Thursday, December 17, 2009

Theme Thursday - History

I call this one “Because”.
Because. Because. Because.
How many times in our lives have we women heard that one-word answer in response to a perfectly legitimate question put forth by us? The reason we hear it is BECAUSE they – you know, ”THEY” – have no other answer. There actually IS no other answer. Other than prejudice and fear. So I offer this up for Theme Thursday: An inexcusable history of the treatment of little girls and women by societies of every stripe and always under the guise of “protecting” them:


Little girls. What are little girls made of? Well, I suppose that depends on the little girl so it's hard to say. But I hope for her sake that she is made of stern stuff. She will need it. She will need it because, unlike little boys, she faces a stacked and many times hostile deck. Making her way in life, in some ways, will be easier than in the past. But it will be anything but easy.

She will learn at a very early age that there is something "different" about her. She will wonder why, at the age of 5 or 6, she is expected to wear a shirt in the summertime while her 7 year old brother runs around comfortably shirtless. She looks at him. She looks at herself. She sees no difference. Nevertheless, little girls must wear a shirt. Why? Because.

She will find herself limited, time and time again throughout life, both by law and by custom, for no other reason than this "difference" which she neither sees nor comprehends. By the time of the "shirt incident" she will already have experienced the discrimination which will continue throughout her life. She will have been given dolls and strollers and tea sets. Her brother will have received chemistry sets, footballs, chess sets, and rockets.

Later she will be assigned kitchen chores. Her brother will not. Her parents will be happy when she earns a "C" in science and math. They will expect her brother to earn an "A" in these subjects. Why? Because.

She will face a world where computer ads show bright-eyed, engrossed boys competing for control of mouse and keyboard. Girls will be shown pretending to be princesses, or dressing up their Barbie dolls.

Even if she manages, when she is grown, to somehow overcome the early lessons and succeed beyond expectations, she will still be assumed by those who do not know to be the secretary rather than the boss, the nurse rather than the doctor, the flight attendant rather than the pilot, the administrative assistant rather than the CEO. As "reward" for her audacity in succeeding, she will be labeled "pushy", "uppity", or that old stand-by: "bitch".

Of course, in some parts of the world, it will be impossible for her to achieve anything because she will be sold/tricked into a life of slavery and prostitution or married to some forty- or fifty-something man before she is old enough to know what is happening to her. Why? Because.

In our own "progressive" corner of the world, she will find that people who neither share nor care about her own beliefs and politics will go to almost any lengths to force her to surrender the right to control her own body -- even in the face of near-certain death.

She will be told it is her "place" to be subservient to her male authority figure (father/husband). She will be told her husband's signature is required. She will receive the figurative pat on the head and told not to worry her pretty little head about it while her full-service broker merrily manipulates her money (should she be lucky enough to have some) to his own advantage and charges her more for the "service" than he would if she were male. Throughout her life she will be charged more for many other items and services than she would be charged if she were male. And she will find that, for some unknown reason, her own labor is not worth as much as her male co-worker's. Why? Because.

She will be the one to care for elderly parents while her brothers, better loved and lauded, go on with their lives unencumbered. She will be the one who misses work (when she works at all) to care for sick children. And she will be the one who is blamed when the children don't "turn out" as expected.

She will learn all these lessons well. Obviously the female's fortune and fate is her body. It's what's between the legs rather than what's between the ears that matters. She can't help but learn it. She will see it demonstrated everywhere, every day, over and over again. And when the lesson is finally swallowed whole, she will act on it -- manipulating, selling, tricking, bargaining, surviving -- using her body as her capital as she has been so thoroughly taught. And the day she goes beyond the socially-accepted prostitutions, she will face an incredulous society, cloaked in dirty innocence, asking, "How could you? Why?"

And she will answer truthfully: "Because".

Submitted respectfully – but very seriously – by AngelMay who asks each of you, when you hear the term "female circumcision", to scream and rant and stomp and threaten until the person who utters this blatant falsehood admits that what should have been said was "female genital mutilation."

If you doubt for one minute this treatment of females still exists right here, right now, go here:


Baino said...

I think for many this is true but this has resonance:

She will be the one to care for elderly parents while her brothers, better loved and lauded, go on with their lives unencumbered. She will be the one who misses work (when she works at all) to care for sick children. And she will be the one who is blamed when the children don't "turn out" as expected

Fortunately mine 'turned out' OK but I used to work for a boss (male) who wasn't at all family friendly and had to pretend I was sick when my kids needed me at home.

Sadly life hasn't changed for most third world women. Lacking education and knowledge their plight remains dire.

Alan Burnett said...

This is such a serious subject and I am such agreement with you that I will avoid any "smart" or "clever" or "funny" comment. The subject does not deserve it. Your call deserves respect and support - and that is what it gets from me.

Janice said...

This is such an incredible piece, and every word rings true. Growing up female has been a challenge and still is. When there are so many important issues on this topic to consider, I have a trivial story to add to what you have written. When I was widowed in 1969, American Express canceled our credit card. OK...he had the job because I had just given birth, but I paid the bills, I had the college education, but I was the female. I am still totally pissed off at American Express, and gleefully rip up their regular invitations to NOW apply for a card. Among the many memories of discrimination I experienced, just writing about this one has made me see red all over again. I was THAT secretary, I was THAT flight attendant, I was THAT -let's don't forget - teacher. Your TT piece resonates with me. Well done!

Brian Miller said...

really a dispicable mark against humanity...i rant...i rave...and thank you for bringing it up...

Poetikat said...

I am of the same mind with you on this issue.

As for personal experience, I had no brothers, so I didn't get taken for granted in that way. I have seen these prejudices at work in other families and in the workplace however and I find it appalling.

Colette Amelia said...

Bravo Angela May! all so true. So well said!

otin said...

She comes from a deep place with passion and fire.

She writes with strength and beauty.

She points out bad things in the world.

I think that she is pretty damned cool!

just Because!

subby said...

As one who is currently caring for an aged parent( Mom ), I find nothing unencumbered about my life. But that's just me out of what, millions?

I believe in equal rights for all. Gender and race shouldn't have a damn thing to do with it.

An will somebody wise up and get gov't out of everyone's pants( and skirts )?

Some most excellent points you bring up and well taken.

willow said...

Excellent post.

Stephanie said...

Point taken. Hence the need for strong women role models.

Roy said...

Excellent essay, AngelMay! Brava!

Wings said...

Deep take on the theme, here. So much to say, and sadly, even though lots of changes have happened, lots haven't.

JeffScape said...

Excellent post. I had the honor of studying under Dr. Elizabeth Ervin who was a staunch feminist and loved to beat me up with it. I miss her more than I thought I would.

Regarding "circumcision," I think both the male and female versions are barbaric practices.

...mmm... said...

Well, sadly this is true for far too many, but gladly I kow many families like my own who expect one's sons to also pitch in, clean, make meals and learn tenderness to be better fathers and husbands.

What rips me up the most is the exploitation of not just women, but girls and boys by sick evil monsters and Westerners as "tourists" goginto Bankok and the like and pretending that these innocent sex slves are someohow willingly wanting to do this. In fact the same goes with the porn industry as a whole where many are hooked in through drugs adn intimidation--something we'd rather not focus on buthave the likes of dirty old men like Letterman simply makes light of such modern day western exploitation by plsying along with it!!

Skip Simpson said...

Bravo!!! Excellent post! I am SO proud of you!!! (Gives big old hug.)

Kris said...

I am woman, hear me ROAR!

CatLadyLarew said...

Powerful stuff, Angel May. Well done. Well done.

e said...

A serious and enlightening post. Thanks for including it today.

Dreamhaven said...

I have seen photos of this. Mutilation should never be a part of childhood. Women should be empowered to be all they can be. Great post

Gladys said...

Thank you for bringing this forward.

Betsy said...

Ditto exactly what Otin said! wow...Otin can be brilliant some times! ;)

R.J. Edwards said...

A brilliant essay!

The Silver Fox said...

That was an absolutely amazing post.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where my father gladly signed over his monthly paycheck to a mother who was trusted to handle all expenses -- which she did so admirably -- as well as cook, clean, raise the kids, and all the socially-mandated "wifely/motherly duties." She also found time to helm a church-run kindergarten for five or six years, served as that church's organist & choir director, went all out helping me prepare for the various pageants, plays, etc. in which I performed all through my school years and Cub Scout days, and even did minor remodeling jobs to our homes... in her "spare time."

During the last year or so, before she finally stopped fighting and left us last week, my mom's health and mental faculties deteriorated, and she became less and less able to operate with the fierce independence by which she'd steered her life. I can thankfully say that I was there for her, helping her pay her bills, sort out her meds, etc. My sister was there for her as well, I should say, and neither of did so because of -- or despite -- archaic, unfair "roles."

Your post spoke to all of that, of course, but even if it hadn't, it was still a scathing indictment of the unfairness still practiced in our so-called "mature society." And for that, you should be commended.