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Use Your Power October 1 and Then Every Day in Some Small Way

Women have so much more economic power than we even realize. Every day we make decisions about what to buy for ourselves and our family, how to stretch a budget, what can stay and what needs to go, and how to get the most for our money. Every day we affect huge economic change. This is a far cry from my mother's generation.
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A younger woman of my acquaintance recently asked me to answer some questions for a class she is taking. She wanted an "authority on women's issues." I am no authority but as a longtime feminist who is always writing about women's issues, I was happy to answer her questions.

Her first query: What challenges do you think women face today? made me pause. I wished I could have said that each year, each generation, brings new challenges for women. But the truth is that we are mostly fighting the same battles we have been fighting for the past hundred years. Yes, we can vote now, we can keep our children if there is a divorce, we can hold on to our own money when we marry, we can go to college, and since 1973 we have some control over how many children we have and when.

But every day women in this country are still raped and sexually assaulted; they are still harassed at work and on the street, they still make less money than their male counterparts. Every day women are subjected to male ideas of beauty and desirability. And each week new challenges arise to the rights we have fought so hard for. Men in power are still trying to take away our right to power over our bodies and therefore our right to economic freedom.

Yet there is good news, too.

Women have so much more economic power than we even realize. Every day we make decisions about what to buy for ourselves and our family, how to stretch a budget, what can stay and what needs to go, and how to get the most for our money. Every day we affect huge economic change. This is a far cry from my mother's generation. When my mother married it was 1953 and she followed her husband to a small Southern town where he had work. She was expected to stay home and take care of the kids. And she did. But today? According to The Economist's Guide to Womenomics, "In 1950 only one-third of American women of working age had a paid job. Today two-thirds do, and women make up almost half of America's workforce."

The Harvard Business Review claims that "women now drive the world economy. Globally, they control about $20 trillion in annual consumer spending, and that figure could climb as high as $28 trillion in the next five years. Their $13 trillion in total yearly earnings could reach $18 trillion in the same period. In aggregate, women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined -- more than twice as big, in fact. Given those numbers, it would be foolish to ignore or underestimate the female consumer."

In fact, according to some studies, "While male incomes have remained rather flat over the past 30 years, adjusted for inflation, women's incomes have grown exponentially." Women buy more cars than men, more books, and purchase half of all movie tickets. And yet we still usually don't make as much money as men. Yet. But it is coming. Because it has to. A 2007 Goldman Sachs report says, "Closing the gap between male and female employment rates would have huge implications for the global economy, boosting U.S. GDP by as much as 9%, Eurozone GDP by 13%, and Japanese GDP by 16%." Imagine!

Here are some statistics from Time Magazine -- 89 percent of both men and women are comfortable with the notion of a family in which a woman earns more than a man. Seventy-four percent of men and 71 percent of women reject the notion that women need to behave more like men to be taken seriously in the workplace. Seventy-one percent of men say they are more comfortable than their fathers with women working outside the home. Seventy percent of women say they are less financially dependent on their spouse than their mothers were.

Still it is also true that: "Women in America are more likely to be poor than men. Over half of the 37 million Americans living in poverty today are women. And women in America are further behind than women in other countries -- the gap in poverty rates between men and women is wider in America than anywhere else in the Western world."

So what do we do with the economic power we have now and how do we make sure that we don't give up the gains we have made? We take our power into our hands. We use it to make people aware.

Sparked by writer and activist Amy Ferris, a small group of women and I are beginning a movement which we hope will grow year to year.

On October 1, we propose women in America stay away from the stores, the shops, the online shopping sights. Put away your wallet, hide your credit card. Use the money you have to make a statement. Do not shop. Do not buy. For one day only show the world your strength, your numbers, your power. People will listen. Money talks.

#NotBuyingAnyOfIt

(Portions of this article appeared in The Broad Side)