Politics is the icing on the new cake being baked by American women. The decline of old white men in leadership roles has been going on for years, at least since Title 9 was approved back in 1976 — or at least women have been rising to meet us since that time.
Ninety-five women in the U.S. House of Representatives is still only one in five, but it is a significant increase in the number and percentage of women in national political leadership positions, and, when added to the number of women now serving in state governments, a harbinger of more women’s voices louder and soon.
You might remember Title 9 as the tool that brought high school sports to your daughters and granddaughters. There were no girls’ athletic teams in my big California high school when I graduated in 1960.
Or maybe, if your daughter or granddaughter (or you) are a doctor or lawyer, you might remember that medical and law schools used to have tight reins on the number of women admitted to their professions.
Of course those restrictions — the old “quotas” that preceded the “affirmative action” quotas in disrepute in many circles today — applied to boys and men of color as well as to women. And Jews.
Yes, there was a time when universities were careful not to let enrollments nudge over 10 percent for students of Jewish heritage. I think the percentages of places open to all women and to all people of color were significantly lower.
Some vague recollection about the black captain of our UC-Riverside team not getting into UCLA Medical School says that they only had room for three women and three blacks, presumably men, in 1964.
But the ‘50s and ‘60s saw civil rights legislation, it was decided that separate but equal was not equal, Title 9 passed and women started playing basketball on the whole court against other schools.
When I was young, (and don’t your kids and grandkids hate when you say that!) there were no black athletes at the University of Alabama or Mississippi or in dozens of other colleges. Jackie Robinson broke the “color” barrier in the Big Leagues in 1947, when I was five.
And my father thought the boys should go to college and the girls could go to a junior college to learn nursing or secretarial work.
Today there are more women in college than men; equal numbers of men and women docs and lawyers, and women have run away with the veterinary business. Women’s soccer teams are prime time, at least during the Olympics, and there is a women’s professional basketball league and women’s beach volleyball circuit.
Oprah, a black woman, heads entertainment and financial empires, there are women in the higher reaches of business and technology, and some women actors command bright lights and big salaries.
But white men still hang onto the grips of financial power in sports, entertainment and business.
Am I wrong to think that this grip is slippery? And that it has coincided with a change in values?
That there really was a time not so long ago when equal opportunity was as important as wealth, that medicine was a “calling” and finding a job to love was as important as the salary?
Did men always behave as badly toward women as the @MeToo movement leads us to believe? Or is our bad behavior a response to that slippery grip on power?
Are men left with being richer and physically more powerful than women? And white men left with watching black men of superior athletic skill dunk basketballs and run for touchdowns but owning the teams, the entertainment networks and the shoe companies that feature the black athletes?
The 95 women in the U.. House of Reprentatives — black, brown, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, gay and straight — represent other millions of women out here. And they represent us (I’m a 76 year-old white guy).
And in the handful of years I have left, I’d like to see that number go to 250. I’d like to see 50 women in the Senate and (more) women in governors’ chairs. And continue to see women doctors and learn from women writers and educators. In any fair world, women would have half the voices of knowledge and power.
I don’t really care if women become rich — hasn’t made us men any better human beings. I’d rather we all learn to find people and places and work to love, that we do a better job of taking care of each other and that, together, we take better care of the earth that is burning up and flooding around us.
Columnist Rich Wandschneider lives in Joseph.