Seven Generations

I hold many beliefs…some of them so ingrained within that I would venture to call them mantras. One that I return to on a daily basis for myself is this: Always frame things from a positive perspective. Maintaining this way of being is not just important to me, it has been a game changer for my life time and time again.

Stating this is not in effort to change you or your own ways. It’s not a lecture on “always being positive…blah blah blah…” It is more a tool to help you understand the place from where my viewpoint is usually coming (with the exception of the occasional rant). That being said, I feel compelled to let you know that I am also a realist. Are things always positive? No, they are not. Positive aspects can usually be unearthed, and certainly there are better ways to handle difficult situations than others, but there are rough times that simply take a lot of damn work and a ton of emotional energy. And although I always highlight the silver lining in my mind, I am fully aware that sometimes things just flat out suck. Or sometimes, although there are great things going on, there still needs to be more…it still leaves room to be better.

Such is the case, in my opinion, for the state of women’s rights in America. The women of today have absolutely incredible opportunities waiting right in front of them, at veritably every turn. Picture yourselves in the middle of a beautiful city park with trees and lakes, meandering paths and birds flying overhead. This park is surrounded on each side with residential areas of all types….mansions, trailers, townhouses, shacks, condos, estates, log cabins, tents…every single option available is surrounding you in this lovely, magical park. And in the pocket of the cute little bag you’re carrying is a jam packed ring of keys. On this ring are the keys to every single front door to each of the houses surrounding the park…you can choose whichever option you prefer, and it is (literally and figuratively) just a walk in the park to get there.

You won’t always think so, I recognize that. Your walk through the park might have a couple of obstacles…perhaps a mugger lurking in the trees or a rabid dog chasing you across the bridge. Those usually prove to be nothing more than bumps in the road rather than actual road blocks (also somewhat depending on your perspective). But as a general rule, in today’s day and age you are simply able to choose your direction and head towards it, recognizing that despite any hardships you are free to make choices leading to the front door of your choice.

I know many women who will argue with me, and they will point out all the negatives for our gender in America today. Pay scales, old boy networks, unequal treatment, harassment…many will get in line for the opportunity to point these things out. Loudly. To which I will let you know, Yes. I am fully aware. There is always room to be better.

In line with the Iroquois theory on Seven Generations, I would ascertain that not only should we live our lives thinking of our descendants who are seven generations away from birth, we should also consider our ancestors who lived seven generations prior. In many cases, those seven generations must pass (somewhere between 140-175 years) before any sort of monumental change our great-great grandmothers were dreaming of has blossomed into anything near its original intent.

To illustrate, I will use my own ancestral timeline and give you one simple progressive fact regarding the state of women’s rights during each time period.

Generation #1 – 1998 (the year my daughter was born): The American division of Mitsubishi agreed to pay out $34 million to settle a lawsuit to appease hundreds of sexually harassed women

Generation #2 – 1971 (the year I was born): The Supreme Court ruled that employers could no longer refuse to hire mothers of pre-school aged children as they had been in all prior years

Generation #3 – 1937 (the year my mother was born): the Supreme Court stood behind Washington state’s minimum wage laws for women

Generation #4 – 1905 (the year my grandmother was born): By this time we were five years into the fact that every state had followed suit with New York’s laws (enacted in 1848), allowing women a few rights over their personal property and earnings

Generation #5 – 1880 (approximate guess on my great-grandmother’s birth year): The court had recently declared that women are, in fact, people, but they are actually a “special category of non-voting citizens.” In another 10 years, Wyoming became the first state to grant women the right to vote in all elections.

Generation #6 – 1860 (approximate guess on my great-great-grandmother’s birth year): In Missouri (five years prior), courts ruled that black women were property and had no right to defend themselves against a master’s act of rape

Generation #7 – 1840 (and a guess on her mother’s birth year): Mississippi had recently determined that if a husband consented, a woman could hold property in her own name. Unheard of at the time.

(information from the National Women’s History Project)

While there is no question that there are many great strides to be taken, make no mistake about it…the women of today are poised for greatness. There are very few obstacles preventing us from flourishing in the way we should. Grab on to the opportunities girls…they are just sitting there waiting for you like the scents of mouth-watering dinners waiting to be devoured.

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