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Susan Campbell: Sorry, We’re Not Done Yet

February 26, 2009

Susan Campbell

As exciting a prospect as it may be, I don’t think we are quite ready for the big balloon-drop to celebrate gender equality.

For what else could we be celebrating when we hear that we’re in a post-feminist era?

I hate to be the skunk at the picnic, but maybe you’ve heard the rumblings, too. Earlier this year, commentators called Michelle Obama a post-feminist (look, she’s married and she has a job!), and no less an entity than the New York Times referred to the era in which we live as a “post-feminist” one in a promo asking that age-old and impossible-to-answer question, “What Do Women Want?”

We all know what “post” means, right? After-the-fact–as if feminism had served its purpose, and it’s time to move on to a new era, a more egalitarian one. We can take all that energy that we were putting into correcting gender inequality in the boardroom, the military, and the pulpit and–I don’t know–end the war or something.

Except, well, we’re not done yet.

Recently here in Connecticut, our governor, standing hip-deep in an impressive fiscal crisis, announced that she intends to dismantle the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, a 36-year old state agency charged with being in the trenches on all manner of issues as they affect women.

By the governor’s suggestion, one would assume we no longer have a need for a state agency that pays attention to feminism. Funny, but I don’t think so.

The governor used as part of her argument that she is a woman, Connecticut’s secretary of state is a woman, as is our treasurer, our comptroller, and the chief justice of our state supreme court. That’s an impressive lineup, and this is not a new argument. Because Woman A is already in a position of power, you don’t need to worry about your own access to a position of power. We have our Girl already. Back in the Dark Ages, I applied to the Boston Globe, where I badly wanted to be a columnist. To say I was overreaching doesn’t begin to describe it, but I wasn’t judged on my (limited) skill set. Instead, the letter said that the Globe already had a female columnist–Ellen Goodman–and they weren’t in the market for another, thanks.

Perhaps you see the problem. Simply because we have visible women in public positions is no reason to back away. We are not in a post-feminism era because things aren’t yet fair for all of us.

Women still pay more for insurance than men do. Women still don’t make up 51 percent of the leaders in government, in the boardrooms, in faith communities. And women still don’t earn what a man makes, working the same job. We’ve still–to steal a phrase–got a long way to go, baby. We are post nothing. We’re full on, baby. We’re smack in the middle of it.

Susan Campbell, author of Dating Jesus: A Story of Fundamentalism, Feminism, and the American Girl. Campbell’s writing has been recognized by the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors; National Women’s Political Caucus; the Sunday Magazine Editors Association, and the Connecticut chapter of Society of Professional Journalists. She was also a member of the Hartford Courant’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning team for breaking news. Campbell blogs at the Hartford Courant and at her Dating Jesus blog.

This post originally appeared on Beacon Broadside.

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