiter came over and pointing into the dining area, he told us,
“There is a gentleman who would like you to join him at his table and he will gladly buy you a drink.”
Appreciating the gesture, but knowing we could buy our own drinks, and unwilling to give up our seats at the bar, we declined the offer. The manager soon arrived, insisting we move. At that point the bartender whispered,
“We have rules; it’s because of the “professionals, the working girls.”
Naively, we didn’t understand. We told him we too worked as professionals, my friend as a therapist and I, a teacher.
“If you don’t move I will have to call the police”, said the irate manager.
“You do that”, I said. “You are illegally discriminating against us.”
Within minutes we could see through the large front windows three squad cars pull up and at least four armed officers walk into the prestigious hotel and enter the bar. After a short conversation with the police, we asserted our claim we were being discriminated against, solely on the basis of being women. And then I added,
“I will be happy to call the papers to let them know of this incident. It will make a good story.”
With that the officer in charge turned to the manager and said,
“You better sell them a drink because they are not breaking the law.”
“Only one,” the furious manager snarled, “And then leave.”
We could have used several drinks after all that drama, but we had made our point, stood up for our rights and, hopefully, maybe our education on women’s equality made a little difference, at least in the liberation of the Ritz
Yes, we have come far from those days, and yet there still is work to be done. As Time magazine said, “What a jagged image we use for women who achieve greatly, defining accomplishment in terms of the barrier, rather than the triumph.”
The hope is, one day soon, we will be triumphant; there will no longer be any glass ceilings needing to be smashed.