A SALUTE TO WOMEN EVERYWHERE
That…man…says women can’t have as much rights as man, ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. Man had nothing to do with him.
Oh to be a woman in 2016! We have been loved, idealized, idolized, reviled, revered, and misunderstood through the ages. We’ve been fought over, immortalized in poetry, prose, and song. We’ve been queens, conquerors, prime ministers, and tribal leaders. We’ve learned how to balance strength with femininity, intelligence with compassion, brilliance with common sense, and humor with heartache. We earn 79 cents for every dollar men make and yet we manage to create more without the missing 21 cents!!!
This salute was originally composed as a lighthearted ode to womanhood in celebration of Women’s History Month. It appeared in the March 2004 edition of a now defunct magazine entitled, In the Spotlight. Rereading it, I am sadly reminded of a recurring theme: resolution of our issues seems to be a stubbornly recalcitrant effort. As much as I would like to keep this piece simple, I find it is more important to keep it real. While the achievements of women around the globe are acknowledged and celebrated, this is also the time to shine a bright light on our sisters who collude with misogynists to place obstacles in our paths.
Women’s issues, like Civil and equal rights, mirror the problems plaguing the larger community. We continue to need, and fight for:
- Jobs offering salaries commensurate with a living wage for every region of this nation.
- Safe, and unfettered access to reproductive and well woman health care. We need enforceable laws to protect us from violent objections to our right to exercise our constitutional guarantees, and increasing misanthropy parading as rigid religious orthodoxy.
- An end to the pay gap.
- Freedom to make our own decisions, period, end of story!!
Even as progressive, prochoice women work to create a healthier, safer, more equitable, and less hostile world – for ourselves and our families – they are frequently thwarted by egregious opposition coming from within our ranks. We’re caught up in a brutal struggle with women who, for reasons which defy reasonable explanation, support, encourage, aid, and abet the men who are hell bent on disenfranchising all of us. These women stand against freedom of choice right along with women-hating men leading the charge.
When confronted about their positions and the impact, these women offer responses which, upon closer examination, reflect an irrational fear of self-acceptance. They subscribe to a narrowly constructed world view fueled by a lack of compassion, intolerance, disrespect, sanctimony, exclusion, and arrogance. Through their hollow smirks and patronizing attitudes, they suggest those of us who value our rights, demand our freedoms, and work tirelessly to protect them, are somehow a threat to the world they inhabit. And perhaps we are. Maybe this perception is the sum and substance of an abysmal rejection of their own self-worth. Perhaps this perception is the result of the way in which they were brought up – the values ingrained in them, and the expectations they feel obligated to fulfill. Perhaps this is why some of them enshrine themselves as appendages of:
- Their spouses.
- Their spouses’ titles or positions.
- Their children.
- Their children’s schools.
- Their neighborhoods.
- Their civic, social, educational, religious, and volunteer activities.
- Some other external trapping which effectively conveys the image they wish to project.
They don’t necessarily see themselves as women first. Belonging to someone matters more than being women of worth in their own right. They go to great lengths to maintain what they view as a respectable silence. Those who enjoy some degree of visibility often avoid discussing women’s issues altogether. There are women who are sympathetic to the cause. They won’t open their mouths, won’t risk upending their carefully contrived lives and reputations. They choose to put up with what can only be described as noble suffering, an oxymoron if ever there was one. The haughty ones, confident they are somehow protected… from poverty, abuse, un- or underemployment, lack of education, limited marketable skills…the afflictions of their less fortunate sisters, promise to pray for us – an offer which is, in and of itself, extreme unctuousness, self-serving, and just about as calculating as their pretentious lives. These ladies disdain outspoken, forward thinking, women as wrong-headed, obdurate, and unacceptable – we’re a blot on society.
The depths of their obtuseness – and apparent self-loathing – is frightening. Is such willful ignorance truly blissful? Do these genteel, yet conservative, dames honestly believe they can’t be raped, assaulted, disrespected, or denied: anything a white, or a nonthreatening non-white man can have just because….? Are their heads so far up their a—- they can’t recognize misogyny, sexism, or outright hatred even when it’s staring them in the face? There are no legislative efforts aimed at denying men access to health care. No one is telling men they can’t have prostate exams! Where, pray tell, are the pharmacists who object to prescribing Viagra? Where, I wanna know, are the governors who want men to jump through hoops before obtaining vasectomies? Have you seen them?
What’s up with women who gather at rallies demanding Roe V. Wade be overturned? Are they, by their actions saying no women deserve any rights or protections under the law? Are they, through their choices, insinuating all women lack the wherewithal to make our own decisions and we must, therefore, be submissive to men, regardless of who they are? Am I wrong to declare, act on, and embrace my right to choose:
- To cut, dye, or tint my hair?
- To go bald because I want to?
- To vote.
- To be educated.
- To acquire and maintain marketable skills.
- To demand equal pay for equal work?
- To be gainfully employed.
Why should I subvert my wants, needs, and desires to make my life more palatable to people who think I, and all my sisters, should be seen and not heard? Do these women recognize the achievements of pioneering sisters who fought for our right to vote, to have access to birth control, to work in whatever field of endeavor we choose? Over the forty-four years since I graduated from college, women have made significant gains. I entered a society with more employment options than my mother had. I witnessed the passage of legislation outlawing sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender.
Concomitant with these advancements, however, and particularly in recent years, there is also a war on women. Ah yes, an unmistakable agenda exists in statehouses and on the Hill where cruel, inhumane bills designed to place all women –even the malleable ones – into a nether world where our steps will be ordered and our choices tightly controlled. Female legislators who willingly serve as co-sponsors and mouthpieces for their male counterparts, along with women’s organizations which offer support, leave me nonplused and enraged.
“There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women,” stated Madeleine Albright, the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State. These days she’s catching hell for repeating herself, but if I could digress for just a moment, let’s look at the unreal scrutiny Hillary Clinton endures because she wants to be president of the United States. I am perplexed by the spitefulness of women who rip her apart. Implicit in their diatribes is a subtle, but scathing message dissing her for having the gall to pursue her heart’s desire. Her life, choices, her resume, and her tenure as both a US Senator and Secretary of State are under a magnifying glass set at an intensity which isn’t applied to Bernie, the Donald, Ted, Marco, Jeb, Chris, John, Ben, or Mike. Their shortcomings, by contrast, are downplayed, glossed over, ignored, or finessed. Carly Fiorina wasn’t treated respectfully by her male colleagues during her quest for the presidency, alas, she made no effort to be a champion for women. There were times when it seemed to me she was running as one of the guys, but that’s just my opinion. Her resume, like Hillary’s, was held to a standard which somehow wasn’t seen as necessary for the boys. So I have to ask again, what’s with the women who don’t, or won’t, see the inequality and enormous disrespect aimed squarely at Hillary’s campaign, and by implication, us as well?
Oh, to be a woman in 2016! We’ve reared our families, and some other folks’ as well. We cook, clean, do the laundry, hold down a job, or two, and still find time to be visions of loveliness even for those who don’t appreciate our efforts. We’re expected to be superwomen – to leap tall buildings with a single bound – chewing gum with our hands tied behind our backs – yet we’re excoriated for exercising common sense when we choose to gain access by walking through the entrance. We’ve blazed trails, shattered myths, defied expectations, and achieved the impossible, but our accomplishments are downplayed, particularly when we don’t play by the rules.
We’ve been glamorized, placed on pedestals from which there is no escape, and continue to get screwed – often without being kissed, and over our strenuous objections. We’ve stood up when others preferred, and often demanded, we remain seated, and silent. We’re expected to know everything, but act as if we don’t. We can be smart, funny, and witty but have to be careful about when and where we demonstrate our erudition, brilliance, and eloquence. Our assertiveness is deliberately misconstrued as aggressiveness. When we speak our minds we’re either strident or angry. When we stand firm, because we have to, we’re no longer feminine or attractive. How we dress is often viewed as the causal factor in how we’re treated.
Oh, to be a woman in 2016. We’ve come a long way – and we have a long way yet to go. Equity, equality, and parity elude our grasp. We must continue to raise our voices, and others’ consciousness, by drawing attention to matters affecting our daily lives.
That man…says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud puddles, or give me any best place, and aren’t I a woman?
…I have plowed, and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me – and aren’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man (when I could get it), and bear the lash as well – and aren’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children and seen them most all sold off into slavery, and when I cried out with a mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard – and aren’t I a woman?
Oh, to be a woman in 2016! Let’s share our stories, experiences, and our wisdom to keep making our voices heard. Let’s continue to search for common ground understanding the need to ensure our safety, protection, and enfranchisement, and let’s honor who we really are: women, first and foremost, sisters connected!
After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.
To women everywhere, I salute you!!!