On the Red Ground

By Dianne Post

I have spent a lot of time this summer tabling at festivals, speaking at meetings, and traveling to city council hearings in far flung places from Sawmill on the Navajo Nation near Window Rock to Yuma and Nogales on the southern borders with California and Mexico. The 2019 OH Predictive poll said that only 27% of Arizonans even knew the ERA was a thing going on at the legislature. So we of the ERA Task Force AZ decided to rectify that. Hence the travel.

August 31, I was tabling at the Snowflake Sweet Corn Festival. The organizers had originally put me between LDS, Sylvia Allen and a Republican lawyer (who I happened to know) running for LD 6 primary. I looked at her in horror. She said, would you rather be by the cinnamon bun lady? I emphatically agreed. I ended up between the cinnamon bun lady and “no fracking” and down the row from an “herb” shop selling CBP infused honey – a perfect siting.

I went with few expectations. I thought I’ll be happy with six names on my sign-up sheet – I got 24. Granted many of them were not from LD 6 but were internal snowbirds or valley visitors. But at least a third were from the surrounding area. I would have been happy with one business on my support list – I got five.

But I left an hour early because if one more man had told me about how there was no
discrimination against women because he never saw any discrimination and women made more than men and in his house women were in control and in fact if mamma ain’t happy ain’t no body happy… I thought I might lose control and just have to do something illegal.

As these men repeatedly came up to me in the booth and told me about how there was no
discrimination against women and in fact women had such advantages, women told me a
different story. One told me of how she worked at Walmart and then went to Home Depot where she was paid so much more and was so happy until she realized she was doing the same as men and they made $6 more per hour. She protested. They said well you are pregnant. She said so what? I do what you do and more. They said men need the money for families – oh my god that is such a 1950s argument. She answered, pointing at her stomach, so do I. She is now an RN working on her Master’s degree.

Another woman told me how in the 70s she was hired to do some job at an electric company that few could do – in fact she was the only one in the shop. She got minimum wage. Then the manager moved up and they asked her to be manager with no additional pay. She said no, pay me what I’m worth. They said no. She left and went to Colorado. They called her in Colorado begging her to come back and do this job because she was the only one who could, but when she said, pay me what I’m worth, they said no only minimum wage with no benefits. She declined again.

A male teacher told me how the women, doing the same or harder jobs, are paid less. A female teacher told me how unqualified men are promoted over women to principal and superintendent and get far more pay.

A man told me how he had always supported women’s rights but the #metoo movement was going too far because now men were afraid to even be in a room with women because they could make false allegations. I said, allegations made by women have always been assumed to be false. So no difference there.

He also told me how “that woman” who testified against Kavanaugh was lying because it turns out she has a history of being very aggressive with men. I reminded him that men – Kavanaugh’s roommates, class mates, fraternity brothers also testified that he did it not once, not twice, but on a routine basis. Their testimony against another man was ignored. His daughter came to drag him away saying his wife was waiting in the car for him. He said well I finally found someone interesting to talk to!

One man started down a very dangerous track and I knew I had to derail him. So I asked about the word on his shirt – bio-hacked. The definition was written below so of course I had read it but asking him about it derailed him and got him to mansplain what it means to me. He then walked away.

But one cannot judge based on sex. One man announced he was a socialist democrat – I said not many of you up here! He said he wanted to let me know right away he was not an enemy. Another man said he was a former official in the union for train conductors and he was totally in our camp. We discussed how unions could really help in improving the lives of all workers and need to become strong again.

One very confused woman was an enthusiastic signer of everything on my table – post cards to state legislators urging them to ratify the ERA, letters to federal senators McSally and Sinema, and federal congressperson to co-sponsor the legislation to eliminate or expand the ERA timeline. She encouraged her friend to sign everything and was over the top praising our efforts. This woman was wearing a MAGA hat and a Wendy Rogers sticker. When she saw McSally’s name on the letter, she said, “our people are trying to overthrow her.” I thought, our people are too but for a completely different reason. She waxed on about a 2nd amendment rally that was going on in Show Low on the same day and wasn’t it wonderful.

I wondered, with her completely conflicting views – pro-ERA and pro-Trump – did she even
realize what you are signing? Did she realize these two views are today completely contradictory? I did not question her and did not discourage her but wondered which one of her selves she has sold out? Does she believe in women’s rights but for some reason, embraced Trump? Or does she believe in Trump and for some reason confused about what the ERA means? I didn’t ask. But the “our people” comment suggests perhaps she needed a group to belong to.

A common tactic I use when tabling is to say to older women, you remember the ERA right? Because most of them do and many think it passed in the 1980s. Two women walked past and I did this. One turned to me, “Yes I remember and am glad it did not pass. Are you for it?” I said yes. She gestured, “too much dirty water under that bridge.”

I went to the business vendors seeking business endorsements. At one, the woman said I’m not sure I’m for it. I walked on. Another woman was leading a very cute dog she was trying to get someone to take. She had stopped in front of my booth for some time talking to different people who were petting the dog as she espoused its virtues. When all that finished, she came over to my booth and said, “what’s this about?” I explained it and showed her the actual language. She asked, “Are you for Trump?” I said, “No.” She responded, “I don’t want to talk to you” as she walked off still trailing that very cute puppy.

I spoke to many young girls who did not even know what the ERA was. I explained to one and then gave her the info and said look it up on our website and Facebook. We have tons of information and then write a paper on it for school. She smiled, “That is exactly what I intend to do.” One girl cleaned out her pockets to buy an ERA sash. Another wanted it and her mother said yes I’m all for it but her dad would not give her the money. Several young boys ran around with ERA stickers in return for candy though I doubt they knew what it meant. One elder man said – earned run average? He was joking.

Growing up in a town of 800 it so reminded me of my own youth. I decamped to Prescott. After I arrived at Olivia’s cabin, I began to read a book and found this: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e. the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e. the standards of thought) no longer exist.” Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism. I read it over and over – astonished to realize that I had talked to some of the ideal subjects that very day.