The Still-lowly Status of Women
March is Women’s History Month and March 8th is International Women’s Day. Hooray, let’s celebrate! How can you not want to celebrate women? I come from a family predominated by women: aunts, sisters, nieces. I love hanging out with women of all stripes, working, dancing, crying, gossiping, singing, laughing. It usually takes only a little scratching of the surface to find a connection with most women, and on my list of people to admire there are far more women than men. I am not done with men, but I no longer see them as the movers and shakers, the creators and innovators, that women are. And it’s hard for me to imagine any social cohesion would be possible without the existence of women.
Given these things, every time March rolls around and women are being extolled, I am sadly reminded of how far women have to go to achieve true gender equality. The fact that we have our designated month, just as there is a designated month for celebrating Black History, underscores how marginalized we continue to be, despite the fact that we comprise over 50% of the population.
I fought for women’s rights in my twenties then lapsed into complacency, believing that much of the work was done. After all, women had come to occupy positions of power in law and medicine and politics, hadn’t they? Yes, progress has been made over the years, but not enough progress. There is still a long way to go. Women’s reproductive rights are still under attack and glass ceilings prevail in almost every field. Women are still paid far less than men for equal labor, despite the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
It is my belief that this fight for parity, and the deeper underlying fight for respect, must be waged over and over, and I think this will probably be true far into the future. Patriarchal norms have been in place for centuries and the stakeholders (men) are reluctant to relinquish power. The biology of the sexes makes the challenge even greater. Women’s generally smaller size along with reproductive equipment that produces pregnancy makes us vulnerable to the greater size and often brute force of the testosterone-fueled impulses and actions of men. We cannot afford to be complacent, not even when we have female presidents and CEOs and generals, not even when women predominate in the halls of government and control the labs of scientific research and their creative efforts are taken as seriously as those of men.
Only when circumstances have changed enough that serious consideration is given to establishing a “Men’s History Month,” we can perhaps begin to ease the struggle.