Bella Abzug Reflects on Working Toward Peace

Women are still regarded by many male politicians and the media as a special-interest group, as if we were peanut or chicken-feed lobbyists. That description makes me angry. Let us remember who we are.

We are a majority of this nation. From its founding, we have worked in its fields, homes, shops, and factories. We have borne and raised its generations. We have nursed the sick and cared for the old; we have taught the children. We have cooked, cleaned, done all the household chores, and worked without pay as family chauffeurs, seamstresses, laundresses, hostesses, and all-purpose nurturers. We have given millions of hours in volunteer work to countless organizations and institutions that provide human services. We have served in the armed forces and given our lives for our country. We have paid taxes and created wealth by our labor. We have enriched our national culture and been the most public-minded citizens and do-gooders. We have done all this in the face of discrimination and wage exploitation, yet when we sought to get a guarantee of equal rights into our Constitution, the men who hold effective power would not give it to us.

As in other nations, the United States, throughout its history, has been marked by conflict between classes and social groups, between male rule and female subordination, between those who would reserve power only for the moneyed elite and those who say democracy must be shared by all the people. Today, those of us who place humane, predominantly female values and democratic rights in the foreground are being attacked . . . for offering what they ridicule as "old ideas." But eating every day, having work, shelter, clothing, education, and health care are ideas that will never go out of style, no matter how much heads of corporations hope that robots will replace human beings and that women will meekly continue to accept lower wages and inferior status. . . .

The gender gap is not an unresolvable war between the sexes and it may very well reflect the different ways in which men and women are acculturated. According to national polls, men support our quest for equality on the more narrowly defined women's issues but seem much less willing to examine critically the premises of society and governmental decisions in the same way that women are unafraid to do.

As long as male voters continue to accept and defend the status quo, there will continue to be a gender gap. That voting and opinion gap does not reflect the views of all women, but its breadth and depth is unquestionable, and it will continue to grow until the majority views of women prevail. I believe that eventually the different thinking of women will register in the consciousness of men as well, and then the gap will narrow. I look forward to that day.

In the meantime, participating in politics, registering, and voting are the minimum that we can do. It is an opportunity that millions of women and men in many other nations do not have. Some have died for this basic democratic right. You don't have to die for it. You just have to walk into a voting booth in your neighborhood and pull the lever.

That is . . . the first and easiest step toward making possible our dream of equality for women in a more peaceful world.



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