Take The Leap (Day) to Make Your Own History

It’s Leap Day!

February 29 is the every-fourth-year calendar adjustment for the Gregorian calendar’s imperfections. The extra day appended to February inspired a leap of vision and blazing hope for women in 5th Century Ireland, when St. Bridget persuaded St. Patrick to declare that a woman could do what was then the unthinkable: ask a man to marry her.

At a time when a woman was, for all practical purposes, owned first by her father and then by her husband, marriage meant not love but economic survival for her and her children. No doubt many seized their one chance to override gendered power norms and choose their own fates. Unheard of!

Leap Day was codified in 12th century Scotland (again initiated by a woman, Queen Margaret). The tradition continued, highlighted by merry belittlements to remind women of their lack of power the rest of the time. For example, women on the prowl for a husband were to sport red petticoats as fair warning so the poor beleaguered men could see them from a distance and dash in the other direction.

Continue reading “Take The Leap (Day) to Make Your Own History”

Equal Pay Day 2011: Are Republicans in Congress Trying to Make Women “Barefoot and Pregnant” Again?

Check out the fair pay flash mob on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:

Arkansas State Senator Paul Van Dalsem got a roaring laugh in 1963 at the then all-male Optimist Club when he railed at women from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) who were lobbying to improve educational opportunities. He said his home county’s solution would be to get an uppity woman an extra milk cow. “And if that’s not enough, we get her pregnant and keep her barefoot.”

Sounds quaint, doesn’t it? Not so much, though.

Fast forward please to April 11, 2011—the day designated as Equal Pay Day by the National committee on Pay Equity to call attention to the pay gap between men and women. Women currently make about 20% less than men even when the numbers are controlled for education and experience. In other words, the pay disparity does not stem from childbearing as is often assumed, but rather from deeper systemic biases that are reflected in women’s own lack of skills and confidence in negotiating for their pay and promotions. Continue reading “Equal Pay Day 2011: Are Republicans in Congress Trying to Make Women “Barefoot and Pregnant” Again?”