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Vail Valley Voices: Women’s rights progress stalls

Louis M. Schultz
Vail, CO, Colorado

The other night I attended the screening of the excellent documentary “Miss Representation” at the Villar Center. I was probably one of a handful of men in the audience of several hundred women of all ages, ethnicity, marital status and incomes.

In my opinion, the documentary was designed to inform, enlighten and embolden women to take charge of their own person. Women are encouraged to define themselves on their own terms and not let others, specifically men or the male establishment, set standards, most of which are unrealistic, to which women should conform.

By the way, many men and children of both sexes also tend to judge themselves based on other people’s standards. So it isn’t only a women’s problem. In many ways, the issue is ecumenical but significantly more germane for women.

Everyone can learn something from this film. In my cliff notes summary, it would be: “Be yourself; get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say ‘I like what I see.’ ” If you can do that, you will live a better, richer, and have a more stress f-ee life. It will not matter what others think. You will be in charge of you.

There are two elements of any informative film that always should be addressed. The first: “What’s in it for me?” I think this film does a good job of addressing that issue and creating awareness.

But I was struck by the lack of a real set of next steps — the second important element.

I have always been an activist. Without belaboring the point, I was very involved in civil rights in the ’60s, the ERA in the ’70s and beyond, Title IX and many other causes. To say that I am a social liberal is probably an understatement.

So I felt that the film fell short in creating or encouraging real change. Talking about an issue is one thing; doing something about it is quite another.

I sat there thinking about what happened to all the women activists who helped get the civil rights that women have today. It seems like the country reached a point where there was a good level of progress, and then the women seemed to become comfortable with the new status quo.

In my opinion, this resulted in a lost generation of women leaders.

Many women had taken the successes of the ’80s and ’90s and stopped demanding more. The “me generation” seems to have become a generation of “I got mine and I am not going to worry about the future.”

Well, in reality, to stand still is to go backward. And so here we are today, with women’s rights again under severe attack by the political establishment, and there is no strong opposition.

Who are the leaders? Where is the movement? Did we forget everything that was learned in the ’60s and ’70s?

The film points out how few women there are in Congress and that number is dwindling by the day. Why? Since women make up over 50 pecent of the voters, why aren’t they running for more legislative offices at every level of local, state and federal government?

If qualified women ran for elective office and women supported women, it would be easier to get elected. There are enough women voters to elect anybody. They can decide any political race if they choose to do so.

How can women sit by and let men take away their rights?

I listen to the current political rhetoric, and if you eliminate the political BS, the Republican Party (I am non-affiliated) is doing everything it can to marginalize women. The hypocrisy is that the Republicans call for smaller, less intrusive government as they attempt to pass (and succeed at many state levels) the most intrusive legislation against women’s rights in recent history.

The GOP wants to eliminate a women’s control of her health, her body and her mind. It wants to put those decisions in the hands of men and the government. It wants to define every aspect of woman’s role in society by male standards. How is this different from the Taliban or any other patriarchal society?

Where is the new “women’s movement”? Why aren’t they marching on every state capital and on Washington? Are they forcefully telling each of their representatives that they are “Mad as hell and they are not going to take it anymore”? Should there be a Two Million Women March in D.C.? Would a D.C. sit-down like the people did in Wisconsin get the politicians’ attention? Non-violent civil disobedience works.

Women certainly need to vote in the booth, with their pocket books, and with their actions. They need to provide 100 percent support to those politicians who support them. Their economic freedom depends on it.

I have other concerns. Who will be the next leader? Who will rise to the challenge and fight to retain their rights? Is it only a third-year law student? Women need to unite. Find some standard bearers or organizations to help organize a strong opposition.

One of the sponsors of “Miss Representation” was the Women’s Foundation of Colorado. Maybe this group could take up the banner for our state. Maybe there should be 50 Women’s Foundations that could then form a powerful coalition to act in a coordinated fashion at the national level.

Someone has to start to lead. The mainstream and social media will jump at the cause and give it the exposure it needs. If Facebook and Twitter can change countries like Egypt, imagine what a coordinated effort can do in America, where there is no censorship.

If women continue to wait, if they continue to let the men make the rules, it will be back to the future. It will be the 1800s again here in America.

If women want power, they have to seize it. And to keep power, they have to use it.

Anything less is just talk.

Louis M. Schultz is a Cordillera resident.


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