Sunday, May 14, 2017

Some reflections on the status of women on Mother's Day

I have been preoccupied with balance between the sexes since I was a teenager, with an atmosphere of mutual respect and love as the foundation of a relationship. Over forty years later, I don’t see much of it in modern society and I find that immensely disappointing. I watched the women in my mother’s generation raise their children and live within the constraints of the times they lived in (1950s-1960s). Most of them did not work outside the home, and the few that did (in my neighborhood) were considered to be unusual. There always had to be an excuse for why they worked—they needed extra money to help with the mortgage, or they needed to supplement their husband’s income if he was sick or on disability, etc. In addition, many of them took care of parents and other family members who were old or sick, respectively (unpaid work). Rarely was it considered that a woman, a wife, a mother, would want to work because she enjoyed working, because she wanted to put her education to use, because she wanted to contribute to progress in society in this way, because she wanted to give something back in the form of her intelligence, diligence and hard work. It was not considered that she might want to be a part of the process, might want to make a difference, and might want to matter. Wanting to work, to pursue a career had and has nothing to do with wanting to abandon her role as a wife and mother. It had and has to do with honoring herself and her unique talents.

I write this today, on Mother’s Day (in the USA), because I find it astounding that women haven’t come further in the USA than they have when it comes to childcare and working outside the home. I find it astounding that Europe is light-years ahead of the USA when it comes to federally-funded childcare centers. I find it astounding that we are still arguing about the importance of providing childcare for women in 2017 in the USA. I find it astounding that women still find that they need to defend themselves when they have children and want to work, whether part-time or full-time. It is not that they cannot work, no, there are jobs for them. Of course there are jobs for them; this is 2017. But there is still a limited support system in place to make it easier for them to do those jobs. So most of the women I know who raised their children during the past thirty years worked part-time or relied on family members to help them juggle it all. The few wealthy ones found nannies that they relied on while they pursued their careers. I am not going to argue for or against working full-time or pursuing a career for women who have children. I believe that feminism gives us the possibility of choice, and each person must choose wisely and live with her choice. But if women choose to work, then they should not be subjected to the subtle critical judgment that still exists—that she is a bad mother for wanting to leave her children and be part of the workplace. You might say that I am wrong, that this is not the case. But it is. Just take a look at the current president surrounded by his cronies who want to return the USA to a time when women had little or no say in society and in their relationships. They are white men of privilege who view women and children as their possessions and their trophies. Many of them behave like hypocritical banal evil men, not unlike many of the men in Hitler’s regime, who were married with their family lives intact while they broke up Jewish families and destroyed their lives. These men spout the importance of family values while doing exactly the opposite—they do what they want, when they want, and how they want. They promote a culture of attacks against women, they bully women, they diminish women (think Trump’s behavior toward most women he dislikes)--in short, they do not respect women, no matter what they say. They are not nice men. Some of them have been accused of spousal abuse (e.g. Steve Bannon So these are not men you would want your daughters to marry. These are men who purport to know what is best for women and children. These are men interested only in power, control, money and prestige; they cannot really love their wives or their children, because real love is not about controlling others or using them as trophies. If you are interested in controlling others, you do not love them. These kinds of men I simply cannot abide. I want nothing to do with them. I do not believe in dialoguing with them, because you will simply be shouted down, squished under their thumbs, bullied, diminished, disrespected, told you are stupid, dismissed, ignored, frozen out (in the workplace), told you are ‘too emotional’, too difficult. The list of abusive terms and behaviors is endless. These men should teach a course—How to keep women down. Even in the church, women’s roles are limited; men rule the roost. It simply has become boring to consider that old men in funny hats in Rome are telling us how to live our lives. While I respect the current Pope for his kindness and compassion for others, I have little use for the hierarchy of the church. I am more preoccupied with having a personal relationship with Christ. I remember back in the 1980s when I was young and foolish and didn’t grasp the depth of men’s power in the world, that I argued with a priest about the phrasing “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…..” There was so much emphasis on the first part of this statement when I was growing up, that wives should obey their husbands. I argued with the priest that the latter part of the statement was just as important, and that I had no interest in obeying a husband unless he loved me as Christ loved the church. That put an end to that discussion, since most men simply cannot hold a candle to Christ. I guess I could have been considered a smart-ass at that time; I say now—good. More power to me. But after a lifetime of fighting injustice toward women in the workplace, and there is plenty of it, I am tired. I am leaving it over to the next generation. You’ll find me in my garden now.

It is astounding that in 2017 that women are still subject to abusive behavior publicly and privately. I applaud the women who stand up against these men, who fight them, who challenge them, who sue them, who take them to court (e.g. for spousal abuse), who call out their behaviors. I applaud the women who do all these things while raising their families, working full-time, and taking care of aging parents. I applaud the women I know today, on Mother’s Day, because without them, the world would simply not be a place worth living in. But I believe that the time has come to take another route toward changing the world. I believe that women should turn their backs on the type of world many of these men stand for. They should not marry them, they should not have children with them, and they should ignore them. I hope the younger generation of women will find it in their power to defeat these kinds of men. I will support them even if I cannot lead them. I cannot wait for these dinosaurs to die out. 

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