Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rules of Behavior for a Feminist, 1965 -Now

today I am not sure how I got here. Google seems determined to give me a Gmail account I do apparently have but have never used. Whatever.

So much I could talk about. I think I will choose the subject that I am a feminist. An elderly one. At age 9, I objected when my father took my elbow to cross the street.

"Why are you doing that?" I asked, wresting my elbow away.

"A gentleman always takes a lady's arm to cross the street," he said.

And I replied, "Then I am not a lady."

That has worked for and against me ever since.

At 18, I was at a dinner party with family friends and one of the older men commented, after something I said, that "I thought like a man." I was flattered. Only later did I hear the bon mot by a woman I don't remember who quipped, "Which one?"

I wanted to be a journalist, and my parents supported me. In 1965, when I graduated from college, most newspapers would not accept a woman to do "real news." They were "society writers". But I interned at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in the newsroom, and they hired me.  I was an anomaly. I still remember the day when the male reporters clustered in a corner and one marched up to me and said,"We aren't going to change the way we talk because you are here."

"Fine," I told him. "I will probably learn a lot of new words." And I smiled.  They relaxed. And I did, indeed, learn some new words. And I loved the camaraderie.

There WERE no rules, social or business. So I made my own. I pretty much still use them.

If a man opened a door, I smiled, unless I was competing with him and then I tried to get there first.
If a man was carrying packages, I opened the door for him, and expected the same if I had some. Socially? I went first.

If we went out to eat, I didn't go first. I went in line. We were equal, and that was fair.  At a table, whoever was ready first. After work? Social rules and I went first.

Car doors? At work, my problem. Socially going out? My date opened the door.

I saw no reason not to be equal at work. I saw no reason not to go with social mores at play. I was a pioneer, and these were MY rules.

Pay? At the time I was hired, women were hired at $70 a week, men at $80. I came in at $90. Sorry, but I am still proud of that. I did pretty well in my internship.

I read something recently about a modern woman who felt obligated to take the door a gallant male opened even if it cost her steps. Uh-uh. I ALWAYS thank a man or woman--often at my age now they are young people--who offer a hand. And if I refuse, I always smile. I tell them I appreciate them and for whatever reason,  I'm not accepting, and I say thank you. Because they are trying to do something good. And we should always reward that effort, even if we don't utilize it.

A feminist needs to be so secure in her boundaries she can be friendly even if she's not gonna do what they want.

Forgot about marriage and child care.

I am stunned when I still meet professional women who ALWAYS take off when the kid is sick instead of trading off with the father. My sons had a dad who would work with me on the relatively few times our kids were sick. We would alternate days, or even share days--he had court in the morning, I had a meeting in the afternoon.  Most couples still aren't doing that.  I think they should, but then, my marriage didn't last all that long. I don't think that was the problem, though.
The Glass Ceiling exists. Too few women are reaching top positions.

Despite all the changes in society, and work, I am amazed at how many women are still asking for a little more gruel in the bowl. We are better than that.

It is a different society, in many ways.

It is funny that the rules of behavior I crafted individually still work so well today.