Equality or Lip Service? by Monica Wilcox

February 18th, 2012

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Wow! Can we all agree that last week was a hard kick to the uterus?

I usually hate to write about “hot topics” after they’ve turned cold but the uterus doesn’t really fall into the hot topic category; it’s more of a buried topic, fuming in the coffin, clawing its way out, yet again, to eat the female population alive.  Yes, it may have slunk back into its shallow grave but trust me, it’ll be back. It just keeps creeping back.

And I’m Exhausted By It

First, I was enlightened about the recent bill that was passed by the Virginia Senate forcing women who want to have an abortion to do an ultrasound first. So, if my family happened to move to Virginia and my daughter or I were to become unexpectedly pregnant, we would receive a clear, fluttering image to help us remember this life altering (and what most men could not know is that this is, either way, a life altering) decision. Obviously the State does not believe my capabilities as a mother/woman are enough and since neither of us can be trusted to grasp the sensitivity and importance of this choice, this male dominated group (you know this statistic could safely be assumed but I checked anyway; 34-6) has decided to do it for us. Not that they would be in the room to watch that heart beat, or have required the father to also be present. Thirty six men, in all their uterine wisdom, with NO possibility of facing a situation (violent vaginal rape) where the law forces them to have a scope stuck into their body, have dictated that one can be stuck into mine and my child’s. Oh, but this is only the beginning. Because they have assured us that they have much more to say about what’s best for women.

It did not surprise me that they’ve sold this law as a “health measure”; like I’m silly enough to accept this as truth; as if I haven’t been educated on the lack of funding that has been historically given to women’s health. If the Virginia Senate really cared about my health they’d be taking measures to protect my heart.

And we’re concerned for the women in the Middle East?

Then Washington Had a Meeting

Of course it upset me to see a panel of men discussing with a board of other men (did not check stats but seriously, do I need to?) about contraception. It pissed me off that no one thought beforehand how this would look, “Hey man, this might come off looking questionably  P.C. to 51% of the population. Don’t we have a female minister we can stick on the end or something?” Yes, it pissed me off that they obviously didn’t care how I would feel to see a room full of men deciding how to manage my ability to conceive. And it pissed me off that the one woman who was set to speak on this issue never did. But what really got to me, what set me to fuming, is that I am naïve enough to think it would be… could be… any different.

Because here is the problem at its core: we can’t demand a panel of female experts, politicians, and CEO’s to represent our population because there isn’t a pool to draw from. Women are still not the majority of the leadership/management team in any organization.

Lip Service

Let me tell you what kind of mother/woman I am. I’m raising my daughter with the same expectations, hope, and zest that I give my son. The difference is I don’t have to constantly enforce these verbal montages to my son because society is already doing it. EVERY DAY I tell her that she can do anything she wants. I tell her she does not need a man in her life to be successful. I tell her that she has a special gift to offer and that all she needs is a good education, drive, and the courage to accomplish it. I tell her anything is possible.

I’m lying to her.

Because I am a mother/woman who is afraid that the truth will slash her dreams and lower her expectations. Should I tell her the truth? That if she were to do the same job as her brother she’d be paid less. That men are still making the decisions about her uterus, her education, her employment, her finances, the very products available to her. Should I tell her tonight that men, the minority, are still huddled around long tables deciding the rules for women… the majority.

Although my daughter was born decades after the start of the feminist movement into “the land of the free”, she has yet to live a day of equality. She has men in her life EVERY DAMN DAY, telling her how a woman lives a “successful” life.  And if she has a special gift to share with this planet, I know she will not receive the same opportunities my son will get to share his.

If you believe she will, you are lying to yourself.

Oprah recently asked the American managers of a Haitian orphanage if they were misleading the girls by giving them an education and inspiring them to want a career and life beyond raising children.  Oprah knows it can be dangerous to sell someone on a dream which brinks on the impossible.

I’m asking EVERY woman, the majority in this country, I’m asking the Virginia State Senate and the men sitting on Capitol Hill and every other man sitting at a boardroom table… are you selling my daughter a pipedream? Are we setting up our girls to a bitter and disappointing future?

Are we going to continue to give girls lip service or are we going to give them a seat? That’s all I want to know. I don’t give a healthy care if those men on Capitol Hill were arguing over abortion, contraception, church policy, health care or the waves on Ruffles! I want to know – are WE (if you can vote, if you have a voice, then I’m asking you) going to continue to keep our daughters out of the boardroom so our sons are guaranteed a seat?

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8 Responses to “Equality or Lip Service? by Monica Wilcox”

  1. Jennifer says:

    We need to tell our daughters the truth, as much as they can handle at each age, so we can use our majority and make changes. These changes will not come from those currently in power. We have to TAKE the power and make the changes ourselves. It’s a lie to say it will be easy. A lie to say anything will be handed to her. But not a lie to say it’s possible. Too many women consign themselves to the impossibility of being truly equal. It’s not fair we have to fight for our birthright but it’s not going to get any better unless we do. Our mothers and aunts fought before us, so we’d have the right to vote. We now must use what they won for us and continue the battle.

  2. Dana says:

    Monica: I totally sympathize with your horror here, but I don’t think you’re lying to your daughter. Truth is what we tell ourselves and we believe. There is no objective truth but only ways of looking at objective reality (if there is such a thing which i kinda doubt).

    Here’s the truth I care about, for example, in the equal pay gap. There are statistical differences between what “average” men and women make. I don’t dispute that, but there are individual lives inside all those stats. What I focus on with myself, my children, my readers and everything else is what it takes to be in the statistical group you want to be in. If you want to be in the group that makes more money – whether you’re a man or a woman – this means certain things – including not “believing” the truth that “a woman makes less because she’s a woman”. If we buy into the statistics as a “realistic truth” we disempower ourselves and make it harder to be the statistical anomalies. I choose to be an anomaly when it suits me personally. (For a great video on this point, watch the opening here: http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work.html) I am trying to teach my kids the same thing. But I don’t think I’m lying to them by telling them what’s possible unless I “lie” and – as Jennifer says – say it won’t be challenging and require them to be independent, strong and resilient human beings, always learning always changing and following their own path.

    I’m not all poly anna about this – and the whole abortion panel just makes me roll my eyes. Of course there are inequities and stupidities and hypocrisies out there and of course we can’t ignore them. I choose not to let them mire me in anger and negativity in an effort to be clearer about how my own life plays out for me. Let the statistics fall where they may. I firmly believe that when enough people – especially women – do this, the statistics will shift extremely dramatically – and in our favor.

    I agree with Jennifer that those currently in power won’t give us what is “fair” (I don’t know if I even believe in “fair” anymore either), but rather than take it from them, I suggest we just BE the change, raise our voices to demonstrate the positive, see it and show it to others. Many cannot imagine it any other way. So this is our job, to help people – including our children – imagine that better way, absent anger and full of love. I believe it’s already happening. I believe it’s inevitable. I believe that instead of fighting, it’s now our job to lead the next generation of women into the power they will have and ease their journey. It’s what I’m committing my professional career to.

    Thank you for writing this and raising the issues that we should be concerned about for such rich discussion. I like seeing these things through your eyes as the mother of girls.

    Dana

  3. Penny says:

    We have to keep trying for all of our daughters!

  4. Jennifer says:

    I did not mean we’d take power FROM people but that we must take our own power and not wait for it to be given to us. But I do believe it will be a fight, because people will not let us come into power peacefully. I also believe that anger can come from a place of love. Even Jesus got angry from a place of love. We all have different roles to play in this and that’s how it should be. The problem is when we avoid the topic altogether and resign ourselves to the status quo.

  5. Thank you Dana for your long and well thought out comment.

    I agree that what we believe as individuals is a very critical piece. If I didn’t believe this I would not encourage positive, expansive thinking in my children. Yet, I also see that we have to also be connected and educated on the reality we are in. A perfect example of this was the message I got as a girl, which was “You can do everything.” Many women in my generation have completely fried themselves in an effort to do “everything”. I think we’ve learned that it is impossible for any human, woman or man, to do everything. Those who have tried end up with health issues and overwhelming stress. We’re learning that it’s better to focus on doing a few things well which means we must sacrifice in other areas.

    My main concern is the large number of women I know/see who are silent, don’t vote and are completely unaware that the majority of decisions in their lives are being made by men. It’s as if they are waiting for the Hilary Clinton’s and Meg Whitman’s of the world to step up and make way. The problem is, if we’re going to be represented at every table, we need huge numbers of women to step into those decision making positions. I know you are working hard to empower women, Dana, but we need more, many more, of you. Twenty to thirty percent of our population expanding to their fullest potential and using their personal strength will still leave a lot of open seats.

    I am well aware of the strides we’ve made, and I am so grateful to be born into a generation that can vote and speak out and write a blog without fear of being stoned (Unfortunately, that’s not a joke.) I’m extremely thankful to be an American woman but I still think the general population needs to ask themselves where they stand and if they don’t like the lack of input being given by women, how are they going to help change it?

    Keep up your efforts and positive outlook!

    Monica

  6. Gram P says:

    Right on, Little Sis. There have been battles won but the war of allowing women to be their own person is still to be fought. Insecure, frightened males are not aware that they can be replaced in seats of power and it is our responibility as women to see that they are educated and replaced.
    On the other side of the coin, don’t forget that your son will be the receipient of scorn and difficulty if he should chose to pursue a life that is not considered ‘manly’ in both women’s and men’s eyes. We have a ways to go on that issue too.

  7. Alison Regan says:

    Monica, you are not lying to your daughter. Yes, there are these male-dominated aspects to our society, but it is not so black/white. As a psychologist with a private practice on Wall Street and friends here to boot, I see many very, very, very successful women. Women in their 20′s and 30′s are more powerful than ever, and many have a real sense of power over all areas of their lives…career, finances, health, whether they will or won’t marry (same for children) and are much feistier and clever at dealing with men in power. They also seem to feel quite assured of their rights and are much more adept at getting what they believe they deserve.

  8. EnnEll says:

    Monica, I am just as angry as you are about this situation, but I think you are leaving out one significant thing: the women who ARE in power, seem to be as guilty of victimizing women as the men are. I say this because of my own recent experiences. I returned to school at age 50 because I had received the lecture that getting an education would get me out of the poverty I grew up in. It was the last class of my Graduate program in which I finally had the opportunity to study women in the work force and how difficulty it is after being away for a period of time. Even so, I thought I would be able to depend on women to help me. My experience as an older woman was that when I tried for jobs where it was a woman hiring, I got responses such as “You’re older than I thought you would be.” “I’m afraid you’re not trainable.” “We need people who are comfortable working with diverse populations.” “I’m afraid you just wouldn’t fit in here.”
    I am thoroughly disgusted that women who have the power to make life more equitable for other women are more likely to do what they can to keep us down. I have had two jobs in my field since graduating–hired by a man each time. But absolutely unable to work with the women (in all cases, younger than me) in power in those jobs.
    Yes, we should be angry that ignorant men are doing these things. But I am so much more angry at the women who have the power to change things but refuse to step up to their responsibility.