Gary Stallard

Gary Stallard

We have three daughters in our family, along with a daughter-in-law and her sister, who by my own decree is yet another daughter.

We also have three granddaughters, with another one headed this way in a matter of weeks. Those grandchildren are from the two of our brood who have started their families. I’ve got $10 saying I’ll have more grand-girls before I leave this world.

As a dad with daughters and a grandfather with more girls, my biggest wish is they’ll grow up to become strong, independent — big stress on independent — women. If they ever have a man around, I want it to be because they want him and not because they need him.

I want them to have the same choices in life I’ve enjoyed.

It hasn’t always been so for women. It’s hard to believe that not so long ago, women couldn’t open their own bank accounts, establish their own lines of credit, serve on jury duty, practice law or even breastfeed in public. The man was considered the head of the household, and he held all the rights — to the checking accounts and to a woman’s individual choices.

For what seems like forever, women were considered a man’s personal property. Not until 1994’s Violence Against Women Act were the laws changed protecting women from abuse.

Get that? Not even 30 years ago, a female wasn’t equal to anyone. She wasn’t much more important than a piece of furniture. I’m old enough to have witnessed some of it, but I still can’t wrap my brain around it.

Go back even more, and one will see how for years, women were fully expected to stay home and take care of their families — including, and especially, their men. The idea of a woman wanting an actual career was a foreign one, often met with outright hostility. “Hey, what’s she doing out of the kitchen?”

Women had defined roles, for sure — with the definition coming straight from men.

There have been numerous women who fought to overcome those stipulations. “Fought” because society sure wasn’t about to give those rights freely.

One of those women was Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away this past week after serving as a Supreme Court justice for the last 27 years of her life. Over her remarkable lifetime, she went from having male authorities criticizing her for “taking a man’s seat” at Harvard Law School in 1956 to growing into a powerful force for equal rights — for both men and women. Gender equality to her meant equality across the board. She won a 1975 case giving widowers the same Social Security survivor benefits as widows. “Equal” to her meant everyone.

The little 5-foot-1 dynamo fought massive battles for equal access to women’s education, the elimination of gender discrimination in the workplace and equal pay for women doing the same jobs as men. She fought to ensure equality in voting rights, and dissented bitterly when the Supreme Court outvoted her in a case involving voting discrimination practices. She pushed hard for a woman to have rights concerned with her own health — and to make her own decisions on anything regarding her own body.

Not everyone saw her as a beacon. She certainly had her detractors, and she was known as much for her for dissent as for her agreements. Some saw her as “too liberal” and “too feminist.” I’ll let those folks argue among themselves.

All I know is the women and girls in my own little family have rights they wouldn’t have if it weren’t for RBG. They have options. If a woman wants to stay home, more power to her. But in large part because of RGB’s efforts, she now has a choice. Such freedom for a woman wasn’t always the case.

In my family, we have teachers and nurses. We have moms staying home to raise their little ones. We have super-smart little grand-girls, and I can’t wait to see what they become — on whatever path they choose to walk. Now, they have a better chance of being seen as an equal partner.

I have such high hopes for the girls in our family, and I can thank Mrs. Ginsburg for her willingness to fight on their behalf. Maybe I won’t have to punch anyone for telling one of my girls to “get back in the kitchen.” RBG saved me at least a few brawls.

Another thing. We don’t have any seven-footers on any side of our family. Our girls tend to run more to petite sizes. Hopefully, with RGB, they’ll learn it’s all about the size of the fight in the dog and not the size of the dog in the fight. They, too, can be a miniature giant if they choose to become one. They have choices now.

They can stand where they stand because RBG walked where she walked.

May her memory be a blessing.

Gary Stallard is a regular contributor to the Opinion page of The Lufkin Daily News. His email address is garylstallard@yahoo.com.