An Interview with Sharon Saxton
by Julie Saxton
Interviewee: Sharon Saxton
My mother has been one of the most important influences on my personal beliefs. From the beginning, she has taught me to respect all people of all backgrounds, to speak up for myself, and to fight for equality. Since she grew up in a very different time, during which civil rights movements were really starting to take off, I decided to ask her a few questions to get a feel for how women’s rights has changed over the years.
- How was the world for women when you were a kid? What kinds of opportunities did they have?
The world was very male centered. Women were expected to get married and put their husband ahead of any career or personal aspirations they might have. Any other behavior was deemed unnatural and unfeminine. Acceptable “women’s jobs” were nurse, teacher, secretary, and librarian. It was expected that a man would earn more than a woman because “he has a family to support”.
- What kind of feminist movements started up when you were growing up?
There was a push to pass the ERA and a lot of push back against it with crazy lies like “we’ll have to use same sex restrooms and it will destroy the family.” Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were prominent feminist leaders.
- How has gender equality changed over the past few decades? Has anything gotten significantly better or worse?
In terms of career opportunities, awareness that sexist behavior is inappropriate, and not blaming the victims of rape, we have come a long way. We may have a woman running for president who actually has a chance of getting elected. That would have been impossible when I was young. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
- What kinds of women’s rights and gender equality issues do Americans still need to focus on?
Pay equality is a biggie. Also, we need more women in executive positions in the business world and in positions of power in all levels of government.
- How would you suggest bringing about awareness and change?
Talk, talk, talk. Don’t stand silently and listen to untrue assumptions about women that are shared in casual conversation without questioning/challenging them. Herd behavior is prevalent in our species, and awareness is raised one person at a time.
So take it from a woman who’s seen this movement grow for most of her life and who always says, “that’s what I’ve been saying for years,” when I mention the latest human rights issue: let’s talk. Let’s start conversations about what’s right and what still needs to be fixed. Let’s start calling out misogynistic comments. Talking raises awareness, awareness changes thought, and thoughts change actions. I want to be able to continue the change, to keep fighting for women’s rights, so that one day if I’m interviewed by my children, I’ll be proud to explain to them exactly how far we’ve come.