by Susan Merritt, RDC
A recent column in The New York Times, “Take a Bow H.C.,” reviewed Hillary Clinton’s last days in the State Department, as well as her time as Senator from New York before that. One thing noted was that “the women of Clinton’s generation typically have a special bond with her because she encapsulates their story.” She spoke of their “rebel youth, demanding a more significant way of living than the older generation of women.” It is said that when she campaigned “you could see crowds of women cheering, for one of their own.”
There are many such stories of women today – including a record number of women who are senators and members of the House of Representatives; who are business owners and CEO’s of international corporations; who are medical doctors, college professors and teachers at all levels, heads of families, social workers, caregivers, and more. The point is that the “doors” have been opened for opportunity for women in our country in many ways. It may finally be fair to say that women are respected and acknowledged, outside of the home, as never before.
And, of course, there are young women everywhere who are still striving in all sorts of ways to move forward in a much more competitive and complicated world, but nevertheless in a world, or at least a country, in which a great deal has changed in the last decades, in their favor.
What’s in a Name?
Among the changes are those that have to do with language. Women are generally no longer called “girls” or any other words that might be, or seem to be, inappropriate or demeaning.
Forbes Magazine recently ran a piece “’Girls? Ladies? Folks?’ What You Should Call That Group Of Individuals.” It uses a flow chart of questions to determine the correct title to use. For example: Are you under 13 years of age? If “yes,” follow the arrow to the “girls” oval; if not, move down to the next question. “Do you want to sound formal?” If yes, follow the arrow to the “women” oval; if not, move on to new questions that will eventually lead to “ladies” or “gals.” I found it to be an interesting taxonomy, and generally appropriate. The points were made that, for example, grown women are no longer called “girls,” (but girls are).
Of particular interest about the taxonomy was the absence of “guys,” a word rampant these days and inconsistent with its historical (male) meaning. For example, I hear folks saying that “guys” works for a mixed group; why not use “folks”? In fact, the Forbes taxonomy offers “folks,” “people,” and “y’all.”
Finally, did any of you find it jarring at the inauguration when President Obama recited, “. . . all men are created equal?” Not to worry. I am happy to let that one pass.
But let’s not forget the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment). It was introduced by Alice Paul (to whom I am related) in 1923 and failed; it was introduced into both houses of Congress in 1972 and passed both. Nevertheless, it failed to receive the required ratifications by the states by the deadline of June 30, 1982. We still do not have an amendment to our Constitution that provides equal rights to women.
Take a Bow, Hillary Clinton, and all the other women like you, and all of us, throughout our country, who continue the long distance walk, and sometimes run, toward full equality and rights in our United States of America.