I’ve been thinking about my strange life. I wrote a blog last summer reflecting on all the “famous” and “notable” people I’ve met throughout my life. I was sitting next to the guy that inspired that blog by saying he’d met Ronald Reagan. You can read about all these people here.
Yesterday in class our professor mentioned The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. It was interesting to watch the clueless look come across most of the faces of my class mates. Made me realize how old I am. He mentioned it because one of the women in the class is looking at gender bias in higher education. I had just talked with her about it during the “mixer” exercise that started the class. I mentioned how I thought it was so odd that when we as a cohort had our chance to elect class leaders there was not one female name nominated with enough support to be on the first ballot.
Interestingly, two men are now arranging lunches for us and in charge of communication. Even if you are gender biased, stereotypically, this would be a better job for a female. But you put LEADER in the word and poof – men are nominated. When they announced who the leader was of my half of the cohort I had to quickly run to Facebook to see who he was. He hadn’t stood out to me in anyway. He’s a nice guy and did good with getting us pizzas last month. This month, it was delegated to a woman and so it will be next month. Interesting… Oh well, as long as I get lunch, I really don’t care. But I sure did notice that these educated individuals still thought a man was better to be a leader.
Then there was this interesting comment by another of the younger ones in the class. We were discussing inclusive language and the use of the generic “he.” She said, “If I am not insecure about my femininity, can I use the “he?” The professor correctly said, NO, you can’t. This professor was a female, and I wish she had gone further with her answer. But she was relatively young too. She should have told our young sister that she has no idea how important those changes are to some of us. I wanted to tell her that inclusive language is huge. And we still have so far to go. Women's rights are a luxury in most of the world.
I sat next to Betty Friedan one time. We actually had a conversation. We were both delegates to the White House Conference on Aging in 1995. She probably did get to see the president up close and personal. I didn’t. Nevertheless, there we were in a work session to discuss quality of life and end-of-life decisions. She was well known. I wasn’t. However, I guess I looked like I’d make a good recorder. I was the young one in the room that time. It was Ms. Friedan herself who said, I think Joyce should be our recorder. She patted me on the leg and smiled.
This time her cause wasn’t women’s rights but the right to die. No she was not in favor of assisted suicide. In fact, she was quite the opposite. She remembered the holocaust. She was Jewish. She feared all our talk of dying with dignity might be pseudonyms for let’s kill off the old folk. As a group, we careful crafted language to be the official recommendations and guides for the future of aging services.
As I looked at my cohort mates, particularly the female ones, I thought we really need to remember who Betty Friedan was and we aren’t done with the cause. I am facing both of the causes that Ms. Friedan had in her life. I am facing sexism and now ageism. I’m extremely well qualified to do a lot of things. I’m bright. I’m articulate. I have vast experience. I am creative. I am energetic. I am visionary. No I’m not on an ego trip. It is the truth. I have so much to offer and yet I can’t get an interview. No one has a place for me.
It might be easy to blame it on the bad economy. I am sure that is a factor. But let me ask you, where do you see older people working? They’re greeting you at Wal-Mart and serving you burgers at McD’s. I’m immersed in a doctoral program right now and my biggest fear is that when I am done, I’ll be wearing a Wal-Mart or McD’s uniform to support myself in my old age. However, as I think about that and as I think of Betty Friedan who at 74 was still fighting, I think it’s time to start raising a fight of my own.
Yesterday I was in Big Lots. The line was long and there were only one person checking. A woman came behind me and said, is this the line? I said yes. In a very loud voice she said “YOU NEED TO OPEN SOME MORE REGISTERS.” Guess what? They did. Within one minute, three lines were open. We all were thankful to that woman’s big mouth. I think it is time for Joyce to find her big mouth again. I’m not done. I have too much to offer to leave this world an old woman.
I guess this isn’t the most devotional thought for a Sunday morning but it is inspiring to me. I’m not done with my contribution.