When I was growing up, we drank tea. Lipton, with milk and sugar, two bags sometimes. I haven’t craved it in years, having thrown it over in college for coffee, or in emergencies, green tea, caffeinated. My mother and grandmother subsisted on it. That, and political arguments. The two of them poured over the nightly news, local politics, every headline in the paper, and always asked me what I thought. This was how I learned to use my voice, and ultimately, about feminism.
Today, August 26th, is Equality Day, otherwise known as the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. I’m cynical about voting. I’m skeptical that the system will ever really prove to be a source of justice. I was wrong, recently, with the overturning of Prop 8, but I’m also leery of getting too confident. My mother worried, and so she voted, and I went into the voting booth with her, and at home, on television, we watched the map change colors.
We know that Jews vote, that 77% of the Jewish vote went to electing Barack Obama in 2008, and the argument over the Israel lobby and how much power it may and may not have and exert. Jewish women vote and are politically organized. But we also know that in the Jewish community, men still hold the power. We take the right to vote for granted, and wrongly so, and in some cases, we remain complacent about the role of women in Jewish communal life.
Equality Day is an opportunity for us not only to reflect on political power and civil rights, but how much agency we have as Jewish women in our communities. Do we hold leadership positions, and if so, are we the token women in those positions? Do we feel safe being out at work and in Jewish spaces? Are we valued for our intellect and Jewish knowledge, or for our potential to create more Jewish babies? Do we feel empowered to reach our professional and spiritual potential? In short, are we able to live our values?
We can do better, and we know it. Let’s not be complacent. There is nothing in this world that should be taken for granted.