The status quo won a victory in the face of the "change agents" in New Hampshire
But I think he’s wrong. Let me say he is a well meaning and honest progressive who views Obama as a new kind of politician. I do too. But at some level, JC, and many others, miss completely that for boomer women, they did not see themselves as voting for the status quo in New Hampshire yesterday. They were fighting for somebody whom they viewed as a genuine change agent who had fought 40 years of battles for them, and with them. And those women were deeply offended that men and young people, both male and female, neither recognize nor acknowledge that fact.
It may indeed be time for the torch to pass to a new generation. But it should not do so without recognition that those who bore it before also fought for change and left a far different and in some ways better world than they found.
Let me give you a little personal history that might explain how unimaginably different the world is today than it was back when Hillary and I were growing up. We’re roughly the same age and from suburban areas near a major city (her from Chicago, me from New York).
When I was 14 years old, back in 1968, many of my mother’s friends staunchly believed that a woman should ask her husband’s permission before buying herself a new dress. Women did not work outside the house and received allowances from their husband with which they bought groceries, ran the household, and if they had anything left over, purchased some personal items. They raised children and their main sense of accomplishment came from those children’s successes.
Back then, I discovered the early Women’s Lib movement. Nothing seemed to make more sense to me than the notion that women should earn equal pay for equal work.
Other people, however, argued that it was just and fair for women to earn less money because they needed less. People expected a woman to be married and to have a husband supporting her. Any money a woman might earn outside the home was expected to just supplement the family income or be used for luxury items.
Worse, some people also believed that it was selfish for a woman to want to get satisfaction and a sense of achievement through work outside of the home. Such a woman was criticized for taking a job from a man who needed it more and shortchanging her children who needed a mother at home every minute.
But there was something very wrong with this argument.
For one thing, those same people would never say that a garbage man with ten children should make more money than a single investment banker with no children. If somebody suggested it, they would be told that we didn’t live in a socialist nation and that the free market determined salaries for men.
Even more important, lots of women, even back in the 60s, actually were the sole support of children and did need more money than the men whose salaries were greater. There were widows and divorcees, some of whom had been abandoned by husbands. Men traded up for trophy wives then just as they do now.
Today, a young woman graduating from college has every expectation of getting a good job, entering a profession and earning a decent salary. When that young woman marries and has children, she will be able to choose whether to keep working at a challenging job she enjoys or stay home. Nobody will criticize either decision. Although women still get paid less than men for doing the same job, nobody thinks it’s fair anymore. Very few young women today call themselves feminists or identify with the Women’s Liberation Movement. They don’t have to because women like Hillary fought that fight for them.
And they – we - took flack for it. When I said I was a feminist, back in 1970, a male, liberal friend of mine said to me, “Well then open your own damned door.” And he let that door close right in my face.
I won’t forget that. And ask any baby boomer woman who went out there and fought for our equality and she will have a similar story.
And that’s why even if we are not for Hillary for President, we still feel, “don’t you dare ever, ever make fun of her claim that she worked for change. She was a change agent before many of those laughing at her claim were old enough to say the word “change.”
If she’s now the Establishment, it’s a very different Establishment than the one she and I found. Not always better, but different and more equitable. There’s still miles to go before it’s truly just or equal. We still see the double standard all the time. We still see injustice, war and poverty. And it may take a new generation to lead us out of it. And Obama may be the one to do it because he is so inspiring.
But today’s progressives stand on the shoulders of those who came before so they can achieve even greater things. But do remember those whose shoulders you stand on.