Though often unacknowledged, August 26 is Women’s Equality Day.
More than 40 years after the women’s liberation movement stormed onto the scene opening a floodgate of dialogue about women’s rights, its déjà vu all over again.
Today women are still being moved around like so pawns in a political game that seems to be played by men only, as our bodies continue to be a battleground in the political arena.
The collage “A Storms Approaching that is featured in this post, is a pastiche of post-war American imagery, a time when confining, colliding and conflicting images of media stereotypes of women littered the pop culture landscape that was erupting in a women’s liberation movement.
You Go Girl
Initiated by NY Congresswoman Bella Abzug and first established in 1971, Women’s Equality Day commemorates August 26 1920 when the passage of 19th amendment giving women the right to vote became law.
It would take 72 years between the first major women’s rights conference at Seneca Falls, NY in 1848 to the passage of the 19th amendment. In the decades in between thousands of people marched through American cities, wrote editorials and pamphlets, gave speeches across the nation, lobbied political organizations and held demonstrations with the goal of achieving voting rights for women.
Finally it was signed into law on August 26, 1920
I Am Woman Hear Me Roar
Fifty years later on August 26 1970 Betty Friedan and the national Organization For Women (NOW) organized a nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality to demand equal opportunities in employment, education and 24 hour child care centers.
This was the largest protest for gender equality in US History.
There were demonstrations and rallies in more than 90 major cities and towns across the country including the 50,000 who marched down Fifth Avenue in NYC.
Women in NYC took over the statue of liberty, hanging 2 forty-foot banners from the crown. One read “March on August 26 for equality.” The other “Women of the World Unite.” An organized group stopped the ticker tape at the American stock exchange and held signs with slogans like “We won’t bear any more bull.”
The protesters were angry and with raised fists launched a full attack on the Mad Men of Madison Avenue and its stereotypes of women. The discrepancies between the images of smiling, compliant women we saw in the magazines and advertisements and the images we saw on the nightly news of protesting women were stark.
By 1970 everyone was rapping about the new liberated woman and her newly raised consciousness.
I am woman hear me roar
Nonetheless in the midst of a kaleidoscope of serious issues and upheavals that swirled around her, nothing seemed more pressing to the emancipated woman according to the media than the battle over hem lengths- up with the mini-down with the maxi!
Right on sister!
A Mad Mad Mad Men World of Frustrated Females and Angry Women
The media mocked and stereotyped women libbers as angry, militant, combative , unattractive and unable to attract a man, turning feminism into a dirty word.
The following year in 1971 New York Representative Bella Abzug introduced a bill designating Aug 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day to commemorate women’s suffrage and the 1970 Strike for Equality
The irony is 40 years later the contradictions still exist and the media continue to provide us with images and rationalizations that shape how we make sense of the roles we assume in our families, our workplace and our society.
The current backlash against women and their reproductive rights re-markets old myths about women as new facts.
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