Thursday, August 27, 2009

Woman, Wo-Man, Whoa-Man

Yesterday was Women's Equality Day. I missed it. As with most things in my life, it came at a time when I was already dealing with women's issues, internally if not externally.

I have recently been reminded that there are people who genuinely don't believe in equality for women. I tend to believe that most people who seem fight against it just don't realize how great the divide still is, not that they want women to be oppressed. Occassionally, I am reminded that most is not the same thing as all.

As I listened to this woman speak (yes, woman, I know) about women's issues, I was overcome with a desperate need to tell her. To tell her about laws that prevented women from leaving abusive relationship, that prevented women from prosecuting their rapists, that forced women into marriage before they were old enough to understand what marriage meant. Tell her about customs that mandated that women be treated like property, that women not be allowed to hold property, that widows faced starvation because of their inability to earn a wage. Tell her about lives spent, wasted, lost fighting for women, fighting for our daughters, fighting for a life without fear for women.

But I couldn't. I won't go into detail, but the time and the place was dreadfully wrong and the fact is that I am sure she has heard it.

Looking back at the women who were brutally murdered fighting for our right to vote, to own property, to marry as we please, to seek help when hurt by our spouses, it seems that we have come so far. Virginia Slims ads (does anyone remember these?) used to espouse that "We've come a long way, baby," showing ads and old photographs. They were a look into a cute, nostalgic past. A past that some experienced, and some did not.

It's true, we've come a long way. And my question is, "Does that mean that we stop now?" When Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert, did they say, after 39 years, "We've come a long way, baby and this looks good?" When Clark W. Grisswold drove his family from Chicago to California, did he, without a working car, money or any hope of vacation, say, "We've come a long way, baby, let's go home?"

The fight is not over. The fight will not be over until women earn equal pay for equal work. Until women have as much health care coverage as men. Until women are just as likely to be hired as men. Until women do not make up the lion's share of our nation's poverty. Until child care, and health care, and early childhood education are treated like real issues in this country. Until women can do anything they want, anything they are gifted at, anything that inspires them professionally.

Today, I will remember the holiday that I missed and wonder how much longer a way we have to go. And whether it is possible to reach your destination when some in your party won't admit it exists.

It's not enough to say that we have come a long way when there is still such a long way to go. It's not enough to shrug our shoulders and say that it's better than it was. Our victories must be celebrated, but not the detriment of our future.

What I want for my daughters is for them to never be treated as inferior. For them to follow the life-path that they desire, without fear, resentment or desperation. I want them to earn as much as the men in their same positions, to not feel like a pantsuit and a bun might make them more hireable, to write letters to their congresspeople and fight for their beliefs and know that their opinions are weighed as voters, not as women.

*I just thought I would point out that opinions are like, well, you know the end of that one. It's always easiest to see your point of view and to demonize someone else's. This wasn't meant to be an indictment or an acusation, more a rambling from within.


Suze said...

It would be nice, too, if women like me were paid for the work we do. Childcare,'s so demeaning to be treated like you're "not working" just because you're not earning money. I think I work bloody hard! For no money! And no vacation!
Thanks for this post. We really do have a long way to go.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

There is a series of books I love that is set in the future. In this series, marriage can be between two people who love each other, regardless of what genitalia they happen to have, healthcare is universal, and women with children can claim "professional mother" status, and draw a steady wage. If only, if only....

Jessi said...

Jenn - What are the books? You know I'm a huge sci-fi geek and this sounds right up my alley.

Strangeite said...

Last night at dinner, I was asking my daughter Sophie what she did at school that day. She responded by saying that she "Played on the playground." Following up, I asked her what she played and she said "I went down the slide!" with a big smile on her face. I then asked if she played on the swings, and she answered, "No. It is too hard. The boys play on the swings."

It was at that point that I felt a gremlin rise in my chest and I began to understand why my Uncle Robert is the most militant feminist I know (he has 3 daughters).

I wanted to immediately get up from the table and march Sophie down to the swing set so she could practice. To hell with the idea that she thinks the swings are too hard for her, especially if some stupid boys can do it.

Of course I knew that she is a little afraid of the swings unless her mommy or daddy are there to push her and that she loves the slide almost as much as she loves "It's a Small World". If she had just said the swings are too hard, I probably would have just let it go, knowing that eventually she will get over her fear of the swings, but it was the comment that "The boys play on the swings," that got to me.

In the end, I knew it was mostly my problem and not hers, so I just calmly stated that "Sophie, anything a boy can do, you can do better."

(And I am still disappointed in my wife for not chiming in at that point singing "Sophie can do anything better than boys. Yes you can.)

Jessi said...

I do think it's interesting how much more "feminist" I am since having my kids.

Brynna sometimes gets the idea that she can't play with something because it's a "boy toy." It makes me really upset and I have to reign myself in like you were saying. She doesn't want to play with trucks and her life won't be improved by her being forced to play with trucks. But I sure wish she'd stop saying she CAN'T play with trucks.

Anonymous said...

One thing I love about my school is when the Practical Life teacher puts the jewelry box on the shelf and lets anybody who wants to choose that work do it.

Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

You'll laugh at me when I tell you what book series, Jessi! It's the "In Death" series by J.D. Robb (real name: Nora Roberts). The first book is "Naked in Death". There's a gazillion of them, but they are so good, and snarky, and funny (not to mention steamy!)