As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Thoughts in Response to a Forum Thread I Once Ran Into

This is a post I've written in response to a forum discussion about the fact that, even with progress having been made, women today still don't have equal power in this world.

The title of the thread is, "I'd Hate to Be A Woman".
The OP (original poster, for those who don't frequent online forums) pointed out that the intent of the thread (discussion, again for those who don't frequent forums and know "forum terminology") was intended to start a discussion about the fact that many women don't view themselves as more than "second-class citizens".

That thread aside, I've recently become aware of a few authors who suggest that the reason women have taken so long to become "first-class citizens" (at least in more ways than some of them may have, or at least in higher numbers than many have) is the fault of women, themselves.

This post is a matter of responding to that thread, and then some. The first part of what follows is my direct (and inspired by that discussion) response. The latter part of what follows is more the "then some".

Here's the response to the discussion:

The OP's premise here is very much centered on how others (particularly over history and not necessarily in the present) view and treat women. Today, women do still deal with people who view women with ignorance, aggression, and an oppressive attitude (but women aren't the only group who deal with that, and men are in some of those groups as well).

Who we are, and whether we like who we are, isn't about how others view us or treat us. That's about others. Who we are and whether we like who we are is about us - not others. Those of us (women or men) who know that what we are is well worth respect and value, and who know that we are often/can be equal and/or better than a lot of other people (men or women) in a lot of ways, place value on what we are and generally like what we are for those things.

The questions posted:

"Why don't women vote for women?

A:   Many women have been raised to actually believe women aren't capable of high office. Also, there are a lot of men women won't vote for either. A lot of people don't like the choices that are put out there and choose the least of two "evils".

Why are gynecologists in the western world mostly men?
Why is equality taking so long?

A:   I'm guessing there are several reasons related to how the school systems haven't always valued girls, women not wanting jobs that involve being in call, and maybe even women not finding the specialty a particularly "life-saving" one (as compared to other medical specialties). Either way, that's an isolated point/issue that doesn't reflect the larger picture women face.

Why are most religions trying to demean women?

A:   "Ages-old ignorance and believing words that written by men who thought the way men thought thousands of years ago (and THEN - scaring everyone else into thinking if they don't believe those words they're going to hell).
Why do women in the first world not stand up for women in the third world?

A:   Give examples of how you would propose more women do that, and consider the reasons many men don't seem to be able to do much for women (or men or children) in third-world countries either.

Why are there no purely female issues or parties in politics"

A:   In a fairly enlightened country, most people view all areas of politics as "human areas" (either "family-related" issues, "community-related issues", "business-related issues", or "tax-spending/collecting issues"). Abortion already is a huge issue and has been for decades. So what are those "specific-to-women" issues - whether public buildings have enough feminine product machines in the restrooms? whether there are lactating rooms required in all businesses? fighting breast and ovarian cancer? (Most people also view prostate cancer and testicular cancer as serious issues and common aims. So are the ever-universal heart disease and diabetes.) Most people are aware of these problems. There's only so much any government can do about them (and if it doesn't do what it can it's often because of lack of resources).

and here's the "Then Some":
None of this stuff, by itself, is the measure of how women are viewed in society. Having said that, what IS the measure doesn't show up in the public eye much of the time. It isn't about what laws have been written in an attempt to guarantee equality. What IS the measure of what women live with each day and how others view and treat them has nothing to do with anything political or any of the issues everyone can see discussed over and over again. It has to do with the small, day-to-day, ignorance that women deal with because people keep looking to the wrong problems and in the wrong places for solutions to any of the ignorance and oppression women do still have to fight off and deal with today.

Having said ALL that, though, the trouble is not just because some women do still believe they're second-class citizens. Even for women (like me) who have always had all kinds of people who respect and care about them in their lives, and who tell them they can do anything they want to do; and even for women who know how capable and strong or intelligent they are; it can be a real challenge getting past the ignorance and superior attitudes of even the otherwise and seemingly most respectful people. Hateful and obviously hostile attitudes toward women are often easier to fight than the more hidden, insidious, kind of misogyny that disguises itself in either thinking women need protection from their own thinking; or else is so ingrained in some people's hard-wiring that they can't/won't get past the fact that a woman is a woman.

I could write a book (kind of started one here, it looks like :lol:) about what people still don't get about women. I can tell you, though, some of the things in human nature that have meant women have remained oppressed (to this day, and in perfectly nice suburban homes where it sure looks like everyone around them treats them well and thinks well of them) are the things that have always been, and remain, a reason women (in general) don't seem to have equal power in this world (and in their own, smaller, world). In so many cases, it has truly nothing to do with how women view themselves; and everything to do with how those around them view them.

Yes, the world is full of women who don't believe people of their own sex can possibly be anything but second-class citizens (although many will "grant" that women can be "first-class citizens in their own womanly way, but not in the same way as men "always have/always will" be simply by virtue of their anatomy and/or "nature"). Sometimes you can't blame some of those women because they weren't raised to even think in terms of being equal. Their range of abilities wasn't nurtured. Instead, all anyone nurtured into them was nurturing, itself. Many women were directed either into being stay-at-home moms or else into professions usually associated with care-taking roles. Many girls were raised to hear, "If you're only going to be a stay-at-home mom at some point anyway, there's really not much point in spending a lot of money on getting a college education." A whole lot of women were raised being told, "Dad is the head of this house, and no matter how stupid about one thing or another Dad may be, what he says goes."

When I was in school in the late 1960's, teachers and classmates generally saw the kids who excelled in math and science as "the smart kids". It was a time in society when technology was "the big thing" and when kids headed into fields in technology were seen as those headed into careers that would earn the "Big Bucks". Excelling in verbal skills (generally associated with girls, both then and now) wasn't seen as anything other than "nice". The school world seemed to have life and intelligence all summed up in a nutshell: "The kids (most often boys) who excel in math are generally headed into technology, maybe medicine - where they'll make lots of money." "Everyone else" (the non-math-wiz boys and most of the girls) are the "not-quite-so-academically-outstanding" (sometimes even the "not-particularly-smart") kids and can settle into less lucrative fields (and if they're girls, if they work at all).

The role of words and verbal skills in the founding of the United States was generally respected if anyone took the time to think about history at all, but whether or not anyone truly valued the ability to use words often remained within the context of only those Founding Fathers (who were, of course, "men of words and principle and courage and brilliant thinking", as far as a whole lot of people were concerned). However, how important skills like verbal skills (and the thinking that can be behind them) was, to a lot of people in a lot of average schools (teachers and students alike), was a "that-was-then/this-is-now" kind of thing. Words had had their time, place, and day.

Technology was just beginning the process of claiming its own time, place, and day in this world. So, just at a time in American history when The Women's Movement was gaining momentum, technology swept on in as well. Sure, words (those written by men) had come in handy when the nation was in the process of being established. Here we all were, though: In a well established and mature and thriving nation that no longer really needed words as it once did. After all, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, political leaders got less powerful people (sometimes even women) to write their words for them. People (at the time still predominantly men)in business (even those capable of thinking up their own words, and even when their words weren't anything more powerful than a simple business letter) got the less powerful (and "clearly less capable") to type those words for them. Ah! - A great use of those otherwise not-very-impressive verbal skills girls often have was to be able to check the spelling of those more "worthy" and "respectful" people whose words they typed.

In spite of all that, I see others' ignorance about women as their weakness and lack of intelligence - not mine. I'm pretty darned happy that I'm a woman (even if this post is a sign that I live with a life-long need to vent anger at what I've lived with, and even if I learned a long time ago that if I want my words taken seriously and respected, I'd better not attach a picture of my un-intimidating and completing-lacking-in-any-traits-associated-with-males face to them).

Just Thoughts on Raising Children to Be Responsible

The best way to have children turn out to be responsible adults may be to be a very responsible adult, so they see what a responsible adult does.

So often I've heard parents talk about how they insist that their children do household chores "so they'll learn to be responsible". Sometimes these are even chores the parents have decided they, themselves, will no longer do because "the children need to learn". I'm not "anti-chores" when the matter is handled in a way that is reasonable; but sometimes parents require children to do the very chores they, the parents - whose responsibility those chores are - won't do them!

The parent who sits on the couch behind a newspaper every evening, rather than spending time with the children or even doing housework, is showing children that when people grow up they don't need to do what someone else wishes they would. The parent who sits and talks to another parent (or on the cell phone) at the park and gets so engrossed in conversation may not notice if her child needs something. I'm not saying parents shouldn't socialize, but we've all seen people not noticing the children because of being too busy in conversation with an adult. These same parents may try to teach their children that "there is a time and place for things".

When kids see their parents doing all kinds of things the kids wouldn't want to do (getting up to make breakfast for everyone else, paying bills, calling the plumber, fixing the roof, walking the dog in the middle of the night, etc.) they often not only start to see that this what being an adult is, but they also may admire their parents for doing all the things they do. (I think kids need to see that being adult can also mean having fun sometimes, but that's a topic for another day.)

When children have parents who act very responsibly, and when, as part of acting responsibly parents also talk to children all throughout their childhoods about why one thing or another is important, there's a good chance children grow up to be apples that didn't fall far from the tree.

There is one other factor that could play a role in which children grow up to be responsible adults; and that is when children have childhoods that are pretty carefree and secure, and parents who assure that their children's childhoods are safeguarded, the children often grow up not missing anything and more than ready to take on their own adult responsibilities when the time comes. It is at least possible that children who miss too much of what children need from childhood may grow up still wanting to hang onto to their childhood in some way and not too interested in anything they may view as a burden.