I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor No one’s ever gonna keep me down again
It’s usually Joe standing there on the edge of the deep and very dark yard. But instead, it was me, feeling apprehensive. RoofTop Chalie, looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to lead the way, as Joe surely would have. Was it my imagination or was something or someone rustling in the leaves out there? Glancing at Chalie and seeing how his fur was standing upright and bristling, I was really missing Joe.
The dog, RoofTop Chalie, is afraid of the dark. So on his potty breaks in the big yard, Chalie relies on Joe, his big strong man, to lend him confidence. But this week, with Joe away for work, Chalie felt vulnerable. Unfortunately, I share Chalie’s strong dislike of the darkness.
“Go on, then,” I told him. “Daddy’s not here. Just go potty. Try to be a normal dog.”
I didn’t mean to berate him, but any other dog would have been bounding around in that big dark yard, hoping to catch a hold of whatever was making that troubling noise. But greyhound Chalie was not like other dogs and he held my gaze and held his ground. Sooner or later, he wanted me to know, I would have to woman-up and lead the way into the scary dark.
Just a few hours earlier, Helen Reddy’s 1972 mega-hit was blasting on my car stereo and for reasons unknown (except to the girl-power universe), neither of my sons reached for the tuner or asked to change the station.
It was one of those spontaneous teaching moments where, as a parent, I get to share tidbits of life advice. So after first embarrassing (or irritating) my children with my raspy bellows about being a strong and invincible woman, I shared the history of the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and 70s, and told the tale of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The language of the proposed amendment was simple and to the point: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
Sounds obvious, right? But the Equal Rights Amendment had been presented in Congress every year since 1923, and had only managed to pass one time, in 1972. To become part of the Constitution, though, it needed ratification by three-fourths, or 38, of the States.
When Helen Reddy wrote I am Woman, she was excited by the strides women were making in society. In the 1960s, Reddy had lived in a world where women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the same profession, a world where only 38% of women worked, and where women were kept out of many professions entirely. In 1960, women made up only 3% of American lawyers and only 1% of engineers. Banks could refuse women credit, back then, on the basis of gender alone and contraception was rarely discussed. But in a short time, Reddy had seen progress. She saw the Equal Pay Act in 1963, the Civil Rights Act in 1964, and she saw the legalization of contraceptives for married women. The times, they were a-changing, and Helen was excited.
Of course, Reddy had no way to know that the ERA would fall short and would be ratified by only 35 States when 38 were required. She couldn’t have known that groups would vehemently campaign against the ERA and that 30 years later, women would still be fighting many of the same battles.
Today, women are earning 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the same position. Of new engineering graduates, 18-20% are now women. And we are still battling for access to contraception, epitomized by the recent Hobby Lobby decision, where the Supreme Court confirmed that an employer CAN refuse insurance coverage for contraception and sterilization coverage for its employees.
But Reddy’s anthem reminds us, even now, that the strength in women lies in our resilience and persistence. We have come a long way. But we still have a long way to go.
“You can bend but never break me
‘Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger”
So given the history of women in this great country, I am confident that, some day, the ERA will pass. And I am proud to be a woman and to continue to do my part, standing up for equality for women here in the US and worldwide.
“I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman”
So channeling Helen Reddy, I took a deep breath and stepped into the dark night, proud to be leading the way for RoofTop Chalie.
Nope. Nope. In actuality, I just stood there, until my poor dog looked at me in disgust and headed into the dark alone.
But let’s face it, my dislike of the dark has NOTHING to do with gender equality. I run my household extremely well, in Joe’s absence, although I miss him when he travels.
I am a strong and invincible woman!
Just maybe a little less so at night when things are rustling around in my yard in the dark!
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