Marching for Equality

ARKANSAS
BY

RICHARD MASON

MARCHING FOR EQUALITY
After watching several million women march for equal rights, I decided to write this column. Yes, it’s for women, but maybe, if you’re a guy, you should also read it. After all men are the ones who are discriminating against over half our population; the women. Sure, women have equal rights, but that doesn’t keep men from openly discriminating against them. You can say, “There’s no discrimination.” until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t change things. Here are a few relevant facts: Women don’t get equal pay for doing the same job as men, and there are thousands of corporation boards and public commissions that are 100% men, or with just a token woman.
There is worldwide discrimination directed against women. For example, in Saudi Arabia women can’t even drive a car unless accompanied by a man. Yes, it clearly is a worldwide problem, but it can best be tackled locally. The discrimination is not caused by Republicans or Democrats. That’s right. Take a look at the local and state appointed boards and commissions. In Arkansas, former Democratic governors discriminated against women just as much as the current Republican governor is. When a governor or a mayor continues to stack commissions and boards with men, they are actively participating in discrimination against women.
Across our country there are thousands of all male boards and commissions. Can anyone say the only qualified candidates for these positions are men? Of course not! So why do our male elected officials continue to appoint a much higher percentage of men, and only appoint men to certain boards? Of course, it’s discrimination! There is no other word for it. It is discrimination as sure as the South’s Jim Crow laws were.
Now let’s focus on our state. There are hundreds of boards and commissions, but I can’t name a one with a majority of women. However, I sure can name some of the most prominent that women aren’t even represented. How about Game and Fish, or the Highway Department, or the Oil and Gas Commissions? Governor after governor keeps them all male. It is blatant discrimination, but we put up with it. Oh, yes, we have a token woman here and there, but is less discrimination okay? Of course not!
Well, all of the above is just the way things are today, and of course it needs to change, but it is not going to change unless we force change? Let’s take a look at how change happens. To do that we need look back at history. How did women achieve the right to vote? Of course we know, they marched in the street, as well as numerous other ways, but it took years to push through the constitutional amendment that finally allowed women to vote. The battle for equal representation on commissions, boards, and equal pay for equal work will not happen overnight. However, since the cause is right and just, it will happen, so our job is to make it happen sooner than later. What can we do? Actually, marching in the street is a great way to call attention to the problem, but that’s only a start. We need to confront those in charge of making the appointments, from mayors to congressmen, all the way to the White House and to the corporate boardrooms. One massive march certainly helps, but the daily push to confront those who make appointment decisions will ultimately win the day.
We see our politicians frequently, and every time we do the question: “Why don’t you promote equal opportunities for women?” should be part of your conversation. Of course, they will tell you they support equal rights, but pin them down with specifics. “Do you support equal pay for women?” Or, if you are talking to a company president, “Will you commit to equal representation on your company board?”
Yes, most of them will point to having a woman on their board. When they do, accuse them of just putting a token woman on the board where they can say, women have representation. Push for equal representation. But we can go a step further, our corporations are very sensitive to public opinion and the price of their stock. Letters to company boards stating “I will cease to buy your products unless women have equal representation, and I will sell the stock I own in your company.” That letter will make a difference, but when a thousand similar letters come in, it makes a huge difference. And then, when the Governor, Mayor, or any other elected official comes campaigning, tell them you won’t give them any money or vote for them unless they make more women appointments. The Governor should be hit constantly while he campaigns for reelection in 2018 to appoint a woman to the all-male commissions—Highway, Game and Fish, Oil and Gas.
We can’t just sit passively by and expect things to change. Every letter, every pointed conversation, and yes, every embarrassing encounter will move gender equality closer to a reality. Remember this; elected officials and corporations that sell to the public are especially sensitive to the charge of discrimination. If we want change, we should demand it, or it won’t happen. Yeah, that means, “Get in their face.”

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