The last straw-woman
[Three second warning, this post falls into the “everything” end of the tagline spectrum…those who have not had their first cup of java, brace yourselves or come back when fortified.] 🙂
However, as life often does, new events and ideas cross the horizon and metamorphize into a another organism altogether. This is what happened with this topic.
In my view, based on all my background and thinking about the development of humanity to date, confining people to boxes and then heaping abuse upon them, literally boxing them in and boxing with them, is the sign of limited analysis and more an expression of pain, than anything else.
I am not defined by any convention, and certainly not single or even multiple label(s). I am Beth, no more no less. My gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, political stance, education, nationality, are all features of my gestalt, but cannot be used to identify or freeze me in place so those who cannot help but find fault with one or more of them, are easily able to push me around, either literally or figuratively.
Bill O’Reilly was railing against “gangsta rappers”, including among them Kanye* West. As Alex Wagner pointed out astutely, Kanye shares little if anything in common with Biggy and Tupac, apart from being a man. Oh, yes, and being a man while black. Huh. Kanye is known for sartorial sophistication, being a wine connoisseur and in general, promoting the arts, creativity and celebration of the good life. I barely know him apart from his famous relationship to the Kardashians, but, I have no reason to believe otherwise, than he is a good-hearted and -headed person who is successful. So, isn’t he a standard bearer for the American dream?
Then of course, I heard Michele Bachmann malapropping on the topic of “sad gayness” being of satan, the supposed mental disorder that afflicts the LGBT community and their “bullying” of straight people. Say what? On what grounds does Ms. Bachmann make that diagnosis? What is her qualification to do so, recognized by any but the most benighted isolates steeped in abysmal ignorance?
Well then, further to earlier discussions, this week saw the 51st vote in Congress against the Affordable Care Act, bolstered by apochryphal anecdotes from people with cancer who supposedly lost their fabulous pre-ACA policies (when the insurance companies were the arbiters of who lives and dies) and now they cannot afford to treat their cancer, due, of course to the President (dare I mention it, whose chief crime? Being — yes, you guessed it — a black man). We come full circle, so I assume also that the flat-earthers also believe Mr. Obama is a “gangsta rapper”, by their twisted logic.
[Weren’t we all taught, vis à vis the Socratic method that even if all black men are gangstas, not all gangstas are black — right, some of them must be brown! That is the level of intelligence and reasoning that we are dealing with here in the lower 50, these days — very low in some cases.]
But all of this pales by comparison to the uphill struggle women have had since the beginning of time. Originally, I was going to speak about an issue that concerns and disturbs me, i.e., the judgment of women by appearance first, and everything else second and thereafter. It may be a natural animal-like instinct to view the secondary sexual characteristics of the female of our species as being primary in order to ensure generational perpetuation, but we are not living in the Stone age or the African savannahs where our ancestors became upright, bipedal and hominid. We are living in the post-modern world with economic, social and populational pressures that outflank mere physicality.
There is nothing to say that our current social organizational order is less valid, less impelling than the one we experienced when first assembling into functioning groups for survival, division of labor, protection, food security, etc. That was about 3 – 5 million years ago. We have largely the same body plan as we did at that time, having lost a great deal of hair that once covered our skin so we could live in trees, then among thickets, and finally glide through tall grasses that took over as the forests of Africa receded, leaving broad, grain-filled plains in its wake. Our bodies today, are almost identical to those of Homo sapiens 200 millennia ago.
But our social and economic lives are light-years different. So, like all of nature, we have male and female divisions in terms of our physical makeup. But unlike the rest of nature, vastly different, our society and global order have changed dramatically, of necessity so this very overcrowded with human beings (and insects) planet can handle its responsibilities without being completely destroyed (unless of course, we do it in by ignoring global warming to keep the Koch Brothers happy).
That means, that despite having different hormonal, muscular and reproductive systems, men and women are increasingly, in fact exponentially, changing the definition of their roles in every aspect of their lives. This is happening all over the world, but is at the apex or forefront in the Western world.
Do I have to explain why? Can we not be observant of the conditions that 7 billion inhabitants, with instant, global communication and an international economic structure, as well as geopolitical interpolated activity impose on each individual by the time we reach majority? I won’t insult anyone here, because the information to define the average daily life of every person in the Western world (indeed, in every spot on earth, thanks to social scientists, who have been churning out this information steadily for 150+ years, all of it now one or two clicks away) is readily found. If anyone wants to know what I am referring to, please ask.
Nonetheless, from time to time I see modern-day Phyllis Schlaflys opining on the proper role of women, i.e., in the home, subservient and grateful, tending the young’uns and (and here is the subtext) completely dependent on men. Well, of course! Isn’t this the natural order of things? Isn’t our society disintegrating because women dare to consider themselves equivalent, if not equal (shudder) in every way, to their male counterparts? Isn’t the historically delimited “women’s rights movement” (pigeonholed pejoratively as ‘feminism’ or ‘feminazism’) the culprit for having destroyed the right and good and superior structure of a world in which women docilely wait for a man to act upon them — preferably early when they are desirable and fertile, and then wait on that man or men (just look at polygamy, still ongoing in many places in the USA as well as the more primitive societies elsewhere) when they are older and perhaps less appealing, often working to the end of their lives only to be left by that man, who seeks another, more nubile servant to take care of his important needs?
After all, aren’t men the ones with the brain? If you change just one vowel, you will find out what the single remaining potential “advantage” many men enjoy, over many women, may be. (Need a hint? Change the ‘i’ to a ‘w’).
I find it intriguing when women get on board with this backward notion. In fact, my dissertation was related to the issue of why subordinated people [in that instance, children in a very specific setting] assist in their own subordination. That was a psychological study of attitudes instrumental in keeping certain children from realizing their potential, unintentionally, of course. There were a number of theories being tested empirically and the outcomes were manifold and interesting. Not the topic here, but, related.
Why would any woman, in America, for example, in 2014 be so blighted by ignorance that she would disregard the abundant data that demonstrates that women must work in the marketplace in order to secure their economic futures when they are no longer young? In other words, in today’s world, not the 10th century, not the Iron Age, not the Agrarian era, in today’s modern, complex, international, rapidly evolving economic, social and political environment, almost every woman born today will have to get a job, establish a career and work for most if not all of her adult life, well into an advanced age, to avoid crippling poverty.
She will have to bear the children, for the time being. She will or will not choose or enjoy doing that, depending on her individual personality and circumstances. But no longer can we just sweep aside reality in the current day and pontificate that the world is disintegrating because a physical mandate that ceased to dictate the necessary solutions to current and future problems still has the appearance of being of priority. Eventually, this species will (and actually already has) devise a system whereby neither women nor men will be forced to bear offspring themselves. Can we long for the days when this joyous activity was feasible for women? Those halcyon yester-years when supposedly strong, brilliant men, chose beautiful, nurturing females to establish and embellish a womb-like nest in which the man and his children take priority (that’s right, for most of our history, men owned that house, those kids and that child-bearer-underwear-washer — owned them like a piece of property, to be dealt with as he wished and discarded, penniless — is that what these foolish and narrowly-focused women long to bring back?)
You cannot extract one part of human interaction from the whole in which it is embedded. Even if we wanted to, we cannot return to an economy where 50% of the adult population is fully economically and intellectually as well as emotionally dependent upon and de facto secondary or subordinate to the other 50%. No rational woman would think this is practicable, practical nor preferable. And frankly, any man who is thinking this through, will realize that the burden and pressure of being wholly responsible for a wife and children, is untenable and unfair in 2014 and beyond. You cannot idealize the past, no matter how we tend to recreate history so we can revel in the imagined glories of a very complex and almost unknowable past, despite all the tools we have at our disposal to try to piece it back together and see how it functioned. We will always be outsiders to that past, even if we were alive during it. It is gone forever with the proverbial wind, only remaining in memories and flawed by definition, thereby.
We were there, but we cannot climb back there. Again by definition, we only had the knowledge of that day, in that day, with which to conduct our ongoing lives. We cannot take that time period and superimpose it over the current one. Think about this and you will realize how obvious this is.
Was that a better social plan, even if you can take it out of its historic context in which it is unalterably fastened? It was the one we had evolved too by necessity, it was not better or worse. And certain pieces of the puzzle were moved around, added and subtracted, in order to get to where we are today. Some of those changes (which apparently are anathema to this group of people who want to bring back a vestigial order, that will saddle us with a dead carcass, needlessly) were hard to accept, perceived as negative, or undesirable, but they were essential to creating the new order that we enjoy for its advantages, all the while decrying its uglier outcomes. It is akin to that infamous sausage making. I don’t hear anyone weeping about eating cassoulet, just because squealing pigs were ground and pushed into their own entrails to produce that so-called delicacy.
I am fleshing this out here, to continue the image I just created, so as to avoid overtly offending anyone elsewhere, when I see these discussions. In fact, I don’t take them seriously because it is patent on its face that these specious discussions are based on reflexive fear and cannot be useful or valid, because it is looking backward with cloudy rose-colored glasses and when these fora are not pandering to the false notions of a glorified or idyllic past, they are obsessed with using a few bad actors with which to condemn whole groups of people, based on sham categories created largely for just that disparaging purpose. It is shameful and I have to question the acuity of those who linger in that area for long.
These public laments are to be allowed to spin out, so as to release the pressure that this building sense of foreboding has generated. It doesn’t matter what “studies” or “information” or websites, books, articles on or offline, are used to bolster the argument, it cannot be true, because it is retrograde and we cannot regress, no matter how much we wish to. While I am not one to reminisce with longing about any past part of my life (truly, I love my life right now and have found, I always love the next phase when it comes — that is just the way I am, so you won’t see me rushing back to reunions or eulogizing my lost childhood and the like), sure I would like my teeth to be brand new as they were when I was 8, but wouldn’t I waste valuable mental real estate trying to get the eight-year old’s body back? C’mon!
Every modern care giving discipline has recognized the progress of the species. For example, we no longer diagnose and treat women for ‘hysteria’. Should we? I ask those who champion the idealized woman of yesterday. Women no longer succumb to ‘the vapors’ either. Nor do we cast out demons, bleed people with leeches, chain those with psychotic or behavioral disorders to a bed in a dungeon cell, nor toss infants from towers to cull the population of undesirable females. In other words, society has progressed. Through those rather unattractive practices, I might add — who among us is to judge whether or not they were necessary, to getting to the next, more enlightened stage?
We could dismiss all this nonsense as being the last dying gasps of a shrinking Caucasian minority fueled by a stubborn resistance to change, no matter how inchoate.
But this is more serious than that. This relates to outright discrimination, little different from blatant bigotry and misogyny. And let me say right here and now: I am equally offended by mishomony where it rears its ugly head. Putting people in imagined slots and then defining those slots so you can control and perhaps eliminate them is what Hitler and Stalin did. If you want a vivid idea of how this happened, insidiously and then exploded onto the international scene, read Bloodlands by Timothy Snyder.
My point is, there is no such thing as an ‘ism’. So-called isms are labels others apply to a cluster of phenomena or behaviors and then look for more to gather under that rubric. These isms come and go, they are theoretical constructs that have limited use and in the wrong hands, are dangerous. Perhaps some people prefer to be assigned to a category devised by others so they don’t have to think and act of their own accord, but let others do their thinking and commanding for them. I am not one of those, and it has nothing to do with any ism influencing me.
If women want to get married, stay at home, have children and embellish a nest, and they flourish doing that, well and good. If women must or choose to both have children and go out and get jobs, and they do both well, wonderful. Some women get married, have jobs, and no children. Are those women less than? There are terrible stay at home mothers and wonderful parents, who raise magnificent, happy, neurosis-free children, with both parents sharing the load, including working and having careers. I know many, personally. My point is that women cannot be sorted into discrete categories any more than men can. Categories are meant to make statistics easy, but they should not be abused by those who assign a value to them. I would just advise that stay-at-home woman to get an IRA and start charging the breadwinner for the incredible variety and complexity of tasks she is handling, so she can secure her future, should he exit, one way or another.
Historically, women have labored long hours in the home, were not respected nor compensated for that work, commensurate with its value nor with equal labor by men. For that reason, and many others, including the obvious physical advantage that males have had for millions of years, a movement arose to try to help women rise to a higher and more equitable level. When that movement, however cumbersome and distasteful it might have seemed to some, largely transformed the way in which women perceived themselves, it faded back. Railing against that mechanism strikes me as repugnant, the way hearing rich white kids deploring affirmative action offends me.
You cannot look at time periods in terms of a few decades. You need to pull back and look at macro-level trends. We need to view the woman’s struggle for equal treatment from a perspective of hundreds of years, not tens of years. To deny this inequity is just a self-lie, perhaps unconsciously motivated, to satisfy some need. That should be addressed, with self, group or professional therapy.
Meanwhile, the world moves forward. We need to adjust our individual behavior to the requirements of today, much as we may not find that comfortable and comforting.
One last point, this go-round (and I will probably return to this general topic in the future, as it is so important). There is as much variation within categories, usually, as there is between. So, you will find women with a range of characteristics, including brilliance, ambition, physical strength and leadership ability. A particular, individual woman may not thrive by staying at home. That does not make her any kind of ‘ist’. It makes her a free, independent thinker, like so many men admire in each other. We need to allow for that without labeling her or assigning her to a group by virtue of her being female. We are not gods.
So, let’s stop flagellating each other for the things we must do in order to adapt and survive.
*Thank you to Marey Mercy for correcting my very-un-hip knowledge
Images: 123rtf.com, depositphotos.com,shutterstock.com,1photos.com