A Woman's Place Is...In The Winner's Circle

A Woman’s Place Is…..In The Winner’s Circle……For the Common Good - February 16, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

The sun rose in the east as domino players from the region and across the country gathered in Carnegie, Oklahoma this month for the 70th replaying of the World Championship Domino Tournament. Competitors began filtering in for coffee hours before the games were to begin.  Old friendships were renewed as players like eight-time champs Max Bender of Lawton and Jim Hulsey of Weatherford strolled in.  Bender ducked out of college classes in the 1960’s to play in his first tournament and has been present every year since.

Despite subfreezing temperatures, people continued to congregate as the Carnegie Herald’s list of past champions became the focal point of conversation and recollection. Surprisingly, the roster contained several names of people that I have known through the years.  Two-time champions Robert Farmer from Minco and Randall Jackson from Pocasset. I was proud as I saw the name of two-time champion Edwin Horton.  Uncle Ed was my mom’s brother and Max Bender referred to him as the best domino player he had ever known.  That is a pretty heady compliment coming from a man who had won 8 of the nearly 50 straight tournaments that he had attended.

Dominoes is a game that represents an indispensable slice of Americana. Non-players often scoff at the “waste of time,” however, players and their families know that those 28 tiles represent more than a game.  As surely as there are degrees in the Masonic Lodge and colored belts in martial arts, competence in dominoes is gradual, engrained and respected.  On the simplest level, novices learn that “you don’t score if you can’t make the spots add up to multiples of five.” Shortly comes the realization that “opponents don’t score if you can keep their spots from adding up to multiples of five.” Many players do not progress further.  However, those on the roster of past winners are Masters who attained the intellectual equivalent of a black belt, taking a comprehension of the game to levels that amaze the rest of us.

Yes, the sun came up in the east and set in the west, just like it when it was first won by a team of Native Americans in 1967 when Sports Illustrated covered the tournament.  Likewise, the sun traveled east to west in 2013 when the winners were African American. This year, the final match pitted Leisha Barber of Denison, Texas and Tammy Garrett of Calera against C.B. Cox of Anchorage, Alaska and Oliver Kern of Cache.  When the final point was tallied, the 2014 Champions were the all-female team of Barber and Garrett. 

My, how times have changed at the oldest continuous World Championship of Dominoes.  However, gender based pay inequality still exists across America.  A few years ago, job listings in the newspaper were separated by gender. It was legal to pay women less than men. Banks legally denied married women credit or loans. We have seen some improvement as we encounter women doctors, lawyers and college professors.  Three women are now United States Supreme Court Justices and we have had three female Secretaries of State. More recently, a woman, Janet Yellen, now serves as the chairman of the Federal Reserve.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, when the 1963 Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President Kennedy, women were earning an average of 59 cents on the dollar compared to men. While women hold nearly half of today's jobs, and their earnings account for a significant portion of the household income sustaining the financial well-being of their families, they are still experiencing a gap in pay compared to men's wages for similar work.

 The Women’s National Law Center says American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts and in Oklahoma, a woman makes 76.2 cents for every dollar a man makes.  Unfortunately, African American women earn only 62.9 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes and Hispanic women earn only 49.3 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man makes.

We cannot turn our back on the women – widowed, divorced, or single -- who can’t draw on a second income from a man.  We cannot rest as long as 70% of the nation’s poor are women and children.  This travesty is not about glass ceilings, it is about all the women who are glued to the sticky floor of dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and no health insurance, women who, at the end of each month, have to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or feed their children.

The Domino Tournament is history for another year.  Through the years the championship has been claimed by minorities and women and the sun still comes up in the east.  It will continue to do so even if we do the right thing and make sure that women receive equal pay for equal work.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or eMail me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.