The great Chicago philosopher of the 1980’s, Ferris Bueller, said: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
While reading the new book, “From Property to Partner: Women’s Progress and Political Resistance,” I found myself thinking about Bueller’s famous quote. No, the book is not about skipping school, but the value it provides to the largest part of the current political moment America is experiencing is context. The challenges women face in 2023 America should not be viewed in isolation, but as a part of an important journey, we would all be better off understanding.
The authors behind ‘From Property to Partner’
Sheila Suess Kennedy and Morton Marcus are prolific Hoosier writers. I generally read whatever they write. Their differing skill sets and perspectives is what makes this collaboration particularly interesting to me.
Kennedy is an attorney, Emerita Professor of Law and Public Policy at the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University Indianapolis, and a former Executive Director of Indiana’s ACLU. Her daily blog at www.sheilakennedy.net on policy, culture and politics is one of the city’s most read.
Marcus is an economist and former director of the Indiana Business Research Center at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. He currently co-hosts a popular podcast, “Who Gets What?”, and writes a long-running column on economic issues concerning Indiana and the nation.
I’m a feminist. Sometimes that is uncomfortable or awkward for men to proclaim or even admit. But I have long held the belief that the collective prosperity of any community or culture depends on the liberation and equity of each demographic component in it. This book does an excellent job of explaining the differences between “liberation” and “equity” regarding women, but also providing the context America needs to understand what that means for everyone.
Last year’s regressive U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs is the first one of its kind in that it reversed an existing constitutional right. It would simply be obtuse to see that decision in a vacuum; that it only harmed women and only women who may one day seek healthcare that is no longer legally available. It is much larger than that.
I asked the authors why they wrote the book, a question that for book authors, never comes with a simple answer. Kennedy said, “We wrote it to trace the trajectory of women’s emergence…to document the journey and the changes in the culture that we believe will ultimately defeat the frantic resistance of the White Nationalist patriarchy.”
What? I thought this was all about women. It is. But women’s rights are human rights, and “Property to Partner” traces what that means for all of us. That “resistance” to which Kennedy refers is often described passively or as an afterthought by others today, and only as it relates to women. It shouldn’t be.
FiveThirtyEight.com is appropriately cited with the thought, “The anti-abortion movement, at its core, has always been about upholding white supremacy.” The two movements are impossible to separate, and both, if successful, end in the same place: with the centuries-long emergence of the economic, cultural and social equity of women and minority races not only stalled but reversed.
The authors add data from Pew Research: “Polling suggests that most Americans recognize that there is more work to do, and want that progress to continue, but survey research also tells us that three in ten men believe women’s advancement has come at their expense.” This is important in that this “expense” is perpetuated out of the ignorance of the societal value of the advancement itself.
Marcus’s answer to me about his reason for writing the book comes in that tone. “Today’s fight by women for their private rights, is the forerunner of everyone’s future battle for those rights against archaic forces entrapped by the arrogance of ignorance.”
The diversity of historic thought of the authors is what makes the collaboration, and the book, credible. They use different data, speak from their different life experiences, and still conclude similar things.
The final chapter of the book, titled “When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” is also how Kennedy answered my question about the book’s purpose. She added, “the GOP’s effort to take America back to the days when women were property is not making mama happy.”
The book successfully documents how access to contraceptive and reproductive freedom has led to the broad equity women have today. Advocating for turning back is clearly an exercise exclusively attractive only for the ignorant.
As Bueller advises, the journey has moved pretty fast. Read “From Property to Partner” if you don’t want to miss it.