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International Women’s Day — Amy’s Reflections

This post originally appeared on my blog

Reading Lois’ post the other day got me thinking of the changes I have seen in my own lifetime for women and how they have affected me both in my personal life and career.

I am always conscious of the fact that I am a woman and how that sets me apart, how that makes me different. That may sound strange — or maybe it doesn’t — but my femaleness has shaped me in profound and subtle ways and was definitely the first component to my own personal awakening as a young adult and throughout my journey into, dare I say, middle age.

When I was in high school I had a job in a restaurant in my neighborhood — part of a local chain of restaurants in Michigan. At the time, in the late ’70s/early ’80s, the “uniform” was similar for men and women — button down shirts of a certain color and dark pants. The women were required to wear neck scarves and the men bow ties. Well, there was no way I was going to wear a neck scarf. I was 16 years old and that grossed me out. So, dressing from secondhand stores as I was prone to do at the time, I bought some vintage bow ties, my Grandpa Dan showed me how to tie them and I was very proud of myself when I showed up for work in my uniform. As soon as the manager spotted me I was called into his office and told I couldn’t wear a bow tie, I had to wear a scarf like the other women. I was incensed. Caring more about my own fashion statement than women’s rights, I somehow had the presence of mind to say, “I am quite sure if a man is allowed to wear this to work, then I have to be allowed to wear it as well.” The manager didn’t like this response, but not only was I allowed to wear it, but it wasn’t long before every woman in the chain was wearing bow ties instead of scarves. A more sanitary and fashionable choice.

Later in college I took a women’s study class, where the premise of the class and the main book we used for the class, Female World by Jessie Bernard, was that the world women experience is completely different than the world men experience. I was fascinated, convinced and converted. My first “Aha” moment — years before I knew of Oprah!

As a young woman working in advertising in Detroit in commercial production and at ad agencies, I was a minority. That has changed slowly — but very slowly. I know a female DP who lamented, when we first met each other, that when she sent out her reel of work with her first initial rather than her obviously female first name she got

more calls for jobs. At a recent shoot for a PSA for the

Girl Scouts San Diego, I was taken by how wonderful it was that one of the directors was a woman, as well as the DP and the gaffer. It is still very rare to see women behind the camera or in the lighting department, but progress has been made. So, thank you, Rebecca Haze of Haze/Dedeaux Productions, Chloe Weaver, Victoria Chenoweth and Ire Wardlaw for inspiring me and showing me that the next generation of creative, talented women are expressing themselves in areas in which my generation had difficulty.

As a young mother, I would buy children’s book with feminist themes for my daughters. After all, I grew up on Free to Be You and Me, so I bought many books with the “girls can do anything boys can do” message. The significance of these books was lost on Sophie and Dana whose responses were, “Yeah, so what’s the big deal?” While I was pleased they didn’t have the same preconceptions I had as a girl, I did age myself and turn into the kind of mother I swore I would never be, launching into, “When I was your age …” Sorry, girls!

I recently saw Charlotte Beers on the talk show circuit promoting her book, I’d Rather Be in Charge, encouraging women to “lead on their own terms” — a concept that should get the same reaction my kids gave to those somewhat preachy kids books. But I suppose, compared to the message that “women can lead just as well as men,” this is progress as well. And I’ll take it, but will look forward, like my dear friend Lois, to a time when we are truly equal. No celebrations, no books guiding us on unchartered paths, just a nod and a “Yeah, so, she’s a woman. What’s the big deal?” Or better yet, no reaction at all.


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