Mar 29, 2017
By Sandra Maresca
Democracy sometimes requires practical –if not always ideal—choices. To all those Bernie supporters who couldn’t bear voting for Hillary, we are now living with the consequences of their decision not to support her.
In the “new order”, D. J. Trump, the quintessential “good ole white boy”, and his cabal of Republican reactionaries are rapidly implementing their plan to “make America great again”. Translation: return to a world of sexism, racism, misogyny, and homophobia ruled by privileged, white males.
How did we end up here? What can be done now to salvage those hard-earned gains won since the 1950’s in the marathon fight ahead to save affordable health care, the environment, and human rights of women, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, people of color?
What can I—a white, healthy, well-educated, conscientious, retired 73-year-old woman -- do to make a difference? For starters, I can share a few personal anecdotes illustrating how NO, America in the second half of the last century was NOT all that “great.” Not if you weren’t white, male, and financially secure.
In 1966, after graduating from UC Berkeley, teaching French for a year and serving as the sole support for a husband who was still a student, I was unable to obtain a credit card without my husband’s permission. Without an income, he was receiving unsolicited Visa offers, while I could not even qualify for a gas card.
In 1967, as a high school teacher, my school district relaxed the dress code to allow women to wear trousers to class. My principal, however, proudly announced at a faculty meeting that HE was making an exception to the new rule, insisting that his female teachers continue to wear skirts because he was “a leg man”.
In 1968 my best friend, Sally, had to lie about her age when she applied to be an airline attendant (AKA “stewardess”). To get the job, one had to be no older than 26, female, unmarried, attractive, and slender. Upon reporting for work, a male supervisor weighed and measured Sally and inspected her makeup and hair. He then tapped her backside to ascertain she was wearing the regulation girdle under her mini skirt uniform. To keep her job, she had to cheerfully endure groping and lewd remarks by male passengers.
Another memory surfaces vividly as I watch the Republicans move forward aggressively with their mission to overturn Roe Vs. Wade. On July 20, 1969, a Vietnam veteran paramedic performed an unsafe illegal abortion on a young teacher friend of mine while her neighbors and I watched the first moon landing on the TV in her living room. The complications of that procedure left her sterile and eliminated her chances to make a different choice in the future. And now “the good ole white boys” want to control women’s bodies again.
In 1979, when I applied for my first job in the business world, it was okay for an interviewer to ask my age, marital status, whether I was on birth control, if I planned to have children.
In 1984, I was hired for a marketing job created from an equity class action suit mandate requiring that women be hired in management. After just seven miserable months, I was able to break my employment contract without penalty when the legal staff discovered I was keeping a journal about my hostile work environment. After my departure, the all-male team for which I worked was required to undergo a week’s special sexual harassment training.
In 1990, many of my colleagues—both male and female—thought that Anita Hill must be lying about being sexually harassed by Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. “If he really did that, she would have reported him, ” they said. As a single working mother, I understood all too well why Ms. Hill did not feel empowered to report and risk losing her job.
These are just a few examples from my own experience of the “great America” era to which the current Republican administration would have us return. I am intensely committed to resisting all their efforts—and I invite my younger citizens to join me.