Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Woman's Place

There is so much happening these days that directly relate to how we value, or devalue, women in our country and our culture. I don't want this to turn into a rant, but I do want to highlight some of the thoughts I've been having about feminism, what it is or isn't.

I'm a feminist. I'm not ashamed to say it. As a feminist I look at all people, male and female, as equal and deserving of the same respect and equal treatment. I don't hate men.

I do see vast inequities, and have seen them for all my life. (And I'm old!) And for much of my youth I didn't know that it didn't have to be that way. I was raised in a male dominated culture with all male, white male I'm afraid, images in positions of power and leadership. Every institution was patriarchal in its structure. And even when it didn't feel right to be treated as "less than" I felt helpless to do anything about it.

And yet I had strong women as mother and grandmother. They made their way in the world by overcoming the hardships created by the men in their lives. They never gave up. And they would not have considered themselves as feminists. But my grandmother marched for the right to vote. And my mother campaigned for better educational opportunities for boys AND girls. Even though they both endured oppressive marriages, they advocated for their children to grow up strong and independent.

But, still, the culture did little to support the independence of girls.Many women around the world are subjected to trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, pornography, educational restrictions, legal challenges, even genital mutilation, all because they were born a girl. More female fetuses are aborted because of their gender. And even if you are thinking that all of this is someplace other than the U.S., you'd be wrong.

And, yes, there is much to be done to free women from these situations around the world. China's one-child policy, while weakened slightly by a few exceptions, includes forced abortions, both surgical and chemical, for those women who conceive "disallowed" children. Genital mutilation may be somewhat rare in the U.S., but there are many countries where it is predominate.

As long as we in the U.S. support the devaluation of women here there won't be a lot of support for helping women elsewhere in the world. Yes, we may think those inhumane practices are bad, if we don't value women we allow ourselves to turn our backs.

The double standard for genders in the U.S. goes from subtle to blatant. High profile women are looked at differently than high profile men. The women are described by how attractive they are or what designer fashion they wear, etc., with little attention to their accomplishments. And the blatant blaming of the female victim of rape for the behavior of the rapist. And, of course, the complaint of Republicans that Hillary Clinton is "playing the woman card".

We need to take a hard look at what message we are sending to our girls. They must be respected for being more than just a body. Raise your awareness by noticing how being female effects how people are perceived. Notice the big deal about being able to recognize if a person is male or female. When someone walks down the street and appears gender neutral, people immediately ask if they are male or female? What makes the difference?

O.K. Enough. I'm done. My hope is that I didn't just rant, that I raised some valid issues. That I gave you something to think about.

Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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