Town Supervisor Greg Lazzaro’s resolution to cease funding the National Women’s Hall of Fame is nothing short of an appalling example of exactly why entities like the Women’s Hall of Fame are absolutely critical to our society decades after the Women’s Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The Hall of Fame recognizes the accomplishments of numerous, often otherwise-ignored women who have forged history right alongside men, but have done so in the shadow of male achievement.
It goes without saying that for centuries women’s voices were silenced in any meaningful social or political discourse. We were to “be seen and not heard.” Throughout history, women who chose to speak up and have their voices heard have been met with scathing, even disturbing, backlash. And that reality has in no way dissipated despite the significant progress women have accomplished in recent history (consider, for example the fact that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford had to hire a security detail as a result of the death threats she was still receiving months after testifying against Brett Kavanaugh, https://www.vox.com/2018/11/8/18076154/christine-blasey-ford-threats-kavanaugh-gofundme).
The National Women’s Hall of Fame was born during a time of social strife and political upheaval: the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, the Anti-War Movement, etc. Although its first induction ceremony did not occur until 1975, the founders consider 1968 as the Hall of Fame’s founding year. Throughout the years, the Hall of Fame has honored women of various walks of life, professions, and passions, who have had a profound impact on our Country’s contributions to science, philanthropy, art, government, and, yes, activism. Let us not forget that several National Women’s Hall of Fame inductees were recognized for their disregard for social norms, expectations, and even laws. Many of these women, from Susan B. Anthony to Coretta Scott King, made their mark by disobeying, rebelling, and, if you will, warring against the social, economic and political structures that kept them–kept us–out of the conversation.
Is it a requirement to be worthy of induction at the Hall of Fame that everyone approve of every cause behind which prominent female members of our society stand?
No. Consider, for example, the recent spectacle in which Angela Davis, a fellow 2019 inductee, was awarded, and then stripped of before receiving, and then re-awarded the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award because of her pro-Palestine beliefs.
As the old adage goes: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
Am I comparing Ms. Fonda to Susan B. Antony, Coretta Scott King, or any of the other women inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame?
Each woman is an individual. A singular voice who has touched our lives, our history, our world in a unique way.
Am I saying that Ms. Fonda’s anti-war antics involving posing for a picture with an anti-aircraft weapon are right or good or worthy of praise?
Let me repeat that: Ms. Fonda’s decision to pose with a weapon used to shoot down American aircrafts is not something to be praised. The Vietnam War had a devastating effect on our Country, on our people. Some of our young men came home in pieces, literally and figuratively shattered from what they endured so far from home. The effects of the war on those men and their loved ones can never be fully comprehended. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
However, was it treason? This question, and, more broadly, the use of the term “treason” to describe actions of protest has always been tricky. Oftentimes the fight for justice, for equality, for inclusion, has involved accusations of “treason.” Sometimes, it is justified. But looking back on some of those social justice warriors accused of “the crime of betraying one’s country,” it can be difficult to get behind the accusations.
Even more, doesn’t our Country value Freedom more than almost anything else? The freedom to live as we like, believe what we want, praise who we choose and say what we feel? Isn’t the freedom of expression memorialized in arguably the most important document on which this Nation was built?
The point is–well, there are several points. First of all, Mr. Lazzaro’s resolution to defund the National Women’s Hall of Fame feels a bit too “I’m going to take my ball and go home.”
Except that the funds used to support the Hall of Fame are not his. Second, the “home” he should be representing as Town Supervisor of Seneca Falls should be Seneca Falls. The National Women’s Hall of Fame is an attraction that makes Seneca Falls, a historically significant site, a destination. Just this year, the Women’s March in Seneca Falls drew hundreds, maybe thousands, of people, not to mention the support, attention and participation of influential men and women from all over.
Mr. Lazarro’s stunt is an example of what happens when women step out of line. Was Ms. Fonda out of line when she did what she did in 1972? Yes. Unequivocally. And she has since recognized her error. Just last year, she apologized, stating that:
“I am just so sorry that I was thoughtless enough to sit down on that gun at that time. The message that sends to the guys that were there and their families, it’s horrible for me to think about that … Sometimes I think, ‘Oh I wish I could do it over’ because there are things I would say differently now.”
The point is that pulling funding from an entity that has recognized an honored so many influential and impactful women who stand for ideals ranging from outstanding military service to educating the poorest of our Nation’s children, to the right of virtually half of the Country’s population to cast a vote in our elections, because he disagrees with a mistake that one potential inductee made almost 50 years ago is nothing short of a disgrace.
– Gabriela E. Wolfe
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