Women’s program an eye opener [UPDATED]Published 6:18am Monday, March 4, 2013 Updated 8:20am Monday, March 4, 2013
The opening scene of “Makers: Women Who Make America,” was about Kathrine Switzer, the first woman ever to run in the Boston Marathon, and the fact that the race director attempted to physically stop her from doing so.
Switzer, who was a 20-year-old Syracuse University student, decided to run in the world’s most famous marathon in 1967, only 45 years ago. She entered it using only her initials. When the Boston Marathon race director, Jock Semple, found out, he literally jumped out of a truck and onto the course and ran after Switzer, yelling “Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers.”
Switzer’s boyfriend, a former All-American football player, knocked Semple to the sideline, allowing Switzer, despite the harrowing mid-race experience, to finish the race in a respectable 4 hours and 20 minutes. “I started the Boston Marathon as a girl, and I finished it as a grown woman,” she said.
As a runner, the scene clearly got me hooked on the PBS documentary. And I have to say, the program opened my eyes as to how bad things were for women, how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.
If anything, “Makers: Women Who Make America” clearly demonstrated that discrimination among women and the women’s movement certainly did not deserve the stigma it has — that “women’s libbers” are just whiners, and that they are making a lot over nothing.
In fact, in my discussion with women who work in our office, many feel embarrassed to be associated with the women’s movement.
While there is plenty to chew on from the program, there were some women’s issues that the show brought forward that hadn’t occurred to me before.
Women were limited in job opportunities until only the last couple decades. The program featured a case where a female phone company employee applied for a job that she was capable of doing, had built enough seniority for, and furthermore, was one that no one else had applied for. Yet, the company denied hiring her because the position was intended to be for a man.
It inspired me to dig through The Journal’s employment ads from the 1960s. “Girl wanted for work in our luncheonette,” “Man between the ages of 25-35 to manage department in local grocery store,” and “Man over 40 for full-time job at once” were just a few that I found.
It apparently wasn’t a no-brainer in the 1960s that job candidates should not automatically be excluded based on their gender. As a person who hires a lot of people and requires specific skills for most of the jobs we need done at The Journal, I wouldn’t last long as a manager here if I did that.
The women’s movement slightly missed the mark when it came to children. The program pointed out that many of the women’s movement leaders failed to recognize that women not only have to raise their children, they want to.
And while the movement made strides to get women equal employment opportunities, it didn’t do enough to ensure that women were able to both advance in their careers and raise their children by promoting accessible, high quality, affordable day care, job flexibility and educating fathers on being more than a sideline parent.
Housework is a legitimate women’s issue. This is the one that a.) hit home, and b.) made me realize that we still have some miles to run on the women’s movement.
If there’s anything that my wife and I have quarreled about over the years, it is housework. She would contend that, over the years, I haven’t done enough, I haven’t done it without being told to do it, and I haven’t bothered to learn how to do it properly.
Why should both a husband and wife both work full-time jobs, and yet the wife is the one who has to do all the housework? Why should men have to be told which housework to do, rather than simply recognizing what work needs to be done and doing it? Why should men get out of doing certain types of housework simply because he doesn’t bother to listen or pay attention as to the proper way of, say, washing white clothing?
On this issue, I certainly plead guilty. It’s also easy to say I’m going to improve, tougher to do, especially for someone whose mother consistently picked up after him as a child.
If the program showed anything, it’s that perhaps men have not come as far as women when it comes to the women’s movement.
While I can’t speak for all men, I can say that, for myself, it’s a long-term process, and I’m trying.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org