A woman named Hillary Clinton earlier this year won a state primary for the first time in these United States! This is history in the making. And you would think it would be a media-worthy event. But if you saw a headline remarking on that aspect of her success you saw it in your dreams. Women's rights and issues are being ignored in favor of the issue of race which now dominates a lot of the primary campaign!
Hillary is the first woman in our history to mount a serious campaign for the Presidency. But you would think that 'First' distinction belonged to Barack Obama, as the first black man to do so. Wrong. Jesse Jackson, more than 20 years ago, won 11 states when he ran for President. The person making history in this race by virtue of competing is Hillary Clinton.
CNN did a two hour special on race and the campaign. From Oprah to Jesse Jackson to Magic Johnson, blacks are weighing in and getting tons of media attention. I have no quarrel with that. I do believe, however, that the media should also be reporting how ground breaking Hillary's campaign is as well.
Roe v Wade got some attention yesterday. And so perhaps this is the right time to look at the issue of women's rights in this campaign. Women are doing it in the voting booth. They are turning out in record numbers for Hillary. Some of the eldest of the female voters can even remember when women, the last group to be franchised in America, won the right to vote in 1920.
Women labor leaders like Mother Jones and Emma Goldman led the early labor movement, and female textile workers in Massachusetts inspired the labor movement for decades in this county. Now more than a century later, there is Delores Huerta, who for decades organized farm workers in the agricultural fields around Salinias and Delano. She follows in a long line of courageous female labor leaders, and she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President.
Working conditions for women in the early factories-- when it was deemed that their small hands were valuable-- died by the thousands from deplorable working conditions in tandem with malnutrition by virtue of wages which could not support life. Once they began to fail they were fired, and life on the streets led to prostitution the only other occupation available to unmarried women. Deaths in sweat shops came in a variety of ways such as in the Triangle Factory Fire in New York City when scores of women locked inside the factory could only jump to their deaths. Today the sweat shop has returned not only on our soil, but around the world supported by Nike and scores of other US campanies. Who works there? Women. At the same time the global traffic in women for sex slavery and abuse is on the rise; and the US is the biggest importer of female sex slaves for this under-the-radar industry fueled by an insatiable appetite for pornography and child sex partners.
We do not honor the maimed and the dead from back alley, illegal abortions, another forgotten page out of US history. But thirty years on, the right for a woman to make the decision about her own body is under assualt by the religious right as never before. The next President, who will appoint new members to the Supreme Court, will decide the issue of Roe v. Wade.
Here is a small and incomplete assessment of rights won and rights still to be earned:
. the right to make decisions with their own money;
. to get an education including the opportunity to attend college;
.the right to earn as much as a man for equal work;
. the right to be free of sexual harasment in the workplace;
. the right to be free of rape at home and in the military overseas where sexual assault in Iraq and Afghanistan is at a staggering rate;
. the right to be seen as a human being first and a sex object second,
. the right to be referred to respectfully instead of as 'bitch,'
. the right to be treated as the equal of men by courts of law, in both civil and criminal cases;
. the right to work at any job that is available;
. the right to be seen and heard in numbers that equal those of men who work in the sciences, the law, as teachers in universities and colleges, and in the world of books and magazines, and in the media.
We are in a period of retrenchment about women's rights. Much like the flappers after the first wave of feminism, sexual hedonism has been embraced by girls as liberation. Women today want parity with men in every aspect of their lives including sexual liberation. This aspiration has been met with roofies, sexual assualt, and widespread sexual abuse by men in every walk of life. The popularity of rap music and the demeaning of women as sex objects by both white and black men and boys is part of a widespread backlash against the rights of women to be equal partners in the human endeavor.
Hillary Clinton will do more for girls and women than a fistful of laws. She is Change! She is saying every day in a million ways both big and small that a woman can be a fully empowered human being. Hillary Clinton is a revolution happening right in front of your eyes. She is what is new and fresh and bright in this election.
She will also be a remarkable and courageous President of the United States who will leave a record unamatched in US history.