While I was in high school, Ms. Magazine appeared on newsstands, and before long my best friend’s girlfriend announced that she was a feminist.
I told her that the notion of women’s rights didn’t seem like such a big deal to me. My mother, I noted, had recently begun to introduce herself as “Lillian Smith,” rather than “Mrs. Ralph Smith.” Surely, I said, we would have a woman president within a very few years.
“I’m not so sure,” she said. “I think you underestimate the gap between what’s expected of you and what’s expected of me.”
Of course, she turned out to be right on both counts. I didn’t realize then what advantages I had inherited by being born male, nor how slowly the political world would adjust to the notion of gender equality.
Not that change hasn’t come. This week Albany’s mayor, a woman (as are the mayors of four other upstate cities), threw her weight around a bit by letting it be known that she wants to get rid of the county Democratic chairman. Also this week, the media, including this newspaper, leapt on entertaining excerpts from a soon-to-be-released book by our junior U.S. senator, a woman, who won in 2012 with a record 72 percent of the vote.
But we still haven’t elected a woman president, which four decades ago I figured would be a done deal by now. Women continue to earn just 77 cents for every dollar men earn, and women represent less than 19 percent of the 535 voting members of the U.S. Congress.