Posted by: minnow | March 23, 2012

Attitudes and Actions

In honor of the Women’s History month and International Women’s Day (March 8) the Synchroblog announced their topic for March as All About Eve.  The synchroblog asked their contributors for a civil discourse.  A bit ironic considering all the hoopla about women’s healthcare this month which ultimately was hijacked by the infamously vulgar rant a certain talk radio host aimed at Sandra Fluke.  (You can find my response to his rant here).  Yet, the rant may be why they felt the need to make the request.  No insult toward the Synchroblog team (I honestly share their perspective) but, reminding women to be civil is one more way some have tried to keep women in their place and therein another irony.

While I do not feel particularly civil I will try to keep my post fit for polite conversation.  But to be completely forthcoming, I am angry.  When “women’s issues” are put in a political and social subcategory as if they only impact women and therefore are less important than the real issues I am angry. I am angry that the treatment of women as sexualized objects especially through advertising continues to be tolerated by most thinking people.  I am angry pornography is as hotly consumed inside the “church” as it is outside the church yet “leadership” sees fit to preach about birth control with much greater frequency than pornography.  (I know—apples to oranges—but I am angry all the same).  I am angry that laws and law enforcement continue to focus more attention on prostitutes than pimps, Johns, and sex traffickers.  I am angry that the feminists of the 60s and 70s think they did such a great job bringing women sexual freedom but an ever increasing number of these sexually “free” women find themselves living below the poverty line as single parents because the men in their lives are just as free to shirk their responsibilities as the women are to have sex with them. I am angry that the long term impact of oral contraceptives remains one of the most under studied medications available on the market yet its correlation to infertility and various cancers has been suspected for years.  I am angry that the long term physical and emotional effects of abortion are relatively ignored by the medical community and notoriously underplayed in pre-procedure counseling yet it remains a multimillion dollar industry with most of the money going to male doctors.  I AM ANGRY.  And, I find it increasingly difficult to want to play nice when I must expend so much energy just to keep my tongue in check.

The reality of sexism, like any other prejudice, is that we can coerce people through legal action to behave in prescribed ways but we cannot force them to think differently.  We can play tit for tat with regard to hiring practices or school enrolments but we can’t actually make others prefer tits when they’re really into tats.  The difference between men’s and women’s sports, for example, may be less about athletic abilities than it is about spectator preference and preference drives the market.  But, do we prefer men’s sports because men are better athletes or do we think they’re better because we don’t have the same familiarity with women’s sports and familiarity breeds comfort and comfort breeds preference?  The catch 22 of this issue is not likely to settle any time soon but it does illustrate the fact that attitudinal changes take a lot longer than physical ones.

We can manipulate overt behavior through legal actions but we cannot legislate people’s attitudes.  We can uncover and confront injustice.  We can make the unjust uncomfortable through public scrutiny.  We can model equality and treat each other with dignity.  We can march and expose and legislate and advocate.  We can do the work of change but it takes time and it takes energy and it takes diligence.  It feels difficult and it feels frustrating and it feels slow.  And, at times it feels fruitless, like what we’ve already achieved is “good enough” and it should be that we can take a break because things are better and life is easier.  We’ve done good work.

I believe the feminists of the 60s and 70s reached the point of better and easier.  I think laws were passed and situations changed so that their efforts felt like a job well done.  But, a problem arose.  The hard work of diligent enforcement, continuous advocacy, and on-going change got stalled.  Overt behaviors were adjusted but underlying attitudes remained unchecked and thus society as a whole continued to regard women as less than.  Eventually the economy adjusted to double income families and they started becoming a necessity rather than a choice.  Housing costs, for example sky rocketed as lenders expected to see two adults contribute to the bottom line.  Yet, many of the needs of those double income families remain unaddressed and most, such as childcare, have been left for women to sort out on their own.

Over time the image of husbands and fathers in the work force has remained relatively unscathed.  Most often they’re seen as loyal, hard-working, and good providers.  Working wives and mothers on the other hand, are often regarded as less committed, unreliable, and distracted.  The fact that most women carry a greater burden to meet the daily needs of their families than their male counterparts is rarely acknowledged let alone considered a matter for public debate.

Sadly, despite the fact that women have had the right to vote for nearly a century and have been major contributors to the work force since the Second World War, we still have not reached political, social, or economic equality with men.  Whether overtly through sexual exploitation or subtly via marginalized public policy discussions, discrimination against women is a global reality, a reality we cannot afford to ignore.

Participating Posts:

Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
• Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
• Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
• Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
• Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
• Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
• Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
• Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
• kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
• Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
• Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
• Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
• Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
• Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
• Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
• Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
• Christine Sine – It All Begins With Love
• K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
• Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
• Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor

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