Sunday, October 9, 2011
I Voted Republican and Could Still Bring Home the Bacon
This is what comes to mind when I think of myself in the 80s. I had a great job as a senior engineering writer, a new Ford EXP, my own apartment (no roommates for me!), all new furniture, and an up-to-the-minute wardrobe. I dated who I wanted and everything was on my own terms. It took me awhile and I had gone through hell to get there, but I was on my way!
I have a terrible confession to make though. I voted for Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election. It was the first time that I could vote for president. I didn't know the difference between a Republican and a Democrat, so, when I registered to vote I thought it sounded so "Ms.", so "liberated" to be an Independent, and that is how I registered. I can't remember what in God's green earth I was thinking, but by the time the election came around I was working hard and partying harder. The one thing I did know was that this Ronald Reagan was against the Equal Rights Amendment (E.R.A.) for women. What the hell did he have against women? I would see him and Nancy out campaigning and she seemed to be fawning all over and around him. It sent hell-fire through me to be honest. I subscribed to New Woman and Ms. magazines and other feminist publications and they added fuel to the fire. They didn't explain why we needed the amendment, just cursed Reagan for being against it. I didn't think to ask why we needed it. I figured it was about getting equal pay for equal work, and I knew first hand how frustrating and unfair that was.
When I was still working as a tech in the lab I had proven myself that I could actually test and repair printed circuit (PC) boards. It wasn't as it became later where you throw out the PC board and get a new one, and we didn't have simulators either. I would take the board and connect it to the equipment that would simulate its function in the equipment that it came from. I would then use test equipment to follow the signal through the circuit and narrow it down to which component was bad and replace it. I was in the digital side of the lab, so it was all about 1s and 0s being at the right place and at the right time. I would create truth tables to make test procedures so that the next time this particular PC board would come into the lab, a tech would just have to look up the test procedure and not start from scratch again.
It didn't take long for me to start wondering when I would get promoted from a junior tech to the next position. I would ask my supervisor and his eyes would glaze over as if he was having an out of body experience. His body was there, but he had left the office. He would blow me off with rules that didn't exist and always a budget that couldn't spare a dime. But the guys would talk and I knew when one had been promoted or given a raise. I had started training others and helping men who had been there longer than I had. When I realized how much help one man was asking of me, I went to my supervisor. I told my boss that I am helping this man, he's been here longer, and I know he makes more than me. My boss looked me straight in the eyes and said, "He has a family to support. You don't." I was still so young and naive that I wasn't sure that my thoughts about what he had said were right or not! I thought about it for a couple of days and in the interim heard woman on TV talking about this very situation and they were pissed off. Then I realized that I was right to be pissed off too. I stayed in that lab for two and a half years and I did get a few raises, but I fought hard daily and it was wearing me down. The move to the Engineering Writing Department was the best thing that could have happened to me.
I was the first female writer, and in the back of my mind I thought that I was probably given the junior writing position because of quotas. I hated that, but I knew from experience now that I could prove myself worthy in time. There was one man who resented my very existence and treated me with contempt. After about two weeks of his nonsense, I told him that I knew that he didn't like the fact that I was there, but he was going to have to get over it. I told him that he could act like an ass and look like an ass, or he could behave decently and time would tell if I could handle this job or not. Another one stunned into behaving like a gentleman. After that it was smooth sailing. I proved myself and I received recognition in the form of raises and promotions. But I never forgot the demeaning treatment that I received as a tech. Not to mention that a close male relative told me to my face that I was a token c*nt at Bendix. So, back to the E.R.A. and Ronald Reagan. I just couldn't vote for him because of it and I voted for Jimmy Carter.
Four years later, it is time for another election, and I am a different woman. All of the partying had caught up to me, so in May of 1982 I had come to the realization that I had to stop drinking. By May of 1983 I was feeling good about the change I had made a year earlier, but I was missing something. I was missing the relationship that I had with God my creator and Father, my savior Jesus Christ, and my teacher the Holy Spirit. I know that a statement like that makes liberal women roll their eyes and want to write me off as a weakling or an idiot. All I can say is that they must have never experienced God's presence, God's grace, or the comfort of His Holy Spirit. I know that if they ever had they would never roll those eyes again. Enough said about that for now. The point is I had changed. I was 25-years-old, sober, and more mature. I had returned to my faith. I was asking questions. Why do we need the E.R.A.? I came to the conclusion that we didn't need it because there were already laws in place that would ensure that women are treated equally. They just hadn't been enforced! We didn't need our own amendment giving us special rights and I think time has proven that to be true. Yes, there is still a glass ceiling and there is still work to be done, but we don't need an amendment to the Constitution to finish the work. I voted for Ronald Wilson Reagan and changed my affiliation to Republican! And guess what, I was still as liberated and independent and strong-willed as I ever was.