What Have I Fought For?

I’m not writing about ‘fighting’ as in physically fighting, as that’s not actually something I’ve ever done. However, there is a fight that happens when something in you rebels against what the world expects of you, something that is different from the seed of you which is growing, stretching towards what it must become. Here’s my story of what I’ve fought for during most of my life, starting long before I recognized it.

Probably when I was about ten years old, in 1956, I began to have some recognition that, as a girl, I lacked something that boys had, and I don’t mean a penis. Talk about my future included choices between secretary, teacher, or nurse. Airline stewardess was totally appealing, but I knew that was impossible, because I wore eyeglasses. Without any discussion, I ‘knew’ I couldn’t become a doctor or a lawyer, just because women didn’t, but something in me didn’t accept that.

About that time, my father needed help carrying something heavy from our basement to his car, and he asked for my help. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that it was very heavy, that we were successful, that he expressed his thanks, and that I was very proud of myself. It made me feel that I was as good as a boy.

Now, I need to change the words I’m using. Rather than say I fought for something, it’s more accurate to say that I reached or stretched for something. What I was stretching for will get a name later.

When I was in high school, I enjoyed surprising teachers with my math abilities. I remember my geometry teacher, Mr. Jamieson, who told me at the beginning of the year that girls never got an A in his class. I don’t actually remember the grade I received from him, but I do remember my math SAT score — 795 out of 800. I loved taking that test!

I remember one of my early conversations with my physics advisor in college, as he alerted me that I would have other departments — chemistry and biology — vying for my presence. This represented a change for me, that a strength in a male-dominated subject would make me a person of interest, rather than someone to be avoided.

In all of my physics and math classes during the seventies, only one professor was a woman, Dr. Joanne Growney, among all the white men. There were few women in my classes, too.

Shortly after graduation, during an interview for a position as an industrial engineer, I was told that I was not being offered the job, because they wanted to hire a man. Then, in the early eighties, that was legal. I secured another job as a systems analyst, later as a computer specialist, a new corporate position. When I was promoted to management, my first assistant was a young man. Often, when someone new entered our department, they assumed I was the secretary and he, the manager, simply based on our genders.

Last week, I needed to see a new doctor, a nephrologist. There was an immediate rapport between us. I told her about the job that had been denied to me forty years ago, because of my gender, and how excited I was that she is a woman. Don’t get me wrong — I like men. I just don’t believe that having a penis is a necessity for most jobs.

What have I fought for? I have fought for this woman to be a nephrologist, to be anything she wants. I have fought, not with weapons, but with my life for more than half a century, for gender equality.

My most recent ‘fight,’ with my friend Joan, for the Beverly Birth Center

Published by cyrein

Quaker, adventurer, wife, mom, sister, friend, special ed teacher, learner

2 thoughts on “What Have I Fought For?

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