Throughout my school years, I was told that I was “not athletic”. When I couldn’t do things– like swim across the pool in swim class– the reason given was that I was “not athletic. You see, my Mom was telling me what she was told when she was a girl. Mom didn’t know how to ride a bike or swim, and she offered these examples as evidence that she was “not athletic.” In reality, there were access and affordability issues, since Mom was a child of the Great Depression.
Gym Class Cemented My Loathing for Sports
Fast forward from the Great Depression to my childhood in the 1960s, Mom made sure we had bikes and learned to swim, but there were other physical education doors that were open to my brother and not to me. Discriminatory funding practices across physical education and sports offerings created an unlevel playing field for students from kindergarten through the university. Growing up, I was taught not to want activities like sports teams, weightlifting, or a variety of sports instruction in gym class because I was “not athletic.”
At Agnes Hannley’s recent 94th birthday party, I had a great talk with her and her bridge group, all life-long Republicans, about equality and fairness.
One of them put her hand up by her mouth and whispered, “We don’t like what’s going on… you know… with the party. It’s embarrassing.” (She is referring to Donald Trump being on his way to the Republican Party’s 2016 presidential nominee.)
My husband had mentioned to the ladies that I am running for office, mentioned my support for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and left me poolside with the three ladies who all live in the LD9 Foothills.
We had a great time talking about women’s equality and pay equity. When I was telling them about the ERA, they were surprised that even women in their class are paid less than men.
Each of them had a story of discrimination. One of women said wanted to be an engineer when she graduated from high school and went to college in the early 1940s. They told her she couldn’t be an engineer, but she could be a nurse. She became a nurse because she wanted to go to college. She still seemed miffed about it.
I told them that her story is similar to my encounter the “guidance” counselor at Central Junior High School in tiny Amherst, Ohio, when I told him my desire to go to college. I was an “A” student. I was in the band, in the St. Peter’s youth group, in the church youth choir and in the Rainbow Girls. There was no reason why I couldn’t go to college.
My Grandma Powers, who graduated from Oberlin College in 1924 and worked in Admissions at Oberlin in the 1960s, advised me what to take in high school and what to the tell the guidance counselor when I met with him. I was so greatful to have her advice and the backing of parents and grandparents when I went toe-to-toe with him to fight for the right to go to college.
I was pretty shy back then, but 13-year-old me argued my way into the college prep track in high school. He kept saying that “girls don’t need to go to college” because, of course, we’re going to get married … and that’s the end of the line. When he finally relented to the college prep track, he asked, “Do you want to be a teacher or a nurse? Those are the one two professions a girl would need to go to college for.”
I said I didn’t want to be either and surely there are other jobs that girls could do. He finally acquiesced and told me I had to take Latin. I said “no” to Latin. I wanted to take Spanish. (He was starting to get red at this point and wanted me out of there. Other kids were waiting in line to be “advised”.) He insisted I had to take Latin if I wanted to get into college. I insisted on Spanish saying, “Lots of people in Lorain County actually speak Spanish … not Latin.”
Anyway, it was a great discussion with Agnes and her bridge buddies and long-term friends. Pay equity should be an issue that crosses party lines. We had shared experiences, and we all knew we were treated unfairly in our younger days.