Thursday, October 21, 2021

What FREEDOM means to Peggy Jaeger

 This month's topic is FREEDOM, a word by its very definition that can be a lightning rod for heated debate. Because of this, I chose to write about what freedom -- in my eyes-- means to me - and should mean to all of us.

1. The right to make my own decisions about my body, my finances, and my political party. 

I was born in the century where women first were granted the right to vote, given access to medical and safe birth control, and allowed to possess credits cards. That last one may sound weird, but up until 1974, married women were not allowed to possess credit cards since they were still considered by major companies as property of their husbands, and thereby fell under their husbands' reign. The EQUAL CREDIT OPPORTUNITY ACT of 1974 granted married women the right to obtain credit cards separately from their husbands. This, in turn, granted them reign over their own finances.

2. The right to read what I want, watch what I want on television and in the movie theatre, and listen to the kind of music I want.

I also grew up in an era that saw many states ban certain books from schools and libraries because they were considered salacious and potentially damaging to school-age children ( and some adults!) The list of the most banned books of the 20th century can be found here: banned books. I am proud to say I have read every single one of them.

In 1968, a voluntary movie rating system was instituted to help parents decide if a movie was appropriate for their children to see. I was 8 at the time.  

In 1975, the television academy began programming shows geared toward families, called the Family hour. This one hour of programming each night was meant for television shows to refrain from violence, foul language, and sexual content. I was 15 at the time. 

In 1985 warning labels began appearing on records ( the vinyl kind!) indicating that the lyrics or subject matter of the songs within the album may not be appropriate for children.  I was 25 at the time.

I am 61 years old now and thankfully, none of those restrictions apply to me any longer. I have grown into an age where I can read, watch, and listen to whatever I want without any governmental or parental interference. I am free to explore the artistic side of nature without restrictions. 

3. The right to think the way I want to think and to say what's on my mind without threat of punishment.

Again, until recently, women were expected to think and vote the same way their husbands did. In the past, if a woman's opinion differed from her husband's - or society in general - her husband could have her  arrested, prosecuted, and jailed. 

The advent of the Women's Movement of the 1960s proved women had thinking, functioning, logical minds and could make their own decisions without the need for a man to oversee or man-splain issues to them. Women began speaking out on topics historically only vetted by men. Our voices grew louder and stronger and today there are more women representing others in government than at any other time. While shouting FIRE in a crowded space is still illegal ( and should be) we are now afforded the right to speak our minds, protest peacefully, and engage in verbal discourse without the threat of being incarcerated for having an opinion.

4. The freedom to be who I am and live the life I want to without censure, threat of violence, or death.

If we've learned anything since this country was founded, it's that all people ARE NOT created equally in the eyes of society. The disenfranchised among us continues to grow daily; children are mistreated and abused; the elderly are warehoused; people of color are killed in the streets for no other reason than they are not caucasian. The indigenous people of this country are treated as non-entities. Veterans are forgotten.

To be a truly free nation, none of the above would occur. 

Freedom, through my eyes and in my mind, means we are all truly EQUAL in society, government, and everyday life. No matter what color our skin is, what our religious beliefs are, where we fall in the voting spectrum, and how much money we have.

Our government sends our military all over the world to fight for the rights of people to experience freedom.

Wouldnt it be wonderful if that fight began here, on our home soil, and with our own citizens, first?

Peggy Jaeger writes about strong women, the families who support them, and the men who can't live without them.

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Sadira Stone said...

Excellent post, Peggy! A friend acted in a play a few years back about a woman who was jailed by her preacher husband for daring to speak aloud her disagreement with his hellfire & brimstone approach to theology. He had her thrown in a madhouse, and her legal battle to be released led to reforms in the laws that made such abuses possible. Hard to fathom today. It's so important we not take our freedoms for granted.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Great post, Peggy! I remember when the school board of the town next to ours banned the Harry Potter books "because they promoted witchcraft". I'll bet none of the people who voted had actually read one of the books. Even though I think of Texas as the Southwest, it is still in the South and some church denominations are way back in the middle ages as far as personal freedom is concerned. Thankfully, my church is not one of those.

Judith Ashley said...

Peggy, great post! I had to delay my student teaching in 1963 until my son was born because a woman could not be pregnant and teach. She would be a bad influence or some such incomprehensible thinking on the children in her classroom. Of course a pregnant mom could come to school for a teacher conference, PTA, etc.

Regarding the finances? It was also a way to prevent women from divorcing their husbands, keeping them financially tied. I did get a divorce in 1968 and was grateful a gasoline company and a bank granted me credit. Of course I was a college graduate (the gasoline company had sent everyone in my class an application and without knowing the future, I did complete it and get the card in my name. The bank? Well, my dad was an officer in one of the major banks. He co-signed for me.

Yeah, I do remember all those landmarks in your post and am so very grateful they are currently in our past. The younger people of today, especially women, can't imagine not having them and because of that are at times not as focused on keeping them as I am.

Paty Jager said...

Good post, Peggy.

peggy jaeger said...

Sadira - it's incomprehensible to women under 25 that these things existed, but exist they did. I never take my FREEDOMS for granted because of this and VOTE every single chance I can! Thanks for stopping by

peggy jaeger said...

Caroline - I never cease to be amazed by the small mindedness of certain people. If people didn't live in fear of the unknown so much, but actually attempted to find out about things the world would be in a lot less trouble than it is! Thanks for stopping by.

peggy jaeger said...

Judith - it always amazes me why women didn't stand up for themselves sooner than they did. My mother was divorced in 1962 and she couldn't even rent an apartment without three people to cosign for her ( and one had to be a man) and never got a credit card until the 1970's. Women under 25 just dont understand this kind of struggle. If they did, more of them would vote for change.

peggy jaeger said...

Paty - thanks for your kind words.

Judy Ann Davis said...

Wonderful post. You nailed it. I clearly remember the credit card dilemma. I tried to get a Sears card, but was refused. I had to get my husband to co-sign. I can't believe that women are still struggling for some of their freedoms, and it's 2021.

peggy jaeger said...

Judy Ann - I can't believe that either!! Every time we make a strode something and someone comes along to knock us back again. his is why I am such a powerful believer in VOTING! Thanks for the kind words and encouragement!

Diana McCollum said...

Excellent post!

peggy jaeger said...

Diana - thank you!

Marcia King-Gamble said...

I loved reading this post. It's so very true. Freedom took a long time coming to women and it's not quite there for many ethnic groups.

peggy jaeger said...

Marcia - isn't it sad in this day and age that's still true??? i cry when I think of all the strides we have made and that are now in jeopardy. VOTING is the only way to ensure them. Thanks for stopping by and for the words of encouragement

Maggie Lynch said...

Great post, Peggy! I'm old enough to remember the holdovers from women being not full citizens. It wasn't only getting a credit card, but also financing a mortgage, and--as you pointed out--signing an apartment lease. There were also many decisions about women's health care that doctors didn't think they were capable of making. I remember a surgeon telling me to hurry and get married before he'd do a hysterectomy (even though I had uterine cancer) because if any man knew I couldn't have children I'd never get married. I found a different surgeon. That was in 1976!

Freedom is only there if we step up and fight/vote to keep it. All the laws and legislation passed don't mean a thing if people can refuse to follow the law and suffer no consequences. We keep seeing that played out for many groups in this country (depending on where you live, your economic and ethnic background, and your gender) and around the world.

I have seen progress since the 1960s, but I've also seen a lot of backsliding too. We must VOTE on EVERY issue, not just on big elections that get a lot of national press and money. We must VOTE on every city, county, and state ballot--every initiative and every leader from the local water manager to the city, county, state, and national leaders. If we don't take the time to VOTE, we will only be able to watch it all erode and then wonder how did we not see what was happening.

peggy jaeger said...

Maggie - that's always been my takeaway with events such as we are experiencing today: VOTE. For everything. I even vote for dog catcher because in the town we used to live in, the man who was running for DC was a euthanist - he believed in killing to keep the population down!!!!