Obit of the Day: Gender (and Racial) Equality and the Obits
So after I saw this I ran the numbers for OOTD for 2012, through December 12. I have posted 311 times this year on human beings. (Some animals, brands, and organizations were not in the count.)
I posted about women 68 times. That is 21% of my posts.
I’ve thought about this over the last 2 1/2 years as I’ve posted on women and people of color. At the heart of this is the long history of discrimination against women and people of color in the United States. This is not an excuse, but an explanation. (We too often confuse the two.)
If we assume the average age of people dying is general 78-80 that means most people who died this year were born between 1932-1934. When they reached their 20s and 30s, the time when a vast majority of people begin to make their impact (large or small) on society that would be in the early 1950s and 1960s.
Although feminist and civil rights groups were coming into their own within that twenty year span, women and people of color still would have found their roles limited within U.S. society. If you think there is a paucity in African American of female CEOs now, imagine fifty-five years ago.
In a quick scan of my 2012 obits most people of color were either a) athletes, b) soldiers (Navajo Code Talkers and Tuskeegee Airmen), or c) pioneers (the first black Supreme Court page). (For women, I have a lot of homemakers, artists, and pioneers.) If society, through racism and sexism, keeps individuals within designated spheres of influence then when they pass away their influence is not felt.
When Generation X (my generation, ftr) begins to pass away in droves, likely beginning in the 2040s/2050s, I will guarantee that these same bar graphs will even out. (Not be even, I recognize there is not literal gender or racial equality.)
Remember that we are (grim) reaping the results of decades of sexism and racism that kept minority groups from reaching their potential in the fields of their choice. The omission of women and people of color on the obituary pages says as much about the history of the United States as does their inclusion.
If a notable woman dies and a major national newspaper doesn’t report it, did it actually happen?