Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rest in Peace Geraldine - You Earned It

Twenty-six years ago I showed my then teen daughter a photo of Geraldine Ferraro on the cover of Time magazine and said to her, “See, JoLene, you could be Vice President, or even President some day,” to which she replied, “So could you mom!”

That was an eye-opening moment for me. My next thought as I stared into her magnificently evolved soul was, “No wonder it takes us so long. We tend to expect the next generation to make the strides.” Geraldine Ferraro who died yesterday didn't. Neither did Ann Richards, Liz Carpenter, Barbara Jordan,  Molly Ivins,  Lenna Guerroro, some of the Texas female political icons of my generation, and now they're gone - but not forgotten.

It just so happened that around that same time I was invited to join the Austin Women’s Political Caucus, and although I cringed at the thought of becoming my mother (politically involved), I quickly not only joined, but agreed to become their president, eventually becoming President of the Texas Women's Political Caucus.  Fueled by Ann Richard’s run for Governor (I was on her Capital Council),  we soared. We raised lots of money, printed t-shirts that said "A Woman's Place Is In The Dome," and walked to the capital with Ann on her inauguration day.

Those were high times. But I came crashing to the ground in the summer of 1991, at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the National Women’s Political Caucus in Washington, DC (I was on their steering committee). After floating in the euphoria of having breakfast with Betty Friedan (just the two of us), a 30 minute conversation with Gloria Steinem, and introducing Geraldine Ferraro to my wheelchair-bound, 86-year-old mom who went with me, at the closing session of the conference I heard that in 20 years, the number of women elected to the US Congress had increased to what seemed to me a very small percentage. Everyone was cheering and I was crying. How could this be!

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And then Bill Clinton (who was about to announce his run for President) swept into the room and the women’s eyes filled with stars, and I became so angry that I just packed up my mom and went home feeling disillusioned, a failure, tired of being angry and disappointed. Actually 1991 was a big year for the election of women to public office, but at the time, it felt simply hopeless. Perhaps I was just tired.

It wasn’t too long after that that I resigned from the Austin Commission for Women and all my other organizational memberships associated with women.  Not a good exit strategy.  I felt like a quitter, and to a certain extent, still do. I told everyone, “Time to pass the torch,” and it was, but that wasn't the full truth. It was only recently that I rejoined the National Women's Political Caucus (NWPC), becoming a member of their President's Council. Current NWPC President Lulu Flores deserves huge kudos for her decades of work helping women achieve elected positions. Currently 17% of the US Senate and 17% of the House of Representatives are women, and I think that is important. Why? Because womens' perspective is unique and important.

Anyway, I could go on and on, but you see why I don’t go there very often. I have a hard time keeping my passion in a healthy place. Some want to label me as a man hater and I admit that for many years I had a cast-iron wall around my psyche because history proved me particularly vulnerable (low self-esteem), but thinking that I hate men is a easy rationalization – closer to the truth is that I like them a little too much sometimes. What I really hate (and that’s not a word I like using), is that some women do not have the tools they need to get whatever it is they want from life, or to simply survive, and that as a society (the US is not the norm) we do not value women or girls.

If you do not believe this is true, read Half the Sky. Please read Half the Sky. It is a sad commentary, as pointed out by the authors, that national leaders not moved by the facts of sexual slavery, serial rape, domestic violence and female infanticide, do generally take interest in the possibility that women could improve their GNP.

Watch the below video for additional information about the book and the issues. I just need to walk away from it…. again.

Peace and Love, SueAnn

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