Posted by: minnow | May 16, 2012

Shoes that Fit

Ranting into thin air.  Yup.  That’s me right now.  I’ve created a platform by creating a blog but even that still doesn’t guarantee anyone listens to–or in this case reads–what I have to say.  Still, some things are worth saying even if only to oneself.

So, before I cast myself too successfully in the role of uncaring heartless bitch due to my harsh words regarding abortion in my last post, let me tell you a little about my own story.  None of my five children were planned pregnancies.  None of my five miscarriages were planned pregnancies.  The late period that the healthcare worker in a Planned Parenthood facility said “could have been a miscarriage” would have been my first pregnancy if it was a miscarriage and it was not planned.  During most of those experiences I had no health insurance, had other children, and was living below the poverty level.

While in college I paid for, drove to the clinic, and sat with a housemate when she went in for an abortion.  She did not know who the father was.  We had to drive to a different county because the Planned Parenthood facility in our county did not perform abortions, a fact that gave the little community in which we attended college great pride.  I later found out that our county had the largest per capita abortion referral rate in the nation.  That fact didn’t make the front page of the local paper but it was part of a research project I did for a sociology class.  As we sat waiting for my housemate’s turn we listened to a couple of women who sat behind us talk about their first and second abortions.  They couldn’t have been much older than we were.  I watched my friend get drunk after we got home and we never talked about it again.  Six months later we were homeless.  It lasted approximately 5 months.  My friend would have been seven months pregnant when we lost our apartment.

I understand and have listened to women talk about some of the reasons they chose  abortions.  And, I understand and have listened to women talk about some of the reasons they don’t.  No two stories are exactly the same but most have similar points.  The statistics I’ve found tend to back up the anecdotal evidence I’ve heard.  Fear is a big motivator.  Women are afraid to tell parents or partners because they’re afraid of being rejected or abandoned.  They are afraid they won’t be able to provide for their babies because they are afraid they won’t be able to finish school or keep working.  They don’t have a support network so they’re afraid of being alone.

Even though we’ve been chanting “make love not war” for almost fifty years now we don’t actually mean what we say.  Society still judges unmarried sexually active women more harshly than unmarried sexually active men as indicated by the terms we  frequently use to describe each group–slut verses stud.  Additionally, birth control is generally seen as the woman’s responsibility.  Women are even warned to “make sure their partners use a condom”.  If the woman happens to get pregnant then she wasn’t being careful enough.  She should have counted the costs.  And, she has no choice but to deal with the consequences while good ol’ Dad can simply walk away.

Sadly, our prejudices don’t end there.  Moms who work are often regarded as unreliable and distracted while dads who work  are generally seen as stable providers.  The statistic showing that a woman with the same qualifications as a man still makes only 77% of the man’s pay is often justified by pointing to a woman’s alleged unreliability.  And, while this assumption may statistically be somewhat true, we need to ask ourselves why?  At least part of the answer must be attributed to the fact that society sees childcare as a Mom’s rather than a Dad’s job.  Thus if the child gets sick or the childcare provider doesn’t show, or the school needs the child to be picked up Mom is usually the parent on-call.   Factor in that 21.8 million children live in single parent homes and 84% of those homes have a Mom as the custodial parent and the WHY begins to become clear.

Facing the deep rooted notions of roll that we as a society associate with one gender or the other is the first step toward building true gender equality.  Our preconceived ideas may be based on “natural” tendencies BUT if we aren’t willing to make  exceptions where exceptions exist then the whole of society loses out.  Kids need Dads to be more than sperm and a pay check.  Families are better off when both parents are present, both parents are fulfilled, and both parents reach into and outside the family nucleolus.  A society gains when all its members contribute.  Opening doors through which women can reach their potential and helping families maintain stability benefits society as a whole.  Policies like family leave and workplace child care need to be encouraged.  At the very least they should be put on the table for serious open discussion.   We may not be able to mandate morality.  But, surly we can provide incentives to at least look at problems in new ways.

*          *          *

For all the religious fundamentalists out there who feel like your Godly virtues are being trampled by the Christian left I have this challenge–for one moment put yourselves in the shoes of the Pharisees as they stared into the face of Jesus.  They honestly believed they were speaking for God and Jesus was the blasphemer.  All their years of studying scripture, all their days of living according to the word, couldn’t guarantee they would get it “right” in the end.  Today in most Christian circles the Pharisees are villain-ized for their hard hearts and blind eyes.  Relationship, compassion, and mercy–these ideals won the day.  Love and non-violence–that’s what Jesus preached and every Man who has ever followed in His footsteps carried the same banner.

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