Paycheck Fairness Act and Thanking Mrs. Banks

Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 11.43.35 AMWe’ve come a long way, baby.

That’s not just an old slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes, but a historical fact.

During a recent movie night viewing of “Mary Poppins”and the rousing opening number by a militant Mrs. Banks, I was moved to reconsider the word “suffrage” and whether it still defines women in some way.

Despite what the Online Etymology Dictionary tells us about the Old French/Medieval Latin roots of the word, it’s clear to me that suffrage is a mash up of two good old-fashioned words: suffering and rage.

Less than a century ago, our mothers’ mothers demanded  equality through the right to vote, aka suffrage. They were aptly called “suffragettes,” compelled to manifest the rage of their suffering through organized protests, civil disobedience, prison hunger strikes, marches and lectures on why women matter just as much as men, even in a man’s world.Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 6.58.16 PM

This, after polite requests for equality were brushed off by their “better halves” like summer flies from a picnic table spread.

Finally, in 1920,  the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by Congress giving women the right to vote.

Since then, women have grappled with how to settle in to their roles as equal citizens and perpetuators of the human race, while fulfilling their personal, physical and intellectual leanings.

However, all these years later we still struggle to weigh in at no more or less than our male counterparts on the scale of human worth.  

Despite the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a working woman still earns  77 cents for every dollar earned by a working man.

Fast forward to the 21st Century, and hit pause when you get to President Obama’s remarks delivered on April 8, 2014, regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act, and equal pay for equal work:

“…when hardworking women don’t have the resources, that’s a problem. When businesses lose terrific women talent because they’re fed up with unfair policies, that’s bad for business. They lose out on the contributions that those women could be making. When any of our citizens can’t fulfill their potential for reasons that have nothing to do with their talent or their character or their work ethic, we’re not living up to our founding values.”

Say what you will about the politics of equal pay, but at the heart of it is our continued struggle to contribute to this life in a way that is authentic and fulfilling, without discrimination or unfair treatment based on our anatomical parts.

That we are still making strides toward equality nearly a century after being granted a voice  at the voting booth is equal parts heartening and disconcerting.Screen shot 2014-04-10 at 7.09.07 PM

The hope is that sooner than later  our value as equal human beings is not undercut by our gender. The goal is that our daughters’ daughters will look back at our efforts and marvel, not at how far we’ve come, but on how great it feels to have arrived.

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