Throughout March, we honor the incredible persistence and inspiring achievements of women in our nation's history. We honor their confidence, fearlessness and grit, and then we go back to business as usual. More pointedly, we watch as our country's good old boy system too often relegates women to their place — as second-class citizens.
We sound bitter, you think? No. Simply and plainly, we're mad. Still. Thus we persist.
The Declaration of Independence, penned in 1776, read, "... all men are created equal."
White male property owners could vote from the beginning, but it wasn't until 1828 that all non-property-holding white men could vote.
In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified and Black men gained the right to vote.
It would still be 20 more years — 1890 — before women were granted access to the voting box. And in practice, many women of color continued to be excluded for decades more, thanks to states employing combinations of poll taxes, literacy tests, fraud or intimidation. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally ended that — at least until the Supreme Court gutted it and the Grand Old Party began devising a new patchwork of voting obstacles in states.
The bottom line is that it seems women, and especially women of color, are always the last to get even the simplest freedoms. It wasn't until 1975, for instance, that Tennessee's Supreme Court held that a woman, upon marriage, has a freedom of choice over her own name. She was finally allowed to retain her own surname if she wished.
As for equal treatment? We're still waiting. In 2020, women earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by men.
But it's not just the big things. Just look at the Senate's reaction to Joe Biden's 23 Cabinet-level nominations — the most diverse set of nominations we've ever seen, with a record dozen women, including eight women of color. What we're learning anew is that girls had best not speak their minds. Best not tweet. Or Facebook. Or even present views in Senate testimony:
* The first bump was Neera Tanden, a longtime policy adviser and head of the Center for American Progress who was nominated to serve as director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Republicans and centrist Democrat Joe Manchin took issue with what they called her "partisan" and "mean tweets." Those comments, they said, made them question her ability to work with Congress.
Tanden, an Indian American, likened Mitch McConnell to "Voldemort" and dubbed him "Moscow Mitch." She said "vampires have more heart" than Texas Republican Ted Cruz. And in 2018, she criticized Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins during the Senate confirmation hearing of Donald Trump's then-Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault by American academic Christine Blasey Ford. Tanden tweeted: "Susan Collins' terrible treatment of Dr. Ford should haunt Collins for the rest of her days." On a separate occasion, Tanden called Collins "criminally ignorant."
Those senators voted to confirm Kavanaugh despite the sexual assault allegation, yet they wouldn't confirm Tanden because of her opinionated free speech. She has withdrawn her name for the post.
* On Tuesday, Senate Republicans took aim at associate attorney general nominee Vanita Gupta, for her past tweets. Cruz even tried to take issue with her comments to a Senate Judiciary Committee last year when, as an advocate, she said she supported reallocating resources to include alternatives for law enforcement being called to handle issues like mental health problems. Cruz mansplained that her comments amounted to support of defunding the police.
"Respectfully, I disagree with how you're characterizing that," Gupta pushed back. "I don't support defunding the police. I've been very clear about that."
As for Gupta's tweets directed at Republicans, she apologized.
"I regret the harsh rhetoric that I have used at times in the last several years," Gupta said. "I can pledge to you today that if I am confirmed, you won't be hearing that kind of rhetoric from me."
* Also on Tuesday, Republican Sens. Steve Daines of Montana and Cynthia M. Lummis of Wyoming put holds on New Mexico Democratic Rep. Deb Haaland's nomination to be interior secretary, forcing additional debate before the full Senate votes on her confirmation. The Republicans said Haaland's "radical" views will hurt the their states' "way of life." and kill jobs. "We must consider the impact she will have on the West," said Daines. Haaland is Native American.
It seems rather easy to see where this is going. These folks didn't have a problem in the world with their president making mean tweets. Nor with his patently false tweets.
They didn't have trouble confirming former Attorney General Jeff Sessions despite his dubious history on racial matters. Nor did they balk at confirming Trump's ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell despite his scathing Twitter attacks and degrading remarks about women's bodies and appearance.
But there's good news. We have a female vice president, and we have a president who welcomes the contributions women can make. Biden just nominated of two women to positions as four-star combatant commanders. If Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost is confirmed as commander of U.S. Transportation Command and Army Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson is confirmed as commander of U.S. Southern Command, they will become the second and third women to lead a Combatant Command.
We've come a long way. But in a country that's almost 245 years old, it's not far enough.