An Old Girl Speaks Up

Posted by Kerry McFall January 18, 2017

I’ll be participating in the Women’s March on Saturday, in San Diego, but I won’t be wearing a pink Pussy Hat, and here’s why.  (For the short version, just skip to the last paragraph!)

knitted pink "pussy hat"

“No Thanks”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

My first political demonstration was in 1969 when I was a highschool senior about to graduate.  It was an anti-war rally, and I was terrified.  My best friend’s mother had gently challenged me to stand up for what I believed.  Not what my parents believed, not what my peers believed , but what did I believe?  Did it matter enough to take a stand?  She was a college professor, and at the time the President of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters.

So, I didn’t tell anyone I was going, and I marched, pretty sure I was going to be jailed or shot.  For a few blocks, I held my head up and strode with confidence.  When I was about to pass the Phone Company building, where I had just scored a terrific new job as an operator, I faded into the background, went over one block, then re-joined the group  two blocks away.  I reasoned that if I lost that job, I wouldn’t be going to college, and I felt that a college- educated female activist would have a far more powerful  voice than a female voter with no credentials.  At that time, I even harbored ambitions for law school, another reason to not provoke the “powers that be”, i.e. those ladies who were scowling down at the street from the operator’s break room on the second floor, and who would be happy to see me fired.

Chicken?  I like to think of it not as cowardice, but as caution.  The Operator job did put me through college, which has served me well.

After that introduction to “activism”, I got involved in different ways.  I wrote letters, made phone calls, served on committees, and knocked on doors, mostly for women’s issues.  After a stint in a D.A.’s office as a legal assistant working with abused women and rape victims, followed by another as a manager at a social service agency, I decided that Planned Parenthood and NARAL were critical to women’s lives and health, and I worked quietly and hard for them, doing what I could where I could. I volunteered in my children’s schools and lobbied hard for Spanish language instruction.   I’ve never broadcasted my beliefs, but I’ve never dropped back again like I did in that first march.  And briefly, at the turn of this century, I thought we women might just have succeeded, we might have secured our rights to contribute to governing this country and the world, to control our own bodies, and to be paid equal dollars for equal work.

I have now worked for lo these many years, mostly as a writer in a technical field where women earn much less than men. Early in my career, I was shocked when a male manager (whose wife was 8 months pregnant) propositioned me… what a worm.  At another point, a federal agency was cutting budgets and I was called in to discuss my job as a contractor.  I got to keep my job, and my male counterpart was laid off, because we did exactly the same job, we were both top-notch writers, but he cost more.  I worked there for 7 years, taking home less than 30% of what the federal agency paid for my work – the contract company kept the rest, and told me to go ahead and find another job if I didn’t care for the arrangement.  As if.

Recently, being politically active has become more difficult.  Writing letters?  Or Emails?  Do they ever get read?  Apparently not.  Making phone calls?  How many robots do you want to talk with?  Knocking on doors?  No way – people don’t answer their doors.  Turns out that money makes the world go round – but what exactly gets done with my donations?  Ads – who watches them?  No clue, especially in presidential or congressional races.

So here I am, now a jaded “old Girl” as my grandson calls me, about to take to the streets again in frustration, knowing that this march might make me feel slightly less impotent (I know, interesting choice of words in this context) but probably won’t make a rat’s ass worth of difference in healthcare or immigration issues or wage equality.  We worked SO HARD for so many decades only to now see a man at the helm who by all appearances thinks women are sex toys.  Come on, Bozos– how many more “Welfare Queens” will be added to the mix if you take away birth control?  And that’s only the beginning of a terrifying list of fears engendered by the electoral college “victory” of Donald Trump.

Somehow those cute little pink hats just seem to play right into the scripts of the male power brokers – “Here ya go gals, wear these, they make ya look like pussies (nudge, nudge, wink, wink).  Ain’t that kewt? And maybe you’d like a Hello Kitty or My Little Pony sticker, too? “ So wear ‘em if ya got ‘em, Ladies, but if ya made one for me, go ahead and send it to The Donald.  I would love to see him snug it down on his little… no, I’m not gonna reduce myself to his level.  Pretend you didn’t just read that sentence and I’ll pretend I didn’t almost write it.

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