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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Thank you, Donald Trump

You have energized women in a way that hasn’t happened since the 1970s. Your vulgar language and shameless behavior has brought grandmothers back to the streets, along with their daughters, sons, and more. Last weekend’s marches brought back memories of when I was young, and Hubby joined me in Tallahassee parades organized by the National Organization for Women and other groups that aimed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution. We never achieved that -- but we won every battle of the war.

We won, for example, access to educational opportunity that had been reserved for men. I can remember when the number of female physicians and female attorneys in Tampa could be counted on one hand. Because we forced medical schools and law schools to drop their quotas, now there are large numbers of women in both professions. And both professions are better off for that.

We won equal access to credit cards, and yes, I recall when a husband had to sign forms attesting that his wife was credit worthy. Burdines, which I think is Dillard’s ancestor, ran a TV ad that still makes me cringe. A woman was up at the top of a palm tree, screaming that she would not come down until her husband allowed her to have a Burdines credit card. More than anything else, that issue turned me into an early NOW member back in 1969.

After a two-year sojourn in Washington, Hubby and I returned to Massachusetts in 1968, and we wanted to buy a house rather than pay rent to Harvard-area slumlords. I had worked at US News & World Report in DC, while Hubby spent a significant portion of that time in the Army hospital at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, because of tuberculosis that someone brought back from Vietnam. He couldn’t get out of isolation to spend money, and I’m naturally frugal, so I had saved enough for a down payment when the hospital turned him loose.

I’ll never forget the realtor – young, brash, and full-of-himself -- a perfect frat boy, except that he probably couldn’t keep his grades high enough to get into college and a fraternity. We liked the second house he showed us and began filling out mortgage forms. And then he realized that Hubby would be going back to graduate school, while I would be the only one working. He proclaimed that no bank would grant a mortgage under that circumstance, because women -- as the half of humanity that can become pregnant -- were well-known credit risks. We finally cobbled together a mortgage on the basis of Hubby’s various military benefits and fellowships. For the four years we lived in that house, however, I was the only one with earned income.

Fifty Years Later

That was February 1968, and a great deal has changed in the half-century since then. Feminist reforms didn’t fall from the sky, however: they happened because women made demands. Some women, that is: others scorned us, but were happy to accept the new opportunities we created for them. And then their daughters got complacent, thinking that everything always had been peachy keen – until finally, at last, we began talking aloud about what always has been at the base of everything concerning women’s status: sex and its place in the marketplace. And for raising that issue, I thank President Trump. He’s the best organizer we have.

So I was thrilled to see literally millions of women take to the streets last weekend. Nor were they just in the big cities and university towns: they were in some 300 places all over the nation and the world. They included such unlikely locales as Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Greenville, South Carolina; Yakima, Washington, and Park City, Utah. The crowds were massive – but I don’t have to tell you that. You’ve seen them on your television screens.

And they grew out of nowhere, with no identifiable leadership. There’s no Gloria Steinem or Jane Fonda or other of the celebrities that attracted us back in the day. These are just women using social media to connect with other women. No dues, no big donors, no headquarters to maintain or officers to elect. Certainly there’s no chain-of-command in the male military and business style. It’s just women organizing the way they always have for PTA picnics or church suppers or fundraisers for other good causes. The difference now is that the cause is themselves, and a loud demand that they be treated with respect. And a promise to remember in November.

January Anniversaries

It’s the month when everyone should emulate bears and just hibernate, but instead we have significant milestones to mark within just a few days of January. Depending on which Monday is closest to his actual January 15th birthday, we celebrate Martin Luther King Day. Even in Arizona, which had refused to recognize the federal holiday until the NFL pulled the Super Bowl from Phoenix in 1993. Football matters, and Arizona caught on. Other states without football teams still held out until Utah became the last to acknowledge Martin Luther King Day in 2000. See Park City, Utah, above, for an indication that change may be coming. And see the announced retirement of Utah Senator Orren Hatch, who has been in Congress since 1977.

After MLK Day, the next most publicized January anniversary is that of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court case that decriminalized abortion. It was on January 22, 1973, and the basic decision still stands after 45 years of controversy. I’ve never reached a conclusion on this chronology, but I’ve always found it interesting that the (then all-male) Supreme Court announced this historic ruling on January 22. That was just two days after the re-inauguration of Republican Richard Nixon. Having won his race against Democrat George McGovern in November 1972, Nixon took the oath of office again on Inauguration Day, which is January 20. Two days later, on the 22nd, the Court announced Roe v. Wade, perhaps the most liberating decision ever made.

And almost two years later, on August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace. I was at a NOW meeting in the conference room of a Sulphur Springs bank that was near the greyhound track. We were interviewing candidates for public office, and I remember sitting next to Sandy Freedman, who was running for city council. People were sneaking out into the hall for a few minutes of listening to the radio, and when Nixon finally – more or less – grudgingly acknowledged between the lines of his egocentric speech that he was in fact resigning, we all cheered. None of us could have imagined that the day might come when we might have preferred him to the Current Occupant.

Another January Court Decision

I could be wrong, but I think that the Supremes issue fewer decisions during their October-June year than they used to do. Most biggies these days seem to appear in a load of June announcements, just before they leave Washington for the summer. On the other hand, it was just eight years ago, on January 21, 2010, that they issued Citizens United. Don’t be surprised that you didn’t see any celebratory marches. Most people don’t understand that with this decision, the court equated free speech with big dollars and essentially said that states could not limit the money that candidates or their supporters can spend to win an election. Democracy be damned; it is money that counts.

Because it is a vulgarity, I hesitated many years before I spelled out in print the full name of this case, and unfortunately the time seems right to do that again. Created by Miami’s Roger Stone and other Republican consultants who have been in the shadows since they worked for Nixon’s CREEP (Committee to Reelect the President), it was a political action committee (PAC) designed to deflate any candidacy by Hillary Clinton. The PAC’s full name was Citizens United, Not Timid. At first I wondered why any PAC would adopt such an awkward name – and then I realized what you get if you use the first letter of each of those four words.

Okay, I still can’t make myself type it out. But this is what we have elected. Locker-room “comedians,” spoiled frat boys, and guys who never will grow up. Where were their mothers? Where are their wives and daughters and sisters? Women of the world, unite! (And also we could use a few good men.)


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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