In November 2012, I lost my job as a sales rep and I wasn’t sure what to do. I was at a crossroads. I was already an author and had begun my role as an activist for women in April of that same year.
The focus of AW is the importance of voting, women’s rights and feminism. In a narrative that combines the history of the women’s rights movement, personal recollections and headlines of the day, American Woman not only speaks to women, but to all those who cherish our democracy. It is a clarion call to arms and the weapon is your vote.
Below are some of my personal recollections:
1968 – 2012: My Political Evolution
A feminist raised me.
My parents separated when I was three. It was 1972 and a civil rights revolution was happening. Women were fighting for liberation, and the way women were being portrayed in society was changing. Women who were in the midst of redesigning the American landscape overshadowed the homemaker. I had no real idea about what was happening. I heard the term “women’s lib” and I saw commercials that said women were bringing home the bacon and frying it up in the pan, so in my mind, women were equal. My mother was a single mom who worked. She struggled but we always had dinner together in the evening and a very normal routine. When the sink was clogged, she fixed it. When the car needed oil, she replaced it. When we moved, and we moved A LOT, she set up the television and stereo. When we needed more money, she worked extra hard or took a second job. She is a smart over-achiever, so we also experienced times where, as a single working mother, she earned a nice living and we lived well. My life experience exposed me to a strong woman who never relied on anyone but herself. She made sure to drive that message home so that it was ingrained. She succeeded.
I am extremely fortunate that my father is also pro-women’s rights. He eventually remarried and my stepmother, Roz, is also a feminist. She believes in equality and is an Emmy award-winning editor in the news business. She kicks ass in her chosen profession.
Turning twenty-one was exciting for me. I was an adult in the eyes of the law and it was my time to figure out who I would be in the world. I didn’t give much thought to the enormous fight that had taken place to legally secure my rights as a woman. I knew women fought for the rights and freedoms I enjoyed, and I knew that we had come a long way from the 1950s way of life. I took it all for granted. I felt like a powerful badass woman who could do anything. My mother’s strength as a woman served me well. I chose how I wanted to earn a living, and I usually negotiated an above average wage. I never had any real reason to believe my rights would be repealed or restricted. If anything, I assumed they would expand.
In the 1980s we had conservative presidents for the entire decade. Ronald Reagan was president until 1988, and then conservative George H. W. Bush took over until 1992. At the time, I was not politically aware. I was a young adult and what I experienced was the American dream. I didn’t become wealthy but I had opportunity and I knew it. The world was my oyster. I do remember hearing about the abortion issue now and then. Occasionally some anti-choice group made the news but it wasn’t plastered all over the media like it is today. I lived in a very liberal state and utilized Planned Parenthood clinics when I didn’t have insurance. Birth control was always extremely easy to acquire and there were a few different times in my life that I was on it. I felt free. I felt equal. I considered myself to be a proud American patriot. I mistook being comfortable for being equal.
In the 1990s it was more of the same. Life was good and I decided to pursue an acting career. My best friend at the time followed politics and I remember her going on about some politician named Bill Clinton. My father was working for the news division of a major American television network on Clinton’s presidential campaign and he invited my friend and me out for dinner one evening when the campaign stopped in Los Angeles. We drove to the hotel in Santa Monica and happened to run into Bill Clinton while on the way to meeting my father. He came over to us to say hi and shook our hands and of course, he asked for our vote. I was impressed for about five minutes and then I was back to not giving a shit about any of it. I believe I was still a registered Republican. I honestly didn’t even know what that meant and I didn’t care. As mentioned, my girlfriend was a lot more politically aware than I was and she helped to convince me I was a Democrat. I eventually changed my political affiliation and have voted in every election since I cast my first vote for William Jefferson Clinton.
Little things DO Matter
I used to be a sales representative in a field dominated by blue-collar men. Many of these men were great. They treated me with respect and never once made me feel uncomfortable. There were also the men who had to show me who was boss. One man, “John,” who was my employer, was giving me a lecture—after I had proven my worth at the company by selling a $30,000 machine to a water and power plant all on my own, with very little help from my male sales manager, “Adam.” I asked John for more information on oil filtration so that I could sell more big ticket items. He said yes and then he told me that in order to not be seen as a bimbo, I would need to understand what it was I was selling. I remember being shocked by his absurd, sexist remark.
I didn’t say anything to him about his bimbo comment because I needed to process it. As I drove home, I became increasingly irritated. I had already sold the damn machine—with NO HELP from him. My customers never treated me as if I were a bimbo. I asked this man for some more education so that I could hone my sales skills. Rather than praise, rather than a pat on the back for a job well done, I was loosely referred to as a bimbo. I took a risk and called him after I gathered myself and had a few good workouts where I mentally beat the shit out of him. I knew flying off the handle would be of no help and would give him the green light to call me overly emotional and unable to handle the job. This man was very much the alpha male—very macho. So I called him on the phone and simply addressed the situation calmly. I told him I understood that he didn’t outright call me a bimbo, but his reference to the fact that I would be seen that way because I was not yet an expert in my field was insulting. I made the effort to make sure he understood that he was not ever permitted to address me in that way again, but I stayed centered, calm and measured. In that instance, it worked. He basically avoided me after our conversation. I embarrassed him. That wasn’t my goal. My goal was to make him realize he had been a sexist employer. He apologized and even though I am sure my reaction didn’t turn him into a feminist, it made ME feel better and more in control of my life, both personally and at work. If I would have said nothing, it would have chipped away at me and possibly would have manifested into misplaced anger. I hope that it also made him consider his words when speaking with his female employees. He isn’t a bad man. But he did need a good reminder that he wasn’t superior just because he has a penis.
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