It’s been decades since Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan rallied against a sexist power structure by bringing to the forefront political and cultural inequalities between the genders, and yet, the progress we thought we made, the values we thought were hegemonic in the 21st century, are again under attack. The U.S. is shedding women’s rights like a uterine lining, discharging discrimination across the country and implanting it into the law books. I don’t know about you ladies, but I’m starting to feel a little irritable. And crampy.
What, with Arizona passing the most restrictive abortion law in the country, defining life as when a women had her last period. Due to the overwhelming number of wife beaters, Topeka Kansas has decriminalized domestic violence because prosecuting abuse is expensive. Wisconsin repealed its Equal Pay Law because, according to the Governor, money is more “important” to men. And across the United States, there have been massive cuts to Planned Parenthood and other ”women-friendly” programs.
All this and there is a war on whether or not there’s even a ‘War on Women.’ After all, Bitches be bitchin,’ am I right?
Regardless of what you call this regressive phenomenon, it’s terrifying. While I did do my Grade 3 personal hero project on Nellie McClung, I have had very little to do with any sort of women’s movement since then. I assumed that my rights and freedoms would always be there and, in that way, perhaps I have taken them for granted. Since reaching puberty, I haven’t even burned a single bra. I fear that we have become the complacent masses in Martin Neimoller’s post World-War II poem about how in Germany they first came for the gypsies. First they came for the abortions, but I did not speak out, because I didn’t need one.
Not anymore. If what Madeleine Albright says is true, that “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women,” then it’s time for me to stand with my sisters to the south. Except, it’s easy to lend one’s voice to big-ticket items, like reproductive rights. What’s much harder is to fight against the more insidious forms of oppression that pervade our daily lives.
I am talking about dry cleaning.
I have to pay significantly more than my husband to have my shirts cleaned. This isn’t exclusive to me or my neighbourhood. Women everywhere are charged, on average, $1.00 to $2.50 more to dryclean their shirts. It’s total bull-shit and I’m calling drycleaners on it. This injustice has sullied my dignity, forcing me to wear the same collared shirt more times than is appropriate. Why do my poor, little shirts cost so much more to clean? How much dirtier are we women as a gender?
Through intensive investigative journalism, including and limited to asking my drycleaner, I uncovered a myriad of propagandist excuses for this discriminatory pricing. Olga claims that women’s shirts use more delicate fabrics, buttons and pleats thereby requiring hand pressing, as opposed to the less labour intensive one-size fits all machine used for men’s. Seriously? She has cleaned my metro-sexual husband’s dress shirts, the ones with the french cuffs and silk tie fabric neck bands – our high maintenance, if only in this regard, is surely equal. But where is John Stossel now? Why isn’t he asking drycleaners to ‘give him a break’?
Drycleaners are hiding behind the lie that the variety of women’s shirts, the varying patterns, fabrics, trims and ornamentation (I have such a cute one with bows!) precludes the invention of a drycleaning machine for female blouses. We can clone a human being out of another human being but science has reached its apex when it comes to the cleaning of delicate fabrics. Can we women really accept this as a fait accompli? Shouldn’t our diversity be admired and celebrated, rather than subjected to a financial penalty?
I say ‘no we can’t,’ and ‘yes, it should.’
It is time we women usher in a new period of female revolution and refuse to be victimized by such blatant inequality. We can do better. We have to band together and sing the song of a new generation of liberated, well-dressed women:
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big too ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
I ain’t gonna believe this drycleaning lore
There’s no reason our shirts should cost more
No one’s ever gonna make me pay again.
Or something like that.
Until this subjugation is remedied, I for one intend to boycott dry cleaning completely. I refuse to be a part of this continued victimization of women. So I have invested in a top of the line steamer. 1200 watts, portable, state-of-the art. I am going to clean all my shirts myself from now on. Just as soon as my husband sets up the machine for me. Those instructions are really confusing!