AUSTIN — I attended the women’s rights “march” here, which really wasn’t a march at all but a gathering on the south lawn of the State Capitol building.
I was glad we weren’t walking far because my feet hurt, the path would have been mostly uphill and I’m getting too old for that sort of thing. I had my lawn chairs, a small cooler with soft drinks and, of course, my sign (“Quality Men Don’t Fear Equality”) to wave vigorously while sitting in the shade of a live oak tree.
Think protesting is for the young?
As it turns out, demonstrating is for those most weary of heart and soul. Those with more mileage have walked the rough road for years and are flat tired of doing so. More importantly, they don’t want to see their daughters go through the same trials.
I don’t know the figures but many rally-goers would qualify not only for a senior discount but were full-bore Medicare age. Most were not new to this fight, either. Women have been waging a battle for equal rights for generations.
I was by no means the only male in the crowd. Of a weekend crowd officially estimated at 3,500, I would guess about 10% were men, all in support. I saw no counter-protesters, though there may have been some on the fringe.
One of the more popular signs — cleaned up just a bit for a family newspaper — was, “I can’t believe I’m still having to fight for this … ”
Indeed, while the push toward equal rights has surely seen some major victories, there have been losses, too. One would think that equal pay for the same job would be one of the least controversial concepts but women still are not close to their male counterparts by that measure.
This makes no sense. Women have been pointing out the pay gap for at least the past 40 years. Our answer to them has always been, “Wait,” which is one of my least favorite words.
It’s fitting this week to remember what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said about that word:
“For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ ”
For most of the older women at the rally, “wait” did indeed mean “never.” They went through their entire working lives making less money than me for doing the same job. Not fighting for themselves any longer, they’re grandmothers who just hope to save their granddaughters from the same fate.
In a different context we would never allow this to happen, especially if it were happening to men.
Suppose that men from Kansas — or pick your own random state — were paid 20% more than Texas men just … well, just because. Kansas men acted like they were better and crowed about it enough so that plenty of people believed the myth.
Texans, as we tend to do, took umbrage. We worked harder, faster and under more severe conditions to prove we could be just as good. We weren’t given many chances to prove our grit but whenever we were that’s just what we did.
We were lions, hear us roar.
But no one really listened much because everyone just knew Kansas men were better. The pay inched up but not nearly where it should have been and Kansans told us to be happy with what we had.
The supposed inferiority of Texas men stuck to us like a second skin we could not shake off.
What do you think Texans would do in such a scenario? Our response would likely include guns. It would not be pretty and it would certainly not be nearly as polite at the crowd of women at the Texas Capitol last weekend.
We would not take, “Wait” for an answer and we should not ask women to do it either.
Women have waited long enough — and not just for equal pay. The next rally in Austin should be the celebration of the victory.