Copyright © 2003 Henrietta W. Hay
December 5, 2003
I had coffee this morning with Amanda, age one. She turned down the
coffee but nibbled on various goodies. She sat very quietly and
seriously and appeared to be listening intently to the conversation.
We got to talking about what kind of a world she will be living in when
she is 21. She shows signs of being a beautiful woman, so our first
thought was to shut her in a box at 12 and not let her out until she has
grown out of her teens. That's a good idea, but I don't think it is
What kind of a world will we have in 20 years? John McPhee, writing in
the New Yorker, discusses the dangers of the subject. "William Shawn,
this magazine's editor...used to tell his nonfiction writers that the
world's worst subject was the future. Hard to tie down, the future
could too easily come loose and take off on unexpected vectors....He
later modified his position slightly, informing me that the future was
actually the second worst subject in the world, the first being the Loch
So I will skip the Loch Ness Monster and wonder about the future which
She will be in college somewhere. Will she be an intellectual or a
dramatist or a scientist or an athlete?
Or maybe she will be a computer expert. Whatever her major she will
have to understand and use computers. Even Bill Gates can't predict
what the electronic world will be like in twenty years. Who knows,
computers may have replaced thinking entirely.
One thing I feel pretty certain of is that it will still be an unequal
playing field for women. It has been over 30 years since the current
women's movement got started in the U. S. and still we have not achieved
equality. Will Amanda and her generation continue to fight the battle?
The glass ceiling will probably still be there. Just last week the
Government Accounting Office released a report showing that women still
earn 20% less than men, almost exactly what they earned in 1983. The
earnings gap has not shrunk in two decades and it probably won't in the
If -- and I hate to say this -- George W. Bush gets a second term, the
chances are good that women's reproductive freedom will be taken from
them. With four more years he would try to pack the Supreme Court with
the specific goal of reversing Roe v. Wade. And if the Radical Right
continues to gain power, Amanda will have lost a number of other
personal rights that we have gained today.
But politically Amanda may have a chance for public office if she is
interested in politics. As they get experience in local and state
offices, women are gaining numbers in Congress. I do profoundly hope we
will have a woman president long before she gets to college -- maybe by
the time she hits the 1st grade. And by the time she is 21 maybe she
can choose between two female candidates. Well, we can dream.
For her 21st birthday maybe she can take a trip to the Space Station.
Some big corporation will probably be running shuttles by then. She
will be able to
see the damage we are doing to our planet, but at night the lights will
shine around the world. Of course, her parents will have to be able to
pay for the trip.
It is going to be a different world Amanda will find when she gets to
be 21. Women may have been pushed back to their position in the 20th
century, or they may have achieved their place as true equals.
I think maybe the New Yorker editor is right and the Loch Ness Monster
is safer to write about than the future.
But whatever Amanda's future, we wish her well.