People Power and Women

 

 

Finally my series on women’s issues and my people power posts converge as I reach the point of advocating an overthrow.  Time for women to use their power to take charge.  Not just beg for an equal place in the patriarchy.  Overcome the patriarchy.

The last post I wrote in the Women series explored the exploitation of women in the sports world, with a long look at the Larry Nasser disaster at MSU and in U.S. Gymnastics.  The more I examined the shocking degree of sexual abuse happening across the country from early school through college and on into professional sports, the more dismayed I became at the lack of real protest.

When I talked to various women about the enormity of the problem, they were all distressed but also shrugged and assured me nothing would happen “because it’s sports…”  The  attitude from other feminists shocked me even more than realizing we have an epidemic of sexual abuse against women in the sports world (and of course beyond).

It was the first moment I began to understand how deeply immersed in the patriarchy we are.  Men can molest and abuse women starting in middle school and it’s not only covered up but only the parents of those molested protest.  Surprisingly the Moms are not sufficiently outraged by the treatment of girls to withdraw their children from sports activities.

At MSU women students did not immediately transfer in protest.  Parents did not take their daughters out of the school or refuse to allow girls to apply.  Other than some editorial letters and outraged phone calls I could find no sign of any large scale protest at MSU demanding policy changes and assurances of protection for the women who attend the school.

No parents organized a boycott of all MSU sports until action is taken.  Nothing.  Not even the parents of girls think girls count enough compared to male sports figures to stand up for them.  I could find not a single news story in the entire country about parents organizing any kind of major protest or boycott at any level at any school where widespread sexual abuse had been reported.

I haven’t stopped reeling at the comprehension of how very little value we women have in this society, even among women.

In the meantime, I watched the #metoo movement catch on and listened skeptically as various women talked about how we’d never go back now.  Been there, seen that in the ’70’s.  We thought the tide had forever turned.  Until we realized it turned back the other way.  By a year or so after the wave of “Me Too’s” peaked I started hearing about Wall Street firms stopping the hiring of women in order to avoid harassment claims.  T.V. sets where women complained of harassment and producers failed to even report the claims.

Oh boy are we deep in the patriarchy.

Then I read an amazing article, Men are 100% Responsible for Unwanted Pregnancies.  Step by step the author goes through an eye opening litany of the ways in which men are responsible.  Starting with the fact that women are only fertile about 24 days a year compared to a man’s 365 day fertility.  In wanted pregnancies, there is an agreement and both are participating in a decision.  In unwanted pregnancies there is at least a failure to prevent and at worst a cavalier irresponsibility on the part of the man who is inevitably part of the equation. Moving on to the horrible side effects of birth control pills compared to the relative ease of using condoms or getting a (reversible) vasectomy.  Well, please read the article in full.

Again I was left reeling at the depths of the patriarchy.

Even the Women’s Movement has failed us here in my opinion.  The strident insistence on protesting and taking stands about abortion is in itself a patriarchal position.  By fighting about abortion and women’s right to choose after they’re already pregnant, we completely sidestep around the real issue and behave as if women get pregnant by themselves.

If men were held responsible for their “boys will be boys” mentality and held to account for failure to take all precautions to avoid causing a pregnancy, abortion would not even be an issue.  Give men jail time and big fines for causing unwanted pregnancies and there wouldn’t be any.  End of abortion problem.  Should suit both the pro- and anti-abortion factions.  Yet no one even raises the possibility.

Because the patriarchy has such an insidious hold even feminists don’t really see it.

When I look at the years since we first took off our bras and marched around for women’s rights in the 70’s, I see:

  • no Equal Rights Amendment
  • women making less pay than men across the board
  • women being assaulted and raped while men for the most part go unpunished
  • men who truly do not understand why they should be punished
  • women coping with issues of pregnancy as if men have nothing to do with it
  • men getting away with abuse, inhumanity and heartlessness while exercising control over everything to see it doesn’t change

The more I look, the more I’m ready to take a radical leap.  It’s time for women to stop begging for a few more places at the table of patriarchy.  It’s time for us to quit hoping to be taken seriously enough to get paid the same.  It’s time for us to quit letting boys and men off the hook for sexual violence against women.

We need the feminine.  We need humanity and compassion.  When women rule, education, care, kindness ensue.  Men aren’t going to give it to us.  Men will fight for us not to have it.  It’s time to take over.

Yup, it’s time for women to revolt.  It’s time to quit messing around about equality in their world and in terms of what they’re wiling to “let” us have and be.  It’s time for women to take charge.  Question is, how many women are ready?  #WomenRevolt #BurnthePatriarchy #WomensRevolution

The Women posts:

People Power posts:

 

@Alyssa_Milano @marwilliamson @ewarren @GloriaSteinem @TaranaBurke @angelajdavis @scotusginsburg @Oprah @TheGirlMalala @MichelleObama @jameelajamil @justinbaldoni @MargaretAtwood @EmmaWatson @rgay @EverydaySexism

People Power: Think outside the box

In the last post I examined some issues in which most of us are so buried in cultural beliefs we can’t see past them.  This time I’m taking up a few issues and suggesting possible alternative views that could change the game.  Change the belief, change the thought=change reality.

Health Care — Change it all?

When the GOP first started attacking the ACA, threatening the health insurance of millions, I joined the multitudes in wringing hands.  One day, though, as I contemplated people having no access to health care, I suddenly shifted to thinking about the health care I have known and used for the last 30 years –alternative.

Suddenly light bulbs flashed and I thought about how much better alternative care has served me than western/allopathic ever did.  I could see people going to herbalists and body workers and acupuncturists and actually healing issues instead of covering the symptoms.  And I thought, “could this actually be the way to shift our health care system to one that’s holistic and healthy and really good for people?”

Since I’ve not seen a “western” doctor or participated in any way in allopathic medicine for 30 years, it’s kind of funny it took me a while to make this mental leap.  But I’d dutifully signed up for insurance to obey the law and am sufficiently immersed in the cultural thinking that I felt some measure of relief in having the “safety net” of insurance. When they tried to take it away, I felt the same sense of outrage most people were feeling.

As soon as I saw the path to a complete alternative, I calmed down about the sense we HAVE to have government-provided insurance.  Most people spend so much on premiums and co-pays, if those payments were all removed, far more could afford  the much-less-expensive alternative health care costs and we might become healthier for it.

Do we really need the allopathic health care system at all? Or should we be funding alternatives that treat people holistically and without the use of harmful pharmaceuticals.  (Take that big pharma!!!)  Changes the insurance debate completely.

Put the Burden on the Men

I’ve been seeing some deep and thought-provoking articles exploring men’s role in unwanted pregnancies and pointing out many ways in which making men legally responsible for pregnancy would change everything about the abortion debates.  Others are pointing out that better support for pregnant women and young children would remove another set of reasons for not wanting a baby.

As I ruminated I realized we need to change the whole dynamic of the argument.  It’s time to quit discussing in terms of Pro Choice and Anti-Choice, abortion or not abortion, both of which place the issue entirely on women and both of which lead to legislating women’s rights to their own bodies.  Whichever way the legislation goes, it still suggests women need governments to direct or protect their own decisions and how they choose to deal with their own bodies.

As this terrific article pointed out, men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies.  But no one is discussing legislation to regulate their participation in unprotected sex.  No one is talking about increased penalties for rape.  No one is talking about regulating men as predators.  And yet that is precisely where the discussion should be centered.  Change men’s behavior and most unwanted pregnancies never happen so the need for abortion never arises.

Others point out that if you we put the time and attention into making it easier for women to keep and raise their babies, many abortions would never happen.  Lower birth costs, find ways to help fund those costs, better and cheaper child care, increased wages, increase and expand the WIC program (supplemental nutritional program for pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children under 5.  If we helped women who choose abortions because they can’t afford to have children, many would choose to keep the baby.

If the Anti-Choice crowd really cared about “Life” they would pursue these regulations for men and work on improving aid for pregnant women and their young children so the need to even consider abortion would drop dramatically.  The fact that they choose to focus only on stopping abortion makes it clear that saving fetuses is not their real concern; regulating women is.

But I want to be clear, as long as liberals in general and the women’s movement in particular continue to accept the right wing framing of this issue as a problem for women instead of insisting on discussing it as what it really is — an issue about men’s irresponsible and arrogant behavior and refusal to own the consequences of their actions — we continue to condone the misinformed viewpoint that it’s women’s problem.

Stop Buying

In the west, and particularly in America, our rampant consuming habits are responsible for (1) a vast portion of the climate change issues we face and (2) for providing the 2% with the profits they need to control us.  It’s such a deep issue but one we really need to face.

I can see it in myself and I’m not even much of a shopper.  But I own too much.  And in the years of illness, as carry out and prepared foods have become ever easier to access, I have realized I waste huge amounts of wrapping, packaging, etc. by taking advantage regularly of the chance to have a decent meal without having to stand around preparing it.  I’m working on re-thinking my buying habits and also how to contribute less to packaging waste.

When I look around I see many people far more immersed in consumerism than I am.  I watch some of the design and house search type shows and have been finding two interesting extremes.  The one that disturbs me involves people feeling they “have” to have the latest, nicest, and the most.

People who don’t cook but upon seeing a perfectly adequate but not recently-renovated kitchen announce, “it would HAVE to be redone”.  And the number of women who, without a shade of embarrassment, inform us they need a 10×10 closet and will barely fit all their clothes in it are turning my stomach regularly.

I smile then at the other side, which is the tiny house movement in which people are reducing their possessions to a couple of trunks full and reducing their living space to incredibly small spaces (to me, claustrophobic!). I’m not sure we need to go to quite that extreme, but certainly a move much more in that direction is needed.

This tendency to buy and buy without worrying about whether things are fixable or recyclable or whether we could get something used runs so deeply in American culture and habits it’s going to be tough to get out of it.  But if we’re really worried about the environment, it’s time for us to own how we contribute by mindless consuming and to find ways to reduce our enormously wasteful buying habits.

At the same time our buying habits contribute to environmental issues by using up resources and creating waste, we also contribute to those issues by keeping the global corporations who love to destroy the environment in profits and power.

If we start drastically changing our buying habits AND work at creating local grass roots movements to grow, produce, manufacture locally and buy as much as possible from local businesses and co-ops, we also can drive the multi-nationals out of business and power.

This isn’t a change that requires government intervention at all.  It’s change that requires us to delve deep and shift our auto-buy behaviors while also creating new vibrant local economies.

***

I’m just trying to provide a few examples of how we need to step outside our ordinary thinking patterns if we want to change the world, so I’m leaving it with these three examples.  I would love it if others who have thoughts about a whole new way to think about a major issue would either comment here, or better yet write a post about it and link it to this post.

The People Power posts:

Fashion, women and the veils of patriarchy

A few months ago some of my posts were muses on the current state of women.  It’s an issue I’m still ruminating and this week some things came together for me.  Can’t quite decide if I’m disturbed or energized.  But I am ever more convinced that a shift into a time of greater feminine/Goddess energy requires women to take some long, deep looks at the many ways we’re hooked into the patriarchy.

This rumination started years ago when I began to realize that the “perfect” body coaches and judges demand of gymnasts and figure skaters is basically the body of a pre-pubescent.   Pre-pubescent boy was my first thought, but really the average body type at that stage is about the same for either gender.  Women’s grown bodies… not okay.

And more recently, as I discussed here, I reflected on another piece, the question of women dressing in revealing or “sexy” clothes.  It bugs me how much Hollywood and the fashion industry push for women to be sexy above all else.

Then lately I’ve been running into discussions about how younger women basically are waxing all the hair off their bodies.  Suddenly I got the whole picture of the body type fashion favors:  skinny, flat chest and no body hair.  Okay, we’re back to pre-pubescent.  So we’re permeated by a fashion sense that wants women to look like young girls — or boys — rather than grown up women.

You know, kids  The ones only pedophiles consider sexy.  I’m not sure which disturbs me worse:  that the fashion industry has somehow shaped the world view of sexiness to suit the desires of pedophiles (and wtf is that about?) or that so many women, instead of saying, “screw you, women who look like women — in every shape and size — are sexy and we don’t want your fashion” just jump on board and follow these dictates.

Is pedophilia really so pervasive that this long-standing, widespread effort to tell grown women the only thing that’s sexy is the body of a child hasn’t even been noticed?  Or is everything about women–not to mention children– so unimportant in our society no one is paying that much attention?

And what’s with all the women who get told they’re only sexy if they look like a pedophile’s wet dream and instantly start dieting and taking off all their body hair?  How did so many of the rest of us — us non-fashionistas — not quite see the deeper meaning in all this?  A world view that grown women aren’t desirable unless they look like and — as far as I can see — behave like children.  Now that I’ve noted it, it’s so glaring I can’t understand why this isn’t a national conversation.

I’m a great believer in the divine feminine, in the power of women.  We’re beautiful in every shape and size.  We’re smart, capable, talented, creative and most important, filled with compassionate and loving hearts.  Our compassion is the biggest reason we’re needed in positions of power and authority.  But instead of being celebrated and given equality and power for our wonderful attributes we’re in a male-dominated culture in which we’re treated as disposable, negligible, objects… children.

It’s a culture so pervasive I think most of us women are blind to some aspects of it because we’re too enmeshed in it to see.  I’m excited by the current climate of embracing women’s rights and yet I feel like much of it is dancing around the edges without delving into the deep issues.  It’s time to explore all the ways patriarchy is operating to keep women marginalized and degraded and to stand up for overthrowing all of it.  Not to mention stop colluding in it.

It starts, I feel, with women exploring their own inner landscape and healing all the ways they feel less than, lacking in self worth and/or self-respect, dependent on men, insecure, etc.  We need an army of GROWN, confident women who respect themselves and know their worth. And none of us can make anyone else do it.  It begins with me.  It begins with you.

Women and humans and all

In recent months I’ve read a lot of articles about White Privilege, schooling me in the many ways I automatically am privileged because of the color of my skin.  I kind of knew that, but it has been chilling to read whole collections detailing the experience of being a person of color in America.

One thing I kept noticing, though. in articles by women:  some of the incidents they described left me frowning and thinking, “that happens to me too.  It didn’t happen because you’re Black, it happened because you’re a woman.”  Which is not to say they didn’t also describe plenty of examples stemming entirely from racism, but something really struck me about the way issues that might really be about gender seemed to be categorized as issues of race.

While white men remain at the top of the heap in terms of privilege and white women fare better than women of color, when it comes to gender rather than race, men of every color seem to do better on pay scales and advancement than women of any color (it’s a little hard to calculate because most studies break it down by the women’s races but not, say, white women compared to black men).  Pondering that, I began wondering how much more power the women’s movement would have if ALL women banded together to demand gender equality as the biggest issue they endorse.

This brought me back to one of the notions I’ve pondered for years, relating to how splintered the movements for rights in general are.  From women to LGBT to Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, etc. the quest for rights is divided up into pockets of people agitating for the same rights but for specific groups.  And I keep thinking, “what if we all joined together to be FOR human rights?”

How much power could we wield, how much change could we bring if all these groups who seek justice and equality joined together and sought them for all?  Just thinkin’….  and wonderin’… and dreamin’

Women’s Issues: How We Treat Each Other

In my last post, I talked about women and the “right to be sexy”. The sexy issue ties in with the issue I think looms largest for us, which is the degree to which women are so immersed in the patriarchal culture–and the “romance” fantasy that serves it so well–we don’t treat one another as equal to men.   If we women don’t see one another or ourselves as equals, how can we expect men to?

When we favor men over women

The realm of dating/romance is where I see this problem most clearly.  Since my college days I’ve scratched my head over the norm in which most women will dump a plan with a woman to go on a date with a man in a blink.  There’s no hesitation, the dump is generally conducted with the unspoken assumption doing something with a man always trumps any plan a “girl” has with anyone female.  With a wink and a “you understand” both women collude in placing any time with a man in a category of “above” or “better than” any time spent with a woman.

Doesn’t matter if the woman has been your stalwart friend for years, held your hair while you puked, shared your secrets, stood up for you against the guy who broke your heart, if some man you barely know asks you on a date for the same night as your plan for dinner and a movie with a woman friend, you dump the woman — wink, wink because we all understand the man is better.  Any man, no matter how little known or how bad he may turn out to be is just more important.

I can’t quite decide whether I feel more disturbed by the women who dump their women friends so readily or by the friends who accept it as natural and right to be dumped any time there’s a chance to do anything with a man. (I will admit I never demurred–knowing it was a losing battle–but the women who did it to me got put at arm’s length and went way down my list of trusted people…; I don’t take kindly to be treated as less valuable than a man)

I told many men, back in the years when I was serial dating, that I had a plan on the night he asked about, could we choose another night.  Never once did a guy say no to a different day.  So I got to enjoy the plans with my girlfriends and then enjoy the date.  No good reason to discard the girls’ night in favor of the man.  Except maybe you don’t think women are as worthy of your time.

I know few women who would say this out loud or even admit they feel that way.  The behavior says otherwise.  I’ve known strong, independent women with impressive jobs who would flake out on a plan with me in a heartbeat if any man whatsoever asked them out on a date.  I’ve known women with amazing resumes who’ve turned on me snarling at the suggestion that women shouldn’t treat one another that way.  “Stop being childish” or “you’re just being naive”.

I’ve never said I think shifting that mentality would be easy.  The fairy-tale-happy-ending fantasy has become a deeply rooted delusion of our culture.  Issues about men and women and romance are usually complexly tied to unresolved issues about Mom and Dad, so generally get into the heart of our deepest wounds and issues in the world.  Add in the deep cultural undercurrents about men being stronger, smarter, faster, more capable, better at leadership, etc. and you have a formula for women putting men and romantic relationships with them before all else, in many cases unaware of the degree to which they’re doing it.

Nor am I saying you need to hate men or eschew marriage.  I’m not sure why so many women put this extreme interpretation on any efforts to get them to shift their behavior and offer more esteem to women, but I think there’s a middle ground.  You can love a man — hopefully one who admires and respects you and treats you as his equal — and still love the women you know and give both types of relationship equal weight.

I make no claim about how we shift all these intertwining issues.  Or that it will be easy.  But as long as women are treating one another as second class citizens and refuse to even acknowledge it’s what they’re doing or the fact it’s a problem we need to address, I don’t see how we imagine men will ever treat us as equals.  We have to feel like equals and treat one another that way first.

When we don’t see our own worth

I’ve also been looking around at studies on the pay gap and the low numbers of women in upper level positions of business and government.  I was interested but not surprised to see besides gender discrimination, many bosses report women are less likely to demand a raise or promotion and studies found women are also far more reticent about putting themselves forward.  (Probably not helped by the general male attitude that any woman who does push for advancement is a bitch…)

In a society where women are raised as less than, often told their main jobs are cleaning and child rearing, so many of us lack the kind of confidence and self-esteem most men take for granted.  Most of us are so entangled in the world view of a society that values men over women it is hard for us to feel confident and worthy.

Some inner searching and working on raising our sense of worthiness are so important if we want to break out of our web of male privilege and achieve real equality.

When we stand together

Our best hope, I think, of stepping outside the patriarchy and insisting upon equality is to support one another.  To help one another heal the issues keeping us in thrall of romance, the issues of low self-worth and confidence, the habit of valuing men over one another, etc.  Together we heal.  Standing together we are a force.