Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Woman Still Emerging

Greetings, Readers  - Some recent reports have made it clear: women STILL have a ways to go for real equality. 

Some Reports

Let's start by noting that reproductive health care for women is under attack.  Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz argues that we must trust women with their own reproductive choices.   Melinda Gates is advocating for reproductive and family planning services worldwide.  And as it turns out, access to reproductive health care is also good for the economy!  So it should be a win-win, right?  Why then, is there so much resistance to something that should be a total positive?  We all need to be advocates for this.

But sadly, there's even more.  Missouri is seriously on verge of passing legislation which would allow employer to fire women who are using birth control or who have had abortions and also allow landlords to discriminate against such women.  I'm tired of some holier-than-thou excuse for allowing discrimination.

Whew! And we haven't even gotten to the two reports which  prompted this post - yet.  One that floored me was a report from North Carolina.  There is a loophole in law that says a person cannot withdraw consent for sex once given.  Not if she (or he) changes mind or things get out of hand.  There is a call for change, but apparently the proposal is stuck in a legislative committee.  All should hope and pray that this law does get change rather soon.

But I came across an even more stunning case.  The story of Megan Rondini, who accused a powerful member of her community of rape.  Under Alabama law, victims (yes, victims!) must prove the seriously fought back. The investigator in Rondini's case concluded she did not, that no rape occurred, and further, started building a case against her for various crimes!  What is going on in that state???  I can say no more except that when I reached the end of the piece, my heart just broke.

Patriarchy and Control

Such reports, and other recent news, such as the incident where the Senate moved to stop Sen. Warren from reading Coretta Scott King's letter and the reluctance of folks to pay attention to Cosby accusers early on show that the U. S. really is still a patriarchy.  In fact, most cultures, historically and even still today, are patriarchal. So to make sure we're all on the same page on exactly what that is here's a definition from Gerda Lerner: "the manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in the society in general." which implies "that men hold power in all the important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. It does not imply that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence and resources".  (you can check out her book: The Creation of Patriarchy)

This dominance - and accompanying controls often centered on controlling female sexuality (see section on "Historical Conceptions and Controls' here).  A paper by Prof. Bo Lewin, Uppsala Univ., Sweden, has quite an interesting take on some very possible reasoning:

"...men do not give birth to other men. This is the weak link of patriarchy. Men are, in spite of universally being of the ruling gender, dependent on women to have heirs; And women can be certain about who is their child and who is not, but men cannot be certain about who is the father of the children of their spouse.

 The fecundity of women, and ultimately the sexuality of women hence has to be controlled since this really is the weak spot of patriarchy: Who is the real father of the alleged son and nephew? Because we cannot have wealth and privileges passing to the wrong male child, since that would be totally against the orderly, organised and foreseeable transferral of wealth, power and privileges that to a large extent is what constitutes society! The sexuality of women, thus constitutes a threat to male supremacy and the existing social order."

Lewin continues by observing that often one of two general ways cultures react to this: either by de-sexualizing women or by somehow controlling their sexuality physically.  To address this and to work for progress, Lewin advocates studying the socialization of the particular culture in question and:

"...then to analyse the particular social contexts attempting not only to be descriptive but with an aim of understanding how cultures and sub-cultures have been formed so that we may find exactly those areas where women and men are seen as companions, to find those areas where people are people and not commodities, and to find those areas of these particular cultures and subcultures where the sexuality of women is not perceived as threatening."  I like that.  I like that a lot!

We need to be aware of such strictures and look to progress beyond them.  For example, one might not think of the Civil Rights Movement here, but... I have a copy of the book, At the Dark End of the Street - Black Women, Rape, and Resistance  - a New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (disclaimer: I have not READ the book yet, but author Danielle L McGuire's c-span presentation was quite good!).  In the preliminary pages there is a quote from Gunnar Myrdal from 1944: "Sex is the principle around which the whole structure of segregation... is organized." This volume addresses this very important subtext to the story of the Movement.


To make progress, we need people of goodwill period, to be allies.

John Adams relinquished his title of master.  And I found this gem from John Stuart Mill:

"That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other" (from The Subjugation of Women, 1869)

We women also need to step up our game.  It's often said women aren't always the most supportive of other women.  Well, here's a dose of why we SHOULD support each other! I really like #12.

So in spite of resistance, we women (and allies) need to keep persisting as WOMAN is still emerging into the fullness she is destined for.

Remember: comments are gold and sharing is caring!

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