Women’s Equality Day came and went last week without much fanfare as the nation reels from Charlottesville and Hurricane Harvey. Ivanka Trump had time to share that she supports a rollback of an Obama initiative designed to close the gender pay gap, though, because misogyny and insulation from reality don’t fall far from the tree. Notably, too, Dear Old Grab ‘Em By The Pussy Dad’s administration erased from the White House website the “Rape And Sexual Assault Renewed Call to Action” report the White House Council on Women and Girls created in 2014 and has yet to replace it.
To be sure, if the Trumps value anything, it’s women and girls.
A quick look at the status of women across the country yields these highlights:
The glass ceiling is as intact as ever, and women, if they make it to the top, often make it at the expense of their families and their “likability” (a word I could murder, if one could murder words). Two examples illustrate the limitations, even for the most brilliant among us.
The first is Ellen Pao, who went to work for Kleiner Perkins, a Silicon Valley giant in 2005 as a junior partner. She speaks Mandarin, has an engineering degree, a law degree and business degree and management-consulting, start-up and enterprise-software company experience. She wrote the back story to her sexual-harassment suit against Kleiner Perkins in New York Magazine, which included a scene from a plane ride she took with the CEO and a tech investor.
“Once we were airborne, the CEO, who’d brought along a few bottles of wine, started bragging about meeting Jenna Jameson, talking about her career as the world’s-greatest porn star and how he had taken a photo with her at the Playboy Mansion. He asked if I knew who she was and then proceeded to describe her pay-per-view series … on which women competed for porn-movie contracts by performing sex acts before a live audience.” She said no, she wasn’t familiar with Jameson or the show.
In a line reminiscent of local politics, Pao wrote about the company’s sexual harassment policy — “Among the other things the investigator did not write down: that there was no sexual-harassment training, not even a line in the hiring paperwork saying: Hey be appropriate. Don’t do things that make people feel uncomfortable. Don’t touch people.”
After she was attacked by what she said were “troll farms,” she endured a trial, losing on all counts including for gender discrimination in promotion and pay and a retaliation claim. Her only satisfaction came when facts came to light such as “only one woman in the firm’s 40-year history had ever been promoted to senior partner.”
And then there is President Trump, who stalked former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on stage during the second presidential debate. Jill Filipovic wrote recently in a New York Times article, “Donald Trump Was a Creep. Too Bad Hillary Clinton Couldn’t Say That,” about the spontaneous decision Clinton had to make between calling out his behavior or ignoring it. While Filipovic is dead on when she said that confronting Trump would have probably made Clinton seem less… er, likable… and too aggressive, and thus less electable to voters, she is dead wrong when she conflates her decision with the plight of women who are sexually harassed daily around the country.
Clinton’s reaction to Trump’s on-stage stalking is incomparable because of 1) her unique position in American history, and 2) the potential message it held for women on the proper response of a powerful woman to a man who is trying to cut her off at the knees and tape her mouth shut. Clinton chose to ignore Trump’s antics to get elected. It didn’t pay off for her or for us, sadly.
Ultimately, Clinton did not change what Filipovic called the 200-year-old gender order. Pao didn’t convince a jury that Kleiner sexually harassed her.
I can’t convince some people a gap exists between what women and men earn for the same work.
Anita O’Day was a famous “girl” jazz singer. When she sold one and half million copies of “Let Me Off Uptown,” she earned $7.50 per hour, while her partner earned enough to buy a house in Yonkers. O’Day said she didn’t want to get married, own property, have a family or be a canary in front of the band. She wanted to be treated like one of the boys. Her ideas about women and independence were subversive for their time, yet remnants of the gender bias of the “old days” still haunt women today. And so does the pay gap.
Women may have a come long way, baby, but we have miles to go before we sing.