There is a scene in Network, a movie made over 35 years ago, that is part of the collective consciousness of most baby boomers. Howard Beale, the character who appears to be going mad before the very eyes of a live TV audience, is really just conveying what everyone else was feeling at the time but were afraid, unmotivated, or too complacent to say on their own:
“I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Things have got to change. But first, you’ve gotta get mad! You’ve got to say, ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!’ Then we’ll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis.”
While Russia doesn’t seem to be a looming threat any longer, most of what Howard is ranting and raving about in this scene continues to plague us. But there’s more… so much more… and it’s time to get mad.
Let’s start with jobs.
There aren’t any, and as a recent article on the Huffington Post shows, many of the reliable industries (such as manufacturing) are drying up.
Even worse, companies are putting more into capital improvements than in people. An article in the New York Times reports that more companies are investing in equipment, not workers. “I want to have as few people touching our products as possible,” said Dan Mishek, managing director of Vista Technologies, a Minnesota-based firm. “Everything should be as automated as it can be. We just can’t afford to compete with countries like China on labor costs, especially when workers are getting even more expensive.”
And yet, our government continues to offer tax incentives to subsidize capital investments, not the creation of jobs, and the training of workers. Why? Capital has gotten much cheaper relative to labor costs. Workers lose, companies win, government sits back and watches.
A new study from the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the Great Recession that technically ended in 2009 has doubled the time it takes before the average unemployed person either finds a job or gives up looking for one.
Another report, also from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states that of all the new post-recession jobs that have been created, 90% of them have gone to men. Why? Because employers still believe that men are the main breadwinners in the families, and that a job should be given to an unemployed man before an equally qualified unemployed woman. It isn’t a stated policy, of course, but this antiquated thinking prevails.
In terms of salaries, women still continue to earn approximately 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, across a wide spectrum of industries. And since single women head more households than ever before, it’s not just women who suffer, but children, as well. This helps perpetuate a continuous cycle of poverty, unemployment, despondency, and dependence on government assistance.
Alarmingly, a smaller percentage of women hold senior level management jobs or board positions, relative to men, and the percentage is dropping, according to a recent Grant-Thornton study.
If a woman is fortunate enough to have a job, there are relatively few satisfactory childcare options available. On top of that, women continue to be penalized if they choose to take time off to raise children, often due to a lack of sufficient childcare options, when they try to return to the workforce.
Are you mad yet? No?
How about the fact that our government has just entered into a third war? Just as important, funds are being used to support these wars instead of putting them where they are needed the most: creating jobs; figuring out how to offer affordable health care; rebuilding our infrastructure; and preparing our children to be leaders and strong participants in a new world order where other countries, such as China, are becoming ever more powerful.
What about the daily violence against women and children around the world, including right here in our own country? And the fact that both major political parties use women as political pawns, especially when debating the future of our own reproductive health and rights?
But, there’s more: The chemicals that pollute our air, water and food. The assault on the environment and many of the animals that inhabit our earth. The dumbing down of America by the proliferation of mindless TV at the expense of quality programming.
I started a discussion about this on Facebook and Twitter and one person left this comment: “Everyone has to get mad at a government that is hell bent on an agenda that erodes our way of life. There will be more publicity today about Sarah Palin’s emails than soldiers wounded or killed in Afghanistan.”
Another Facebook friend wrote: “How can we collectively get together and express our dissatisfaction and offer ideas for change, with a concrete plan?”
Women, this is a call to action. We have to stand up and say “We’re as mad as hell as we’re not going to take it anymore!” Demand jobs, equal pay, health care, the right to choose what we do with our own bodies, greater representation in government, and more leadership positions in the private sector. We’re not asking for a lot. We’re only asking for what every human being deserves.
Turn your anger into action:
- Go to the One Million Pissed-Off Women page on Facebook and get motivated
- Start a grassroots campaign for positive change
- Read and be informed about the issues that are affecting us the most
- Sit down and have a cup of tea with someone who is on the other end of the political spectrum so you can start to understand each other, and build consensus
- Seek out politicians who share your worldview and anger, and support them
- Run for political office
- Get connected to like-minded women on Facebook and websites
- Blog, write articles, get others motivated
- Fight for your rights as a woman, as a worker, and as a mother
- If you’re unemployed, keep trying to get a job or start your own company (women are the driving force behind the growth of micro-enterprises)
- Show our children that change is possible
A few months ago, I wrote an article that included this simple statement:
To embrace feminism is to embrace this fundamental truth: every human being has rights.
We have the right to get angry, and the power to take action. Be brave, be bold, and get mad as hell!
Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the author of “The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More”, a resource book which addresses many of the concerns of women over 50 with the help of top experts in different fields.