In Las Vegas, where long legs and big busts prevail, feminism doesn’t seem to have much of a foothold among young women today.
Nevada women organized to try to pass the Equal Rights Amendment between 1973 and 1981, but ultimately failed. In 1990, the effort to protect a woman’s right to an abortion drew feminists together and ended in success.
But many young Nevada women don’t seem to think they still need to fight for equality. Feminism seems to be slumbering within that generation.
So it was surprising to attend the first organizational meeting of a new women’s group, the Vegas PBS Women’s Engagement Council, and see firsthand that feminism is not at rest.
The new group was organized by poet and retired ad executive Marydean Martin, Vegas PBS board member Lori Lea and television reporter Colleen McCarty. It seeks to find 50 Southern Nevada women willing to engage on issues, in cooperation with Vegas PBS.
The turnout of about 40 women included familiar names such as Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Clark County School Board President Carolyn Edwards, Thalia Dondero (the first woman elected to the County Commission), Vicki Fertitta, Caty Crockett, Joanne Goodwin, Jean Curran, Charlotte Hill, Deborah Campbell and other strong, accomplished community activists. The mostly mature crowd included a smattering of younger women. Probably not all who came will join. The lone man was Tom Axtell, general manager of Vegas PBS, Channel 10.
Aside from being urged to join the new council, which has a goal of 50 members by the end of December, they heard a decidedly feminist message from PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger.
Young women who believe there is no need to fight for rights are mistaken, she said in an interview after her speech at the Las Vegas Country Club.
As she pointed out in her speech, women still make less than men, and that’s an inequity that hasn’t been resolved. Kerger cited statistics saying female lawyers make 40 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts.
The Vegas PBS Women’s Engagement Council wants to make a difference in Las Vegas by working on solutions for problems facing women and girls at a local level. While the council, hasn’t decided what issues to start on, among the concerns are sex trafficking, health care access and economic issues.
Each woman is expected to donate $2,000 a year to support airing PBS national programs that focus on issues affecting women and girls. While that makes it sound like it’s another fundraising arm of Vegas PBS, the goals are broader than that.
Kerger uses her powerful position at PBS to focus on how women are portrayed in the media, airing shows that reflect real women. She’s appalled by research showing in G-rated movies, the females wear the same amount of sexually revealing clothing women in R-rated movies wear.
She recognized notable gains for women.
This year marks a record number of women sworn into Congress – 20 in the Senate and 80 in the House. But 100 out of 545 isn’t close to parity.
More women are going to college and becoming professionals in traditional male-dominated fields such as law and medicine.
The ban against women serving in combat was just lifted .
Kerger, 55, shared her story that as one very few women in business school, one professor told her she was wasting his time by asking him questions, when she was only there to find a husband. “When I tell this story now, some young women look at me with wide eyes,” she said.
Her audience gasped. Yet they probably all had equally offensive stories to share.
Among women of a certain age, feminism is alive and well and not a dirty word.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/Morrison.