February 23 - March 1, 1995

[Eighth Day]

CINDERELLA COMPLEX: Once upon a time there were a lot of women who thought princes on white horses were going to pull up to their duplexes and whisk them away from their papasan chairs, hot-air popcorn machines and nylon berber carpets. Problem is, once upon a time is now, and women are still having a hard time emerging from the pumpkin.

In the state of Arizona there are currently 245,000 displaced homemakers, an increase of 83 percent since 1980, notes Diane Wilson, head of PHASE, the Project for Homemakers in Arizona Seeking Employment, an organization which helped 125 women get job skills and employment last year and funded 30 women at Pima Community College for a year--all on $113,000.

"But these women need to take responsibility for themselves," a college-going woman urged at a recent women's conference, where Wilson presented her standard "Cinderella Myth" speech. Ooh, I thought, '90s anti-victim rhetoric. Fact is, says Wilson, women continue to buy into the castle, and like it or not, need help. PHASE's average client is 42 years old, has two kids, comes in at poverty level, if that, and has been out of the job market for 10 years. Some never worked and have no recent job skills. Many don't know how to fill out a job application.

Unfortunately, Cinderella is one of those sweet tales that remains attractive. Wilson works with young teen parents who still think a man will come along to rescue them. She says don't ignore the problem and offer change at ground zero; beginning in first grade girls need to think about careers and be exposed to non-traditional role models and experiences in their schools.

And family support would help. Acting out the ultimate cliché, my traditional father told me girls didn't need college, but I could attend a two-year school because it might take a prince that long to find me. Instead, my mother dragged me to a bunch of four-year colleges, told me to pick one and get an education, because, she said, "You're going to need it." Right again, Ma.

PHASE needs more funding, as do the other two local programs which served 125 women apiece in 1994. The are the Adult Vocational Training Project and Pima College Women in Progress Program. Together they helped 375 women last year in Pima County. But that figure is but the toe of the glass slipper.

House Bill 2346, authored by the Arizona Coalition for Displaced Homemakers, would tag $15 onto the price of a $33 marriage license to raise $500,000 statewide to begin dealing with the problem. It's a great idea--doesn't tap into the general fund and doesn't sting. And, as Wilson says, "We thought that was a good place to get the funds because that's where the potential for a displaced homemaker begins."

How true. If this passes--and we can't imagine why it wouldn't--the $48 dollar license to love will still be $66 cheaper than the fee you pay when you file for divorce.

--Hannah Glasston

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February 23 - March 1, 1995

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