History owns a myriad of outbursts of public revolt and strong feminism. January 2017 also owns outbursts of public revolt and strong feminism. In the last century women have demonstrated their strength on many issues and on many different occasions in a fight for equality. In the early part of the century women's’ right to vote was the headline. The 1930s, 40s and 50s gave platform to many strong women taking bold actions and demanding that their rights be not only respected but adhered to. My purpose in this blog is to contrast two specific examples in the 21st century of how women have approached the voicing of their opinions.
Every person wants, needs and deserves to be treated with equality and dignity, and the women's marches that were held on January 21 represented the voices of people who feel that, as a whole, they have not been treated with the equality, dignity and respect that they want, need and deserve. The following is a video clip of the women's march in Chicago.
Women around the world joined together to show their support for a common voice in demanding respect, protection and equality, among other things. They displayed their strength in number, word and emotion for this cause.
This is a worthy cause, and the rights and protection for women should be in place. The fact that these were peaceful, non-violent demonstrations is incredibly impressive, especially considering the number of people that attended and the high emotional issues that were being voiced. Among the issues being supported in the marches is equal pay for equal work. Women are voicing their opinion for a fair and balanced workplace, and America is the home to many women who are capable of, and who are making their competence known as CEOs and CFOs. They are working in other leadership positions in this country and around the world, and their compensation should be equal to their male counterparts.
Having stated my congratulations for the march, it is my opinion, as this and other video clips show, that many of the speakers at the rallies were harsh, curt and in their attempt to promote women, they portrayed a negative side of women. This is simply the opinion I’ve formed as I have watched some of the posts from cities throughout the US and around the world. I've viewed protesters whom were more harsh and vulgar, as well as speakers who presented themselves in a more civil manner. I support the right to assemble and to voice one’s opinion, but this is not how I choose to voice my opinion. I am not a confrontational person, and even though these were peaceful marches, there was an element of confrontation to them. Besides the tough woman mantra that was often portrayed, and the plea to accept marginalized populations, they marginalized part of their own gender in this movement: Right to Life defenders were asked not to attend.
On another note and considering a different platform, I was impressed with a radio segment relating a story about the female CEO of Pepsi-cola who chose to step down from her job because she could see that she was missing out on the lives of her children.
Brenda Barnes was living what some might consider a dream life with a husband, three children and a high paying job. However, she was the one who could see that this wasn’t the dream that much of the country envisioned. She defied the cultural ideology that a woman can and should have it all. In Pop Culture A Reader, John Fiske defines why pop culture is often frowned upon, "Popular films, novels and TV narratives such as soap opera frequently dismissed by highbrow critics for three main sets of reasons: One set clusters around their conventionality, their conforming to generic patterns and their conditions of mass production..." (p. 218). Although Brenda's story is not a film, novel or television show, her career is part of what our popular culture deems as desirable. Many people might frown on Brenda stepping down from her position, but While she “had it all”, she was missing out; missing out on the lives of those for whom she had a parental responsible, and for those who needed her in their tender years.
An article in the New York Times illustrates Brenda’s strength in this quote:
“Barnes always described her decision as a personal one, more for her own benefit than for her children’s (although they quickly came to relish it). She hated judgmental debates over women’s choices about work and family.
Yet there was really a larger wisdom in what she did. In her own graceful way, she called the country’s bluff. She made clear that our society demands impossible choices from parents — and pretends otherwise” (nytimes).
I include Brenda’s story in this blog to contrast the difference in approach between the women of the marches who were trying to impress and make a statement, but who, in my opinion, came across as coarse and hard, with the gentle fortitude of Brenda Barnes. It is her strength and values that impress me over the harsh verbiage heard at some of the marches on January 21. Brenda’s story continues through her daughter, Erin:
Erin, now 28, faced her own dilemma a few years ago. She was working at an advertising agency and wanted to leave at a decent hour at the end of the workday — to help take care of her mother, who had suffered an initial stroke in 2010. It didn’t make Erin popular at work.
Eventually, she quit. She spent a year caring for her mother and is now enrolled in nursing school while working in a neonatal intensive care unit.
She finds the work more meaningful than at her old job, and the health care sector has also been better than most fields at creating good jobs that respect family schedules. That’s a relatively new development, the result of people in the field pushing for change, as the economist Claudia Goldin has noted.
Brenda Barnes’s life is a reminder that we need a lot more of that change (and men need to play a bigger role in it). On a more intimate level, it’s a reminder of what we are each likely to remember when we are confronted with our own mortality. It is not the work email or meeting that, in the moment, seems urgent (NYTimes).
As I have stated above, I believe in and support our right to assemble for causes that we believe in, and I and impressed with the success of the marches that have taken place around the world in the name of women’s rights and for marginalized populations. I agree with much of what those women were fighting for. I also believe that the way we present ourselves speaks louder than the volume of our physical voice, and I identify with the style of Brenda Barnes over many of the speakers from the marches.
In what ways have you been successful or unsuccessful in voicing your opinion?
In what ways is the general public most motivated to make changes?
Leonhardt, David. The New York Times. The New York Times Company. 2017. Web.
Januray 23, 2017.
Additional Video Clips of Women's Marches:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrQt0J4hWj4 (America Ferrera)