This Woman's Experience is a series of blog posts about what growing up, and life in general, was like for women who were born before 1965. It's intended to show the young women of today how it used to be. They need to know this.
Kitty Philips is my guest blogger today. Kitty is a 7th generation Floridian currently residing in the mountains of Tennessee. She grew up in rural North Florida and is from a long line of farmers and working women. (More info at bottom of post.) She's also, in my opinion, more than a bit of a 'bad-ass' and someone I wish I'd had the confidence as a young woman to be more like.
So, here's Kitty:
Can you imagine a world where you, as a woman, can’t get a credit card or any credit in your name without your husband’s approval? You can’t buy a car. You can’t get birth control. You can’t have any 'female' surgery. You can’t open a checking account. Your husband can call your doctor and have access to all of your records without your permission.
This is the world I came of age in. The 60’s. Those were difficult times for women. Not that my father was like that. Women in my family have always worked outside the home. It was encouraged and not frowned upon. But once I left home, I found doors closed to me. Car loans. Apartments. Credit cards. And certainly reproductive services.
These were the things the Women’s Movement was about. We didn’t even think about being called 'honey'. We wanted basic rights – equal pay, equal employment, equal care, equal financial opportunity. As late as 37 years ago, I couldn’t get the same amount of life insurance as my husband, even though I made the same amount of money. My salary wasn’t as important as his. Which translated to . . . I was a lesser person.
Many of these restrictions were laws – laws! Some were just understood.
The Women’s Movement or the Women’s Liberation Movement came about in the mid-60's and lasted until the early 80's. The main objective was to make women equal class citizens. There are some who say it came out of the civil rights movement. I think it really started during World War II, when women filled the jobs left by men going into the armed forces. Rosie the Riveter exemplified those women. After the war, and the men came home, women were no longer satisfied to stay at home and be the little wife.
We marched. We burned our bras. We staged sit-ins. We staged walk-outs. We wrote our legislators. We talked to our men. In some cases, there was violence. But change oftentimes involves violence. The movement was really about the patriarchal and sexist system in this country. The media portrayed us as man-haters, but that was far from the truth. Unlike today’s Me Too movement, we didn’t hate men. We loved men. We just didn’t want to be second class or subservient to them.
As a result of our work, women’s issues were brought to light. Roles were revised. Sex could be discussed. Our feelings and needs were brought out into the open. Our problems were added to books and courses in sociology, psychology, and even biology. Departments on women’s rights were set up. Colleges began to teach courses.
Abortion laws were changed. Women wanted to rid the country of the idea of objectifying women. We protested the Miss America Pageant. We wanted control over our reproductive processes. We wanted to be paid for maternity leave. We wanted safe havens from abusive relationships. We wanted laws that would make marital rape a crime. We wanted the right to initiate and achieve a divorce, including a 'no fault' divorce.
My generation of women fought to change these antiquated laws made by rich, old, white men. Because of us, women have access to birth control. Women can have credit without their husband’s permission. Women can expect and receive equal pay for equal work. Women can buy a house without asking anyone. Women can buy a car. Women’s health records are not available to their husbands, except with their permission. Women can serve in any position in the military and can take any job they are qualified to perform. We don’t have to be married or have children to lead full and rewarding lives. We can get a divorce. We can get help if in abusive relationships. We can talk about sex in the open.
But I fear many of our rights are eroding, and we are regressing. Look at all of the anti-abortion laws or attempted laws today. I don’t care if you call me 'honey'. I do care if you try to tell me what I can and can’t do with my body. I can’t imagine being a man in today’s corporate world. I would never be alone with a woman for fear of the accusations and retribution. That is not what we fought to change and protect. We did not hate men. We gloried in our differences. We wanted equality, not dominion over men. I will not be part of the Me Too movement. They have lost sight of what we fought so hard to achieve. They are making a mockery of our work. Many don’t even know what we were able to change. They should read works by Gloria Steinem and Susan Brownmiller before going forward.
More About Kitty Philips:
After high school, she took a year off, traveled, and married. At 23, she found herself divorced and pregnant. As a single parent, she understood the need to find an occupation that would provide an income for life - and she knew it would not be in a traditional woman's job. Relying on her grandmother for her daughter's day care, she commuted to college in Daytona and earned a degree in computer science.
After graduation, she entered her career as a programmer and met her husband, Jeffrey. They've traveled the world diving, horseback riding, and cooking. Along the way, she became a US Coast Guard Captain, a SCUBA intstructor, and Florida Master Naturalist instructor, and a chef.
She and Jeffrey, and two horses, live in Tennessee and continue to travel. She is now a junior at Tennessee Tech, majoring in Environmental Science and Sustainability.
I believe the only way to get through the slings and arrows life throws at all of us is to find the humor.