Not Women’s Month or Women’s Day but Women’s Time—Our Time—long overdue but come at last. I take special satisfaction from the fact that the marchers we saw on the news this week are so often the daughters and granddaughters of women deeply affected by The Women’s Movement of the seventies and eighties. That movement seemed to wane in the nineties with meaningless arguments about waves—which wave are we in now?—but had already, silently and deeply, changed women across the world.
The demonstrations Thursday in Spain also had a special meaning for me. On a trip there some years ago, I was struck by the vibrancy of a culture we’d all heard was in economic collapse due to debt and the stringencies of the European Union. Spain was in economic collapse but the clearest indication was the large, peaceful demonstrations that regularly filled the streets, watched patiently by police who were not armed with assault rifles and tanks and SWAT teams—a fact of life even here in little Santa Fe. We tourists were impatient when our way was blocked, but the residents of Madrid and Barcelona seemed to take the delays in stride. The protestors were often union members, which reminds me of how often the daughters and granddaughters of union men are in the forefront of our fight for our rights.
It was particularly good to read that the women mayors of Madrid and Barcelona walked out, along with their almost entirely female staff, and that women all over those cities were leaving their jobs to show, concretely, what women’s work means to the economy. Women working at home hung aprons on their balconies to show solidarity.
Only when the male corporate world realizes that their profits depend on historically underpaid women (most in the bottom echelons), will Our Time become universal time. The Civil Rights movement caught the attention of the nation when, in the Birmingham, Alabama, 1963 Easter Boycott, African-American women stayed out of the stores at Easter rather than buying new clothes and hats. And this was in the days when the same women couldn’t try on outfits in department store dressing rooms or hats unless their heads were wrapped in tissue paper. Sometimes it takes visible, dramatic signs of discrimination to persuade us to walk out—but it is only financial distress that turns cultures around.
I am still recovering from the disappointment of seeing yet another white, middle-aged man elected mayor here in our radically segregated town. The woman I had hoped to see elected saw her second-place votes heaped on the winner—this is the effect of what is called Ranked Voting. So he won by a larger percentage than he would have without all the women who supported his single female opponent. I don’t think this means that the new mayor will pay more attention to the needs of women.
As I take down my Kate Noble for Mayor signs, I think how essential it is for each one of us to demonstrate our solidarity now rather than falling into line. For one thing, I’ve gotten rid of my investments in any company that does not have women on its board—remembering that one woman on a board will likely be disabled without the support of a sister. Fortunately, I had only invested in two companies that still have entirely male boards in spite of a raft of studies in the last two years that show that a company’s profits actually increase when women are represented. It’s a small move but if women investors (and there are a lot of us) across the country did the same thing, it would have an effect.
Another small change shows my solidarity with one of the forgotten women of the last century: Doris Duke. I hope my biography, to be published next year, will result in a portrait of the founder’s daughter and major contributor appearing—at last!—somewhere on the Duke University campus.
Yes, this is an “historic moment”—we are as sure to hear it called that as we are to face a backlash against the #MeToo movement. Until now, the support of actresses at the top of their profession has slowed if not stopped the repercussions. But they will come. And at that point, we must all rally to the defense of our brave sisters who have spoken out—including the woman who was forced into silence but is fighting to tell about her dealings with Donald Trump, and the hired women in Las Vegas who produced a Golden Shower for his delectation. (And let’s not forget the other women, probably dark-skinned, who as hotel chambermaids had to clean up the mess.)
Today we begin to promote our movement across class lines, to include women investors and philanthropists as well as the women who work as chambermaids. Only our own unacknowledged prejudices can stop us.