A Heartfelt Note from a Gen X Mom to Millennial Women

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As a young Gen Xer, my experience of sexism was much subtler than the generations that came before me. The same, no doubt, is and will be true for you and your Millennial sisters.

By Dina Scalone

Amazing, strong, passionate Millennial women! You are passionate idealists with brilliant lives ahead of you! You want swift and radical change to rid our nation of the real problems we face today. You believe that the time is now to address corporate greed, racially divided communities and the burden of student loans!

Not long ago, I was you. So, as you face choices in this historic election, I want to share with you some things that I know now that I wish I’d known then.

Don’t cross sexism off your list of evils just yet. Please hear me out on this one. What I really want you to know is that sexism is alive and well in America today! You may not have even noticed yet, but trust me: it’s lurking somewhere along your path, guaranteed!

As a young Gen Xer, my experience of sexism was much subtler than the generations that came before me. The same, no doubt, is and will be true for you and your Millennial sisters.

Unlike generations of woman who came before us, there has been reproductive freedom for my entire life, and women have occupied seats in Congress as long as I have been on the planet. I remember laughing at the offensive ads of decades gone by like, “Even a woman can open this Ketchup bottle” or “The Soldiers need our help. Gather America’s women…It turns out you Gals were useful after all.” I believed that the ’80s were a much more progressive time to live. Most of the young women I knew who completed college had careers and began their adult lives financially independent and determined to have it all.

But, as I have learned, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said it best when she said, “I do think that women can have it all, just not all at the same time.” It was not until I made that distinctly female choice to have children that the subtle sexism around me came very clearly into view.

Looking back, I realize now that it was always there. I suffered silently the emotional and social consequences of untreated ADD because of a prevailing belief that it only affected hyperactive boys. In the 6th grade I was asked if my father “helped me” write a story about a Russian immigrant who did not appreciate life in the United States; I worked in nursing homes and hospitals from the age of 15, yet was only ever encouraged to study nursing, never medicine. Systemic, pervasive sexism, yes. But it paled in comparison to what was to come.

As a mother, I have been paid less then men, not deemed “serious” about my career and forced to leave jobs because of inflexible corporate structures determined to prove that there is no such thing as work-life balance! One of my former bosses even told me flat out that I would not have been hired if “the board had known that I planned to have children so soon.”

Fortunately, there is one thing on which we can both rely – the legacy of women taking care of women! The amazing baby boomer women in my life have taught me how to be a competent and compassionate mother and a fierce advocate for my children and myself. They have stood beside me through heartbreak and tragedy. They remind me that life rarely goes according to plan but always goes on. Without them I would not know today that I am strong, capable and worthy!

So, Millennial goddesses, when it comes to this year’s election and your pushback against he women who came before you, of course you should vote for the candidate who speaks to you. All we older generations of women ask is that you continue to fight for women! Our fight for equality is not done! Please don’t lose interest regardless of who wins the nomination!

But most important thing is this –  please know that the women of Gen X are here for you! You may not need us just yet but we promise to show you all the kindness, patience and compassion that the ladies of previous generations have shown us.

Together we can we will break those remaining glass ceilings and make our country greater in the process. Thanks for listening!

Dina Scalone: mother, nonprofit consultant, songstress, human!

Image via Pixabay

  • ChynnaBlue

    I am also of Gen X and I’m confused by some of this. I LOVE that you are encouraging millennials to fight for higher pay. I also think you may need to challenge yourself check your own privilege and really look at where women in the US stand today. Because, frankly, before you tell millennials what to do, it sounds like there’s a lot of work you can be doing yourself.

    You mention that, “there has been reproductive freedom for my entire life,” but that’s not true for everyone. Women in more and more states, like my state of Texas, are rapidly losing their reproductive rights. Women are losing access to their doctors as states defund Planned Parenthood or removes it from their list of providers. Women are losing access to make choices about their pregnancies as they lose the right to chose to end a pregnancy after 20 weeks, even in cases where a genetic abnormality that means the death of the child or a baby who won’t survive birth. Poor women in rural areas are seeing their clinics closed so they can’t get basic preventative care and only women of means can now afford to take days off from work and travel long distances to take pills for a medical abortion. Sex education in schools all too often focuses on abstinence only education and shame women by telling them they they are like a used tooth brush or piece of gum and once they are taken out of the wrapper, no one wants them anymore. Girls are being sent home from classes or school functions because their clothing distracts boys from learning while boys are rarely sent home for dress code violations.

    You didn’t mention that the Hobby Lobby lawsuit made it possible for a company to determine which types of birth control will or won’t be covered through company insurance plans. You did not mention that Catholic hospitals will allow women to go into sepsis and die from a miscarriage because they are so terrified of abortions. You did not mention that pharmacists can refuse to sell a woman birth control if it goes against their own religious views or that women have, in your lifetime, undergone sterilization against their will. Nearly 150 women in California prisons were sterilized between 2006 and 2010 alone. Women of color have been sterilized against their will for far longer. Women in prisons in some states are chained to beds while giving birth. Many women have NOT had reproductive freedom during your entire lifetime.

    You say that “women have occupied seats in Congress as long as I have been on the planet,” but don’t mention that it has been very FEW women. Even know, with more women in Congress and on the Supreme Court than ever before, women make up less than 20% of Congress and just 30% of the Supreme Court.

    Then you move on to talk about the wage gap, as if the other issues have been resolved and are fine now, as if there are only a few glass ceilings left. They have not been resolved and there are many, MANY glass ceilings that still need to be challenged today. Some of the glass ceilings you seem to have thought were shattered long ago are still very much in place.

    So before you task millennials with solving the wage gap, maybe you can tell them what you’re doing to keep knocking those other ceilings down.

  • Seriously

    Because we can’t be concerned about sexism and corporate greed and student loans all at the same time? This is so utterly condescending. Peppering your rhetoric with goddess nonsense doesn’t really illuminate the point of this article, which I have yet to figure out. I don’t need other women to know I am capable and worthy. I endured sexual harassment in the workplace while I worked my way through college (just a few years ago). I dealt with a boss that rewarded dicks (literally) over anything else. The sexism I have experience was not subtle. The main difference is that people pretend they aren’t sexist and fail to understand what sexist behavior is. I’ve yet to find any subtlety in it

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