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Good Morning, Milt Rebmann

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Yesterday’s post generated such rich and thoughtful conversation, I'm reluctant to let it go too soon. Herewith some short takes on some of the comments you left:

Language
The first is in the order of housekeeping: Alexandra Grabbe “has decided” I should use the word “senior” and not “elder” because I’m 65, not 92. As I have explained in the past, senior and senior citizen have become pejorative phrases dismissive of old people.

We use “elder” on Time Goes By in an attempt to resurrect a fine, old world that has fallen into disuse except to identify tribal leaders of native cultures, although it is also commonly used in discussion of violence against old people – “elder abuse.”

“Elderly,” by anyone’s definition, refers to frail which elders may or may not be.

And so, Time Goes By will continue to use and promote the word elder to describe people older than mid-years. As joared pointed out in her comment, language is important. Those who read the repeated use of respectful, accurate language will follow suit and in time, attitude and action will begin to match the language.

Women Supporting Women
I must disagree with Rain who says, “If a woman isn't elected president, it's because women aren't voting for her as women are in the majority.”

Eventually, a woman will be elected president, but I hope with all my heart that it will not be only because she is a woman. I suspect Hillary Clinton will be re-elected to the Senate this year on that theory. But if I were still a New York resident, she wouldn’t get my vote based on her craven political record – which is all that counts in voting, not gender.

To Rain’s broader point however, sometimes women don’t support one another when they could and should. Or, sometimes, they actively oppose women. I once worked for a woman who promoted only attractive, young men (and not women of any age) whether they were capable and prepared or not with, occasionally, disastrous results. It was so obvious over several years that we laughed about it – between our rage and tears.

Career Choice
Chancy left a note to be sure I wasn’t disrespecting women who choose to be full-time mothers. Of course not. The whole point is the choice. But it’s clear that some young women still don’t respect others who aren’t aiming to be masters of the universe.

Last week, in a “My Turn” column in Newsweek, a woman named Linda Hirshman contended that without paying jobs, women cannot "…influence, honor, compensation, a way of being political and a hand in shaping the world." It’s obvious Ms. Hirschman needs an attitude adjustment and Newsweek readers made that abundantly clear in their responses this week. [Scroll down to the header, “The Mommy Wars Rage On.” May require a Newsweek subscription; I’m not sure.]

The Difficulty of Change
Regarding Alan G’s point about women who rejected feminism in its early stages 40-odd years ago, we humans are stubborn in our beliefs and opinions. It takes a long time to let go of the ones that no longer serve us, even when it’s obviously time to do so. That’s why, as noted yesterday, social movements take so long to catch hold.

But I don't want us to criticize the women of the 1960s who clung to the long-prevailing zeitgeist that “a woman’s place is in the home.” Most obviously, many had already raised their children, had no career skills or any role models for working outside the home. It just wasn’t done by their generation of women.

Others, who were younger, also didn’t have the skills for even simple clerical jobs. Before the women’s movement changed the economics of family so that today it takes two incomes to raise children and put them through college, women rarely attended college. The attitude toward the few who did was that they were taking a place at school that a man more rightly deserved.

My point is that if you weren’t there, or if you memory has slipped a bit, it wasn’t easy for women then to just go to work if they wanted or even to get an education to prepare them for it. So let’s go easy on those women many of whom quietly, even silently, supported the movement but had no means to become an active part of it.

Vigilance
Finally, to duz7’s point, ongoing vigilance is necessary. Forty years does not social acceptance make and it is continuous conversations such as the excellent one yesterday that keeps an issue active and growing.

But, dus7 – we part company on shoes. Those strappy, three-inch, spike-heeled shoes thrill me. They’re gorgeous and I’m only sorry that at my age, I’m no longer willing to suffer the pain of wearing them that I did until ten years ago. I don’t just like those sexy, impractical shoes, I love, as you can read in this post from 18 months ago.

Comments

Ronni,
I was a young married woman during those "women belong in the home" days. I was so depressed and unhappy I probably would have become a candidate for electro-shock treatment if it hadn't been for Betty Friedan. So I appreciate most of what you have written, but I wonder about the statement: "Before the women’s movement changed the economics of family." I don't think the women's movement made two jobs a requirement. I think it was our consumer culture that left most of us without a choice about working.

I was a SAHM by choice, and I have never been sorry. My children were not happy about it at the time, because all "their friends got to go to daycare and afterschool programs". I know now, they realize how good they had it and are appreciative. Yes, I nearly went crazy for some adult companionship and conversation, and I found it often enough to salve my needs, without sacrificing time for my home and children. After the last child went into the 6th grade, I began to work and have continued for 25 years; plenty long enough for a career that has been very fulfilling and continues, even though I am of retirement age (officially, that is).

I was lucky enough to be in a marriage where we didn't have to have 2 incomes in order to keep up with "consumer culture". But one always has a choice of whether to go with that flow, or not.

If we so respect motherhood, why isn't it a paying job? I think this is a topic on which both sides are right but that the true opposition has neatly divided us with words.

Why is our society structured so that only work outside the home is paid? Once our country was mostly agrarian and both men and women worked in the home economy and work was more equally regarded and rewarded. When men moved into the town economy and worked for a salary and other benefits, women were left out.

Without a paying job, women have no health insurance, no retirement benefits, and no social security benefits except through their husbands. In the last thirty years, a lot of laws have been passed to ensure a woman's economic security even if she lost a husband to death or divorce but nothing says power like money of your own, or at least a credit rating of your own.

To that end, there was a movement in the 1970s for stay-at-home women to "hire" and pay each other for housekeeping and child care--not to make money but to establish credit and have "earnings" that to qualify for social security--to put them on par with other workers.

Let's recast the controversial sentence. Rather than say "Women must have paying jobs to have the power to affect change."--let's say "Women should be paid to do the jobs they now do for free. If that ever happens, then women will have power."

Women aren't paid to raise their own children because money is a medium of exchange for value. If I'm not exchanging value, there's no need for money. If I'm providing a service to myself or my family, I don't pay myself.

I don't think anyone disputes the value of raising children. My own experience was that I *as a person* was less valued after having children, though. Employers seemed to take it for granted that my kids would come first - and for the most part, they were right. I got tired of the struggle and ended up staying home for years to raise them - but I also got my MBA while I was a stay at home mom. I came back to the work force as a consultant, on my own terms, and was far happier that way.

You can have it all, but maybe not all at the same time. ;^)

The things that got me through that time of little money or encouragement were two phrases :

"The work will come again, but childhood won't."

"A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, what kind of car I drove, or how big of a house I lived in, it will matter that I made a difference in the life of a child."

And I got my MBA, and the same month, my father passed away. At his funeral, I did not hear people praise how hard he worked or how wealthy he was. They praised who he was, things he had done for them, his leadership as a scout master, and how wonderful he was to work with, making work fun and enjoyable for them. There were over 500 cards received by mother in sympathy.

Our society may value money and work, but those are not the things we as individuals value. We value friendship, love, understanding and leadership. And those are the qualities I think of most from the women's movement as well - not that they improved things monetarily for women, but that we became friends and grew to understand each other better, we gained women as leaders, and we learned it was all right to love each other as well and care about how things were for all of us together and not just as individuals.

So thanks to all of you who fought those battles. I really appreciate everything you've done for me.

I'm certainly an elder and I think I'm also a femninist despite the fact I don't know Betty Friedan from Betty Boop.

I entered the corporate world in the 1930s. For the next 40 years I experienced every prejudice and inequity the male-dominated system could impose. I was under-valued, under-paid and passed over. It was fine with me. I had a job and a damn good job----for a woman. I could support my family.

So I was supporting a family and trust me, I wouldn't have rocked the boat for anything. After all, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. That was my thinking.

I'm sorry now that I didn't stand with the courageous women who put everything they valued at risk to advance feminist goals. Truly, I am. But would I do anything differently now than I did at the time? Honestly, I doubt it. I'm still too fearful.

But my question is this: without women who were willing to compete successfully despite prejudice and handicaps imposed by the "man's world" could there be an empirical basis for the claims of equal competence made by the femininist movement? I doubt it.

So now, as an elder, am I a femininst? I hope so. But more than that, not being able to reclaim the past, I hope now I have the courage to stand up for the dignity and rights of all of our citizens.

The issue that I think is totally ignored by business and industry is the loss of talent. When push comes to shove and women have to leave the workforce or are forced to leave the job because they can't do two jobs, we lose those talents for many years. Why can't industry think outside the box so that woman can still work at what they do well but with fewer hours and less pay so they can raise better citizens. This won't work for every job, but most businesses can change. Everything from at work day-care and nursing rooms to shared jobs, to tons of other things would make our world a better place.

I would like to point out the goldenlucy who is about five years younger than my mother if she were still living, both went to work in the 1930s - the depths of the Great Depression during which, depending on the years, as many as 25 percent of the workforce were unemployed.

I remember my mother talking about being so shy and scared about applying for her first job that she walked around the block six times before she worked up the nerve to go in.

The normal workday then was five-and-a-half days and you didn't stay home if you were sick because the company would hire one of the hundreds of others trying to find a job in your place.

For that generation, risking a job to battle for feminist ideals was an unaffordable luxury. goldenlucy and my mother were to busy surviving any way they could and although I can't speak for lucy, even by the 1960s, she never lost her belief that the Depression could happen again at any time.

Of course, it appears to me that lucy and my mother were living feminist lives long before Betty Friedan's book was published. They may not have been treated fairly in the workplace in relation to men in those decades, but by being there, they helped set the stage for the later wave of 1960s feminists.

You don't have anything to be sorry about in your past, goldenlucy. You and my mother and many others like you did your part in what was possible in your era.

Terrific post once again and comments.
I just wanted to comment on the part about women not supporting women. And this is just my opinion. As an RN working both in hospitals and doing home health care over the years...Overall...I have to agree. Women simply do not support other women. Rather than band together for the good of all, they focus on petty issues and jealousy. For the most part, I've always felt that a group of women together simply do not see the whole picture. Again, (just in my experience) rather than view something long-term, they focus on the now and what's good for them now. For them as an individual...not "them" as a cohesive group of women.
And also, I totally agree with your statement, Ronni....if/when we do get a female President, I would also fervently hope that she was elected on her competence...certainly not because of her gender.

Our thoughts about your post on our Body Impolitic blog about older feminists and the interenet are here. It is a rich subject for discussion.

Ronni,
I'd like to share this message with all of the people who have been checking in on Milt.
This meassage was poste by his granddaughter Amber:
__________________________

This is Milts grand daughter Amber. I am sure that you are all worried about my grandpa, we are too. Unfortunatly he is not doing so well and has moved in with my Aunt and Uncle. Some days are better then others for him, but he trys to play it down. Thank you guys so much for loving and caring for my grandpa and I will make sure to let him know that his friends are thinking of him. I'll stop by again and try to keep you updated (with his blessing of course) on what is going on. Thanks again for thinking of him. ~AMBER

11:50 PM

Ronni,
I'd like to share this message with all of the people who have been checking in on Milt.
This meassage was poste by his granddaughter Amber:
__________________________

This is Milts grand daughter Amber. I am sure that you are all worried about my grandpa, we are too. Unfortunatly he is not doing so well and has moved in with my Aunt and Uncle. Some days are better then others for him, but he trys to play it down. Thank you guys so much for loving and caring for my grandpa and I will make sure to let him know that his friends are thinking of him. I'll stop by again and try to keep you updated (with his blessing of course) on what is going on. Thanks again for thinking of him. ~AMBER

11:50 PM

I'm surprised not to see any mention of children here, and how feminism affected them. In the consciousness-raising groups of the late sixties, early seventies, and in much of early feminist literature, that was the big sticking point: if women join the paid workforce, what happens to kids?
After much discussion and angst, we figured it would eventually solve itself by fathers taking up the slack in childcare and housework, thereby forcing employers to make the workplace more flexible by creating more parttime, flextime, and leave-time options, more jobsharing, on-site daycare, etc. However, although some of this happened, it didn't happen on the scale we had envisioned; in fact, work hours have been ratchetted up and leisure time decreased in the intervening years, with work seeping into our off-hours via cell-phones and laptops. Many kids have suffered a decrease in quality of care and attention as a result.
So I'm not as sanguine about the wholesale victory of feminism that many people in yesterday's discussion claimed. In all the couples I've observed, it's the women who sacrifice or interrupt their careers to care for children and home, and the women doctors and lawyers I know who have done this describe a two-tiered system, where they are not as valued as the workers who have always been willing and able to work fulltime and more. This is certainly true of academia, where parttime faculty - mostly women - are perennially exploited.
So I would recast M Sinclair Stevens's final paragraph, above, from "Women should be paid to do the work they now do for free," to "Everyone should be paid to do the work women (and some men) now do for free." We could justify this on the same basis we all pay taxes to support schools: good homes with parental time, supervision, and attention, are as beneficial to society as an educated populace.

I am an elder who graduated high school in 1943, before most of you were born.

At that time many families were struggling to make a living. If the parents had, for example, a boy and a girl both wanting to go to college, it was the boy that was given that opportunity.

The thinking was the girl would marry and be supported by her husband and the man had be the breadwinner.

The girl with only a high school education would have to take whatever she could find until such time as she got married. If luck was with her, she could learn some skills on the job.

Then came marriage, staying home with the childred and then finally having a chose, staying home or working.

If a woman could afford to go to college her career choices were limited. I had a friend who chose to be a school teacher. With great difficulty she did get a teaching positon, I suspect she had to pay off SOMEONE to get that job!

In those days if you were married you could no longer teach so when she got married that was the end of her career.

We have come a long way baby!!

Lucy .
Thanks for posting Milt's granddaughter Amber's comment about Milt. I hope he is resting comfortably and I am glad he is with relatives.

Chancy

Wow, such richness here, Ronni. I was a SAHM, too, but didn't appreciate the luxury at the time. I did a lot of community work, but there wasn't as much emphasis back in those days of the importance of motherhood. I was always appreciated in the workplace and I missed that. I did end up in a psych hospital when my 3 kids were young--and I did have shock therapy. Some of it was due to the stifled creative me who needed someone to say, "Good job." But more it was that I am by nature an organizer--and that when I had my "own" money, I felt more worth.

I loved being a mom, however--and I love being a grandma. But I also love working. I did go back to work when my youngest (now 39) was 6, part-time to begin with. His wife is staying home with the kids--by choice, and her choice is one that is applauded now.

Such a complex topic. I can remember my first class in women's studies at the university in the 1970s and being so darned excited to find out I wasn't a second class citizen. We've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go. I love how you stress choice as being the key, Ronni. Most women are not big-time professionals these days, but two incomes, if not four, are needed in this economy to support a family.

You sure have got me thinking.

I think this is one of the most interesting dialogues we've had for a while.

I'm sure glad to see the Millie's, Lucy's, and Chancy's perspectives to illustrate just how much preceding generations were coping with their challenges; that it is about choice and the times in which we live.

I think it's important to keep in mind that in some instances all that may be possible, and that, with great effort, is just to stand in place -- ready to forge an opportunity when possible, then to move ahead.

Think about what a short time women have had the right to vote. My mother was born in 1899, taught in a one-room school house, held an office job for a utility for a time, also. Coincidentally, she became 21 the year women received voting rights -- less than l00 years ago. Even the women of my grandmother's generation, her mother, weren't standing still for they're responsible for striving for the vote. We all stand on some pretty strong shoulders.

Alan was right on yesterday's post when he commented that the wheels of change and progress can be slow. We just must try our best to keep them moving forward as rapidly as can be tolerated; must prevent them from rolling backwards.

We surely do need to have more dialogue from the men, like Alan, since both sexes share some of the same frustrations and challenges.

Something which may contribute to the number of wage earning workers a household needs is the perception of what is considered a necessity and what is a luxury. I would suggest that what are one generation's luxury items, become the next generation's necessities in many instances.

I am not making a values judgement here, but I do think some people do put the financial pressures on themselves as they see others, who may or may not be able to afford what they have, and feel compelled to follow suit. Some have said they must, so their children won't be deprived compared to their friends.

There is so much "meat" in this post and these comments I don't want to stop writing.

When I wrote that about a woman not being president yet, my thinking was not that women 'should' vote for someone because she's a woman (although some will) but more that they shouldn't refuse to vote for her for that reason. In churches it's often as much women who reject the idea of a female pastor as men. It's a paternalism attitude that is the problem. People should be judged as who they are, and it's a shame when they are discriminated against because of their sex-- for me that includes sexual preference also.

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