.. nt campaign to have fifteen million Americans wear armbands on 22 January 1985, one for every legal abortion since 1973. Falwell’s anti-abortion outburst epitomized Reaganism’s orientation: We can no longer passively and quietly wait for the Supreme Court to change their mind or for Congress to pass a law. Extremism on the right was no vice, moderation no virtue. Or, as Hitler explained in Mein Kamph, The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.
(Marable, 40-41) This mentality continued on through 1989 during the Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (109 S. Ct. 3040 (1989)) case. The Reagan Administration had urged the Supreme Court to use this case as the basis for overturning Roe v. Wade.
(Goldman, 767) It is disturbing that the slow gains achieved by the women’s movement are so volatile and endangered when conservative administrations gain a majority in government. To put the problem into perspective: a woman’s right to have an abortion in this country did not come until 1973. Less than two decades later, the president of the United States was pushing to take that right away. It seems blatant that society is bent on putting women in their places. From the above examples, it appears American culture prefers women as non-professional, non-intellectual, homemakers and mothers.
This mentality is not easily resolved, because it is introduced at a young age. Alice Brooks experienced inequality on the basis of her race and her sex. In her autobiography, A Dream Deferred, she recalls the reaction of her father when she brought up the idea of college to him: I found a scholarship for veterans’ children and asked my father to sign and furnish proof that he was a veteran. He refused and told me that I was only going to get married and have babies. I needed to stay home and help my mother with her kids.
My brother needed college to support a family. Not only was I not going to get any help, I was also tagged as selfish because I wanted to go to college. (Fetzer, 234) This is another example of women being labeled as selfish for wanting the same opportunities as men. Alice Brooks is seemingly a very courageous woman; having the ability to overcome any oppression she may encounter. She states that women who succeed in male dominated fields are never mediocre – they are extraordinary achievers.
Her insight encapsulates much of the subtle sexism that exists today. I feel that no one can truly be equal in a society when only the extraordinary achievers are allowed to succeed out of their expected social role. This attitude of rising blatant and subtle attacks on women’s civil rights is further exemplified in recent reactions to affirmative action plans. These plans have been devised to try to give women and minorities an opportunity to participate in traditionally white male dominated areas. However, we see the same trends in legal action for the use of affirmative action plans as we saw in the 1980’s backlash against the Roe v. Wade decision.
A few interesting points were presented in the case, Johnson v. Transportation Agency, Santa Clara (480 U.S. 616 (1987)). Mr. Paul E. Johnson filed suit against the Santa Clara County Transportation Agency when he was denied a promotion, feeling the company’s affirmative action plan denied him of his civil rights.
Some interesting facts were presented in this case: Specifically, 9 of the 10 Para-Professionals and 110 of the 145 Office and Clerical Workers were women. By contrast, women were only 2 of the 28 Officials and Administrators, 5 of the 58 Professionals, 12 of the 124 Technicians, none of the Skilled Crafts Workers, and 1 – who was Joyce – of the 110 Road Maintenance Workers. (Goldman, 784) The above statistics show women have been considerably underrepresented at the Santa Clara County Transportation Agency. These numbers are not uncommon and are found throughout business. It is interesting to note the current popular perception is that affirmative action precludes white males from finding employment with companies that implement these plans.
The truth is in the numbers, however. The fact that Mr. Johnson felt he was denied his civil rights because an equally qualified woman was given a promotion, instead of him, is just a small window into the subtle sexism that exists today. Most critics of affirmative action do not consider the grossly unequal numbers of men in management and professional positions. Secondly, it never seems an issue of debate that a woman may have had no other previous life opportunities in these male dominated areas. I do not intend to argue that affirmative action is good or bad, but only wish to point out that the current backlash against these programs is heavily rooted in sexism and racism.
Often blatant violence or unfair acts against a group of people will cause that group to pull together and empower themselves against their oppressors. The women’s movement has made large steps to eliminate many of these blatantly sexist acts in the last century. Now the real difficulty is upon us: subtle acts of sexism and the degrading social roles of women in today’s conservative culture. Alice Brooks so eloquently described her experiences with inequality, stating, the worst pain came from those little things people said or did to me. (Fetzer, 236) As these little things accumulate in the experience of a young woman, she increasingly finds herself powerless in her relationships, employment, economics, and society in general. The female child has as many goals as the male child, but statistically she is unable to realize these goals because of the obstacles that society sets in front of her. Society and media attempt to create an illusion that women have every right that men enjoy.
However, women will never be equal until the day female scientists, intellectuals, professionals, military leaders, and politicians are just as accepted and encouraged to participate in all of society’s arenas as males. Bibliography Works Cited: Fetzer, Philip L. The Ethnic Moment, The Search For Equality In The American Experience. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 1997. Goldman, Sheldon.
Constitutional Law Cases & Essays, Second Edition. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991. Marable, Manning. Beyond Black & White. New York: Verso, 1995.
Zinn, Howard. A Peoples History of The United States. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1980. Social Issues Essays.