Violence and Poverty Top Issues for Feminist Movement
From: Coeta Mills
Subject: Molly Ivins & feminism
BEST OF MOLLY IVINS -- This column originally appeared Oct. 20,
Violence & Poverty Top Issues for Feminist Movement
Have you noticed that the forces of reaction are doing a truly
wonderful job of trivializing the women's movement? Those who are
frightened by the idea of women's equality have long favored
ridicule and condescension as weapons -- the history of the women's
suffrage movement is replete with them. This wave of the women's
movement was greeted with the usual har-har lines about "women
libbers" and "bra-burners." The ridicule remained constant, but the
current feminist movement was able to bring about widespread
agreement that equal work for equal pay is a desirable goal and that
most forms of legal discrimination against women should be
The right of women to choose whether or not they will bear a child
is now under massive attack, and perhaps that is the cause of the
renewed efforts to belittle feminism by portraying it as a matter of
silly or shallow social conventions. "Only trouble with women's lib
is you just don't know what to call a woman anymore -- Miss, Mrs, or
Ms.," said a jovial good ol' boy recently. No, the problem is not
whether women are called Miss, Mrs. or Ms. The problem is that women
are called bitch or slut or more unpleasant names by men who want to
hurt or frighten or belittle them.
Russell Baker, normally a wise and gentle man as well as a very
funny one, recently lamented over that supposedly dire consequence
of feminism -- opening a door for a woman and not knowing whether
she will be ticked off by it. The problem is not whether men open
doors for women or vice versa -- the problem is that there are at
least 450,000 cases of family violence reported every year and
almost all of them are battered wives. The problem is that millions
and millions of women are raped every year -- one out of five, one
of four? -- no one even knows.
Reported rapes have tripled since 1960, doubled since 1970, and it
is still believed that 45% of them go unreported. Why? Because the
legal system was so stacked against victims of rape that until a few
years ago, most women had more sense than to even bring the charge.
Dallas has a rape rate triple the national average. Rape victims are
getting younger, those 12 to 15 years of age are the fastest growing
victims group. The problem of violence against women is just
colossal yet there are still people who can think dumb jokes are an
appropriate response. [And this was before last year's gubernatorial
The problem of economic discrimination against women remains grave.
This administration has certainly proved its reluctance to do
anything to enforce the equal opportunity laws. ..... The
feminization of poverty -- and the consequent appalling statistics
on the number of children living in poverty -- have been the subject
of news stories for the past couple of years. These are the real
problems of women, and I am always reluctant to write about the
fluff -- the silly sexism in advertisements or social mores or
jokes. It is true that there is a sort of psychological death by a
thousand cuts and that young girls' dreams are still being killed by
sexist teachers and counselors and the older women's self-respect is
constantly undermined by a society in which women are prized as sex
objects. All that is true, but none of it is as important as the
violence and the poverty.
Still, sometimes a remark or an ad just strikes so sour a note it
seems worth commenting on. One thing that continues to surprise me
about this level of sexism is that we always wind up laughing at it
-- it's not funny at the moment when an official telephones another
official to say, "I'm coming over with six reporters and a woman,"
but it makes a good story later. And someday I'll probably laugh
about the ad now being run by a local car dealer. In this ad, the
car itself comes on to this effect: "Come on over and see me ...
look me over, touch me, run your hands over me." It goes on in that
vein and the kicker is that the car has "a lot of sisters who'd like
to serve you too."
I have a lot of sisters who'd like to puke when they hear that ad.