Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The magic jukebox

By Guest Columnist Genet

The traditional jukebox has just been upgraded to a song of the ages master selector. Songs are now almost unlimited.

What hasn't changed is the range of what people are listening to. So although you could play any song you wanted practically, I still hear them playing the same old top 40s hits. The average person did not have the memory of songs, albums or artists that they could recall, and thus type into the music search engine.

The Internet has information galore but what hasn't changed is the acute math anxiety in one of my colleagues. She is so math phobic that she has been unable to even fill out the 401K paperwork at my company to start getting this valuable benefit. I tried to explain this to her in very simple language and I even offered to help her to do the paperwork in a gentle and non-threatening way, but still she felt ambivalent.

A lot of women out there have husbands who earn the bulk of the money, while the wives bring in maybe $30-$35,000 a year. They don't feel very committed to their jobs and a lot of times don't envision even being in a job for five years, which is how much time it takes to be 100% vested. That means the company's matching contributions become available to the employee. There are a lot of women out there who are one paycheck away from poverty.

So we have this huge information age and yet the populace seems oddly cut off from it in so many ways.

I read a very uplifting book recently called, Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How to Use It, by Naomi Wolf. It came out around 1993 and it's a powerful commentary on how women are unaccustomed to having and using power.

Women are the majority in this country, and if we even each contributed $24 to a political campaign supporting other women candidates, the "genderquake," as Wolf describes it, would be enormous. This is just politics.

But we have to know the songs we want and be able to spell the artist's names to get the magic jukebox to play. We have to take ourselves seriously and have our own 401K plan going, so we don't just live on a husband's income.

We can be confident as women to use power and to know we have a lot more of it than we did in 1970.

This exercise of power and money forces politicians to change. They may be the usual good old boys, but if women band together to make change, they'll go along with it.

Naomi Wolf mentioned a surprising statistic. She said that women don't ask for higher salaries. When companies don't want women to apply for a particular job, they simply raise the salary higher -- more men then apply, but women become afraid of all that money.

One thing I've learned as a lesbian is that I don't really care what men think of women and I'm not all that interested in what straight women think of me. I want to go forward and find the allies I enjoy and I'll leave the homophobic types behind. It doesn't matter that most of the straight population has no idea how to ally with a despised minority. It makes no difference that most straight people are even unaware of the discrimination going on all around them.

It's about choice and my desire to have a lot of control over my life and income. I had to go up to the magic jukebox and find the right song for me. In fact, I got tired of the rap music and top 40s boring tunes one night and so I decided to find The Sound of Music. I put that theme on and right away several women came up to me to complain. I just smiled, and said, "You can play anything you want." Suddenly, they realized that, "Hey, their music was driving me nuts all evening," and yet I had not bothered to complain. I simply added my own songs to the mix.

That's what women can do. Women can add their own power and songs to the mix.
The more money you use to support the world you want, the more songs you choose, and the more retirement plans you engage, the more you too will feel powerful.

Women can unite for the good of women worldwide. We don't even have to agree on abortion or other "hot button issues." I don't expect straight women to really know much about a radical lesbian intellectual world. But I do expect them to back good women candidates and create a real democracy where majorities of women actually hold majorities in Congress. I expect women to work through their fear of money and power, and go for it.

Can conservative women and radical women unite over the idea of higher pay for women? Yes. Can we unite over our desire for childcare and federal funding for women? Can we make charities give more of their assets to women's and girl's programs, when now they only contribute a pittance. Women give the majority of their incomes to charity far more than men. Men are stingy compared to women.

Women can use their power of the majority to rule, and when they do this, those conservative men will just back away and change. They won't be able to deny women once they control the Judiciary Committee. You won't see those smirks on conservative male Supreme Court nominees any longer. You won't have just one woman on that committee having to deal with the arrogance of a male majority.

There is the magic jukebox for women. All you have to do is put your dollars in and everyone will dance to your tune.