Not far enough, baby
Dear Women of the Midlands
BY T. DEAN ADAMS
How worried are you about the potential harm a Bush presidency could have on women's rights?
Want to do more than just shake your head and worry when you read the staggering statistics on women's health, economic disparity and unequal representation in government in South Carolina?
Wouldn't it be powerful to do something besides complain?
Since moving to Columbia last May I've met so many wonderful women. I've been to great events such as the Outrage Rally and the Wild Women's Tea Party last spring, and the Anita Hill party this fall. I know there are feminists and activists in this city. So, I ask you: Why isn't there a women's political action group in Columbia?
I'm frustrated that I don't know where to turn locally for information on legislation that affects women.
In 1994 while living in Charleston, I wrote a column for skirt! magazine expressing how angry I was at the everyday sexism and the lack of representation in government for women. I asked if anyone was interested in creating a local women's political action group. Three women responded-THREE-and I was thrilled. We made some rough plans and held a first meeting. Skirt! listed the meeting, and we put flyers up all over town. Forty-five women showed up for the first meeting-an amazing turnout.
People began attending meetings, giving money and getting political. The organization was named 52% because women make up 52 percent of the population in South Carolina, and as a reminder that we are not equally represented in government. 52% recently affiliated itself with the National Organization for Women to become 52%/NOW. More than 250 people receive their newsletter. As evidence of its growing clout, politicians now call the organization and ask to speak at meetings.
Margaret Meade said it best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has."
Our world needs changing. I know you know this. It's obvious with just a glance at the numbers.
* In the South Carolina legislature, only two of 46 Senators and 14 of 124 House members are women, roughly 10 percent. Only one of nine constitutional officers is female.
* South Carolina has the highest homicide rate of females murdered by males in single victim/single offender incidents.
* In the National Women's Law Center's "Making the Grade on Women's Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card," South Carolina received an "F," ranking 46th out of the 50 states.
* In both 1999 and 2000 South Carolina made the 10 Worst States for Women list compiled by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. While many factors contribute to these statistics, it's no stretch to see a correlation between the numbers and the lack of a women's political action organization in the state's capital.
We need to keep reminding politicians of these numbers. And we need to be educating women to use their political power.
Yes, we have come a long way. And we have the feminists who went before us to thank for it. The work is far from done. Silence is acceptance. And surely the quality of life for women in South Carolina is not acceptable.