Linda Grist Cunningham: Boomer women shouldn’t fret that younger women are making their own political decisions

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The OMG moment tucked itself among the scone recipe, the adorable kitten video and the wing-nut screeds in my Facebook feed.

There it was: The account of Gloria Steinem’s and Madeleine Albright’s speculations that today’s young women were failing to show up for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton because (a) they’d rather be where the boys were (Steinem); and, (b) they needed to get behind a woman candidate or face a special place in hell (Albright).

OMG. What were these icons of women power thinking when they dissed Millennial and baby Xer women?

Actually, I know exactly what they were thinking. Steinem and Albright were thinking what I think as my 20-, 30- and 40-something women friends go all blase and eye-rolling when I tell them they ought be paying attention to legislation defunding Planned Parenthood.

That’s because if Florida’s Legislature withholds money for Planned Parenthood, women risk losing their taken-for-granted medical and prescription rights.

Because what men-in-power give, men-in-power can take away, and said men-in-power consider women second class in every way, and…..

That’s enough. You get the point. And, I understand the eye-rolling among the young’uns. I did the same when the old women of another generation took to historical wandering and advising me accordingly.

There’s an entire cadre of us graying boomer women who, having fought the gender wars of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s — with the likes of Steinem and Albright as standard bearers — are one-step short of taking to the streets bra-less again.

We’ve spent the past decade watching federal and state legislators chip away at hard-won laws that protect and support women, children and families. Our hearts break as our daughters and granddaughters tell us of workplace discrimination that is as debilitating in its subtle intransigence as was the “get my coffee, girl” sexism of our youth.

We have no Equal Rights Amendment. We are left only with legislation, a piecemeal, patchwork effort to create laws that protect and defend women. And, we know laws are ephemeral.

We are haunted by the idea that a half century of women’s rights will perish if we don’t fight the entrenched male power structure, if we don’t coalesce around strong women. We remember our grandmothers who could not vote, who were ostracized, beaten and jailed in the slugfest for the final ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

So, yeah, I totally get what Steinem and Albright were thinking, and why they are discombobulated that young women are chanting for Bernie Sanders rather than choosing solidarity with Hillary Clinton. Steinem and Albright are old enough, too, to not give a fiddler’s damn about whose feelings get hurt when they speak their minds.

They, like all us crones, have earned that privilege. The young’uns with the hurt eye-rolling and faux outrage ought just sit down and respect their elders.

And, yet. I am proud of these young’uns. They’re making real choices, choices based on personal values, unencumbered by the anger and despair of those seemingly ancient gender wars. These young women are exercising their freedom to choose political candidates for what they say and do, and not for how they once sat a horse.

An email from a 20-something shared with me by her graying uncle says it well:

“The older woman calling ‘young women radicals’ is ridiculous. Young women aren’t radical and don’t ignore sexism. It’s just that younger generations understand that women aren’t the only people who are oppressed by the white, male Republicans. Like older generations seem to focus on their singular problems and not realize that this selfishness and ignorance is why my generation is ‘so radical.’ We’re the first generation where the majority cares about all issues and equality for all not just one group at a time.”

We boomers raised strong young women. Let us be wary of allowing our indignation to blind us to the incredible women who follow our paths. We did good. They will, as well.

***

Linda Grist Cunningham is editor and proprietor of KeyWestWatch Media, LLC, a digital management solutions company, specializing in small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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