The other day I was channel surfing and quite by accident I came across the "Decades" channel, which airs television programs from the 50's thru the early 90's. “Decades” boast such series such as "The Donna Reed Show," "The Honeymooners," "Dobbie Gillis" "Our Miss Brooks" and "Petticoat Junction.” No stranger to these programs as they beamed regularly from the family television set while I was growing up, I decided to dedicate a few hours, strolling down Memory Lane.
The actors were all White. The American families they portrayed were romanticized. Bedecked in pearls, salon-perfect hair and dresses, always dresses, went about their every day, making meals, running the vacuum, washing the dishes and tending to the kids. Caste in the role of “housewife,” they were obedient. Women were secretaries, fetching coffee for their white male bosses, and objectified, and maligned and by virtue of their traditional and stereotypical roles, treated as less than. These tv moms became my role models.
Women were the Mrs. of the Mr., shedding their birth-given surnames, the requisite of marriage, thereby absorbing themselves into their husband’s identity. Men were the Breadwinners, the Providers, the Protectors and Kings of their Castle.
As a 1955 baby I was born into the tight grip of white male supremacy, a patriarchal culture that dictated what the future would hold for most young girls. I grew up in the Jim Crow era. I was in the 3rd grade when the Civil Rights Act was signed, July 1964 and the summer before I was become a 5th grader Voting Rights Act became the law of the land.
It wasn’t until I was a freshman in college and thanks to the passage in 1974 of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, that my mom had the legal right to apply for a credit card and open a bank/checking account separate and apart from my dad.
In 1963 a federal law prohibited gender-based discrimination in wages. But here we are in 2021 and the pay gap --- equal pay for equal work --- between men and women, and People of Color --- has yet to be closed.
How far have we come?
In this month of March, set aside every year to focus on cultural, economic, social and the political achievements of women and to celebrate their impact on our culture, we come together, united in our resolve to close the gender gaps, to protect our precious right to choose what’s right for our bodies, to work toward ensuring gender, racial, economic and environmental justice. We to do so with the hope that someday we won’t need a “Women’s History Month” because we will have achieved the equality we all deserve.