Life for a Woman in the 1970s

I finished university in 1971. I know, that’s a LONG time ago and how things have changed.

To me, the Internet has done a lot to promote change for women. We can talk with each other, get angry about why things are the way they are and the more we do that, the quicker change is made.

When I left university there were heaps of things that we look back on now and think, “How could it be that way?”  What’s worse is that nobody seemed to think it was wrong.

When I got pregnant it was just fine for my employer to give me the sack so he (and I use that word liberally) could hire a “full bodied worker.” I was required to step down from my office job at 6 months pregnant because “it’s better for the baby.” Yeah right.

It was perfectly all right for men in my office to call me honey or sweetie or tell dirty jokes. It was fine for men to have girly calendars on their office walls. It was fine for the men in the office to take off for several days fishing while the women stayed behind and did the work.  “Women don’t want to go fishing with a bunch of men,” they said.

I couldn’t get a credit card in my own name in 1971. I had a good job and was paid well but that counted for nothing at the bank in Tennessee. “Bring in your husband to co-sign,” the manager said. It was perfectly legal to discriminate against us.

It wasn’t until the mid 1970s that it was a criminal act to rape your wife. By law a woman had to submit sexually to her husband whenever he demanded it. Too bad if he was a drunken asshole, yes was the only acceptable (and legal) answer.

No legal abortions until 1973 and even then it wasn’t easy. Girls had to wear skirts or dresses to school until 1972 – no pants allowed for girls. Flight attendants couldn’t be married back then either. Get married and you get fired.

In 1976 – I remember it as if it were yesterday – I wore a pantsuit to work and then out to lunch with a friend who was a lawyer. By the time I got to lunch I’d been told that “trousers were for men and were very unladylike for women” and perhaps I should reconsider my work attire. I got to lunch and I was fuming and my friend couldn’t understand my anger.

In 1975 I needed surgery and before it could happen, my husband had to give his permission. I was outraged but I had no choice.

For women living today, you wouldn’t think twice about applying for a credit card in your own name or applying for a home loan if you were single. The complaints I see about boomers have wrecked it all for everyone – remember how times have changed. We complained, we burned our bras, we were the first to take the pill and we helped change the world for women.

Women Haven’t Come Far Enough

stop violence against womenstop violence against womenWe’ve all heard the horrid stories of how commonplace rape is in India.  We saw the news articles about that young medical student who was so cruelly tortured and then tossed onto the pavement and left to die.  We read about how long it takes to prosecute a rapist in India – often 10 to 14 years.   We are sincere and solid in our condemnation on this heinous attack but often we think, that’s “over there” and it’s not like that here where I live.  And it’s not, but that’s not the end of the story.

In India, the government says they are doing all they can to fast track this one case but since that rape of the medical student there have been several other rapes, one of a  young school girl of only 12.  The opinion seems to be that any women walking around at night are fair game.  The medical student went to a movie escorted by a male friend.  One person interviewed said she shouldn’t have been out at night because only men had that right. India seems so far away from my home in Australia.

When violence against women occurs in Muslim countries, we think that there’s nothing we can do because their religion teaches them that men are better than women and women are to be beaten by their husbands if their wives don’t do as they are told.   The Qur’an states that men are the maintainers of women and if they don’t have sex with their husbands or if they want to leave it’s perfectly okay to beat them.  Beatings are appropriate and necessary to keep women in their place.  Not all Muslim men beat their wives, let me be clear about this, but Islam permits it. It’s not a crime to beat your wife under Islamic law. As long as a major religion says beating your wife is okay, what chance do women there have?

A bit closer to home at our nearest neighbour in Indonesia, a candidate for the Indonesian Supreme Court (maybe I should type that twice for emphasis) was being interviewed this week by politicians to determine his suitability for the position.  When asked if the death penalty should be given for rape, he joked that it should not because rape victims enjoy the rape as much as the perpetrator.  It’s okay to pick your teeth up off the floor now.

We look at the issues in India and we think, “many poorly educated men, improperly taught about the rights of women,” and we can understand where they’re coming from even while condemning their actions.  The jerk in Indonesia going for the top legal job in the country is well educated and well respected.  What does that say about how the upper levels of government there feel about women?  To them women are not equal to a man, they have few rights and are on this planet to serve men.  That’s how I view this.

Now back home in Australia.  A heavily pregnant woman and her husband and child went to a car park last week so they could pick up some potting mix.  The woman was really tired so she stayed in the car while her husband and little boy went into the shop.  While sitting her her car she heard a man shout and then she saw a woman running past her car.  Following the woman was a man that looked really angry and yelling, “Get back here,” and raising his fist.

Another woman saw the incident and she got out of her car and along with the pregnant woman tried to break up the fight – the man had grabbed his wife by the throat and had thrown her to the ground.  The perp saw the women coming after him and dragged his beaten wife into his car and drove away.

You might be thinking that these women are to be praised for trying to help and you’d be right but that’s not the whole story.  Standing around watching the guy beat his wife were several men who seemed to be watching the show as if that was a personal problem and none of their business.  The man owned the wife, right?   He can do what he wants with her and it’s none of our business, right?

Where do these notions come from and what do we as a nation have to do in order to change this culture?  It’s no wonder women are paid less than men for the same work when the assumption by men is that we are somehow worth less.  Violence against women is preventable but it will take all of us to do our part.

We women need to do more to assert our equality.