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Women’s Rights. Right, Women?

This week news agencies around the world reported on the sale of $91M worth of stock by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. Apparently this financial move was noteworthy not only because of the gross dollar amount involved but also because it required the unloading of a mere fraction of her holdings in the company. Reports mentioned how many shares she has already sold, how many more she still holds, her illustrious background, her impressive education, and the book she has on the best sellers list. Refreshingly, I read nothing that made a big deal of, let alone registered shock at, the fact that she is a woman.  To quote the iconic Virginia Slims cigarette ads of the late 1960’s, “You’ve come a long way baby!”

However, I was left to wonder if Ms. Sandberg would have any difficulties buying property here in Anguilla. I pondered this question because years ago, just before we arrived in Anguilla, a successful, single woman wanted to buy land near ours. (Yes, I now know that Ms. Sandberg herself is married but let’s carry on with my point.) According to her tales of the process, the powers that be on island nearly denied this other woman’s Alien Landholding License Application simply because they honestly could not believe that she, as a woman and a single one to boot, could possibly have the financial and personal wherewithal to purchase and then to develop the property (i.e. build a house).

Another friend told me what happened when she went to the bank one day to withdraw funds from the joint account she held with her husband. I don’t remember exactly how much money was involved but it strikes me that it was somewhere around $5000US. So not just grocery shopping money but also not fleeing to a life of luxury on the French Riviera kind of funds either. Much to her amazement, the teller would not hand over the dough without first calling her husband on the phone to verify that he knew what she was up to!

Now lest you think that these are old stories from a bygone era, let me explain what transpired some months ago when I was called to Court to post bail for a friend. I signed the forms. I swore on the Bible to tell the truth. I slipped the female judge a confidential note showing the balance of my on island bank accounts. I outlined my real estate holdings and my long-standing residence status. But when everything was said and done and it looked like we were good to go, the judge asked me one last question: Were any of my assets held individually or were they all held jointly with my husband?

Well, I have always been a ‘my money is your money and your money is my money’ kind of wife. As a result, the judge insisted that I go home and haul my husband out of his sick bed where he lay crippled with a ruptured cervical disk (or two as it ultimately turned out at surgery) to come into Court, to sit around and wait for us to get back to my friend’s case, to contort himself in all bizarre fashion to effectively swear on said Bible, to simply state yes to the question of whether or not it was OK for me to post bail for my friend. Sure, perhaps this always happens in spite of the fact that the attorney did not foresee the issue. Perhaps, had it been my husband posting bail for one of his friends; the judge would have required him to bring me in to give my consent.  Perhaps. Obviously I can’t prove this one way or another without requesting another friend to cause trouble with the law, but I remain skeptical that this would, in fact, be the case if the tables had been turned.

So, as one last bit of topical news on the subject, let me offer up a few choice quotes from our elected officials here on island at the most auspicious welcoming of our new British Governor and the first woman to hold that post, Ms. Christina Scott. According to the July 26th edition of The Anguillian newspaper, one official “admonished Her Excellency not to listen to gossip but put his foot in his mouth when he suggested that, being a woman, she will hear lots of gossip”. And another “expressed his wish for a good working relationship with the new Governor. However, in seeking to convey respect for the female gender, [he], fumbling for words, ineloquently stated: “I’m married to a female who is a lady” – and also referenced the indisputable fact that his mother is a woman.”

Lovely. The classic, ‘some of my best friends are women’ dodge. Perhaps we haven’t really come that far after all.

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