Regardless of political affiliation, many women, especially those age 50 and above, were disappointed that Hillary Clinton wasn’t able to crack that glass ceiling once and for all. It’s an effort that has been underway since Shirley Chisholm ran for President in 1972. It’s easy to say, “We’ll get it the next time,” but we all know that’s a long shot.
As we watch the transfer of power in Washington, perhaps it is also time for a transfer of generational responsibility for women’s issues. Maybe women who grew up as part of the feminist movement have actually done their part.
Like Hillary, women in a similar demographic have spent 40+ years advancing women’s rights—rights to control their bodies, their behaviors, and their lives. They have fought for birth control, abortion rights, the acceptance of working outside the home, and the right to equal opportunity. They have had a positive impact on addressing child abuse and domestic violence, fairer divorce proceedings, sexism in the military, gender rights and adequate health care coverage. The list could go on and on because so many women have worked long and hard to call attention to discrepancies and issues that have a negative impact on them and their children.
Despite these best efforts, there is still much to do, but there is also much to lose. Some young women seem to take for granted the previous rights secured for women. They do not appear to recognize the long term impact of being paid a fourth less than a man in the same position. Perhaps they have forgotten that It was only recently that insurers were required to cover women’s birth control, or that sexual assault of women in the military or on college campuses became a focus of national attention.
While some progress has been made in the numbers of women running major corporations, women are still under represented in Congress and state legislatures and on the Supreme Court. Women do not sit equally in the seats of power. That means women as a group are still vulnerable, and that current rights may be at risk. This will comprise a formidable action agenda for the next generation of women advocates.
As Obama recently noted, the Presidency is like a relay race with the baton of power being passed from one individual to another, and it should be done as smoothly and effectively as possible. We hope that the same success will result during the transfer of responsibility for the protectors of women’s rights. Women have come way too far to drop the baton now.