When I was young I never gave much thought to women’s inequality being a male and having never encountered these problems. Then later in life as a minority I became acutely aware that subtle social attitudes of racial inequality still existed even though legal racial equity had existed for many decades. I found that minorities entering political offices still had to struggle for recognitions and equal standing and having to still break glass ceilings. This still goes on subtly in many local government and school boards. So when I realized that women, half our population, were encountering similar and sometimes worst discrimination I could relate as much as any man can relate.
But while I was still young and naive I bought in to many of the myths I had been told by men about women. I believed that they were good at following instructions and doing repetitive work but not very good at rational or creative thinking. Many women I know fell within this category thus reinforcing this myth. In actuality society molded or taught women to behave according to such social norms but I was not conscious of this. There was a women in my profession as an engineer that I knew but she did not impressive me. Women were supposed to stay at home, have and rear children, cook, and take care of the house. Another myth was when they had their menstrual period they were emotional wrecks incapable of taking on critical responsibilities. Another was that women were not good at organizing and managing responsibilities under a lot of pressure. It never occurred to me that raising a family, especially kid is one crisis after another with unbelievable pressure and that wives were always involved in organizing church, school, fundraisers and other activities. There were of course many other myths that I bought into.
Then I started to realize how accomplished women abroad were. Golda Meir was Prime Minister of Israel, no easy job, from 1969 to 1974. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. Both women leaders were known for their toughness and were each called the Iron Lady. This is when I realized that there was little basis for the myths about women and started to change my views. But it took a few more years for me to completely revere. I started to see more women in the high tech profession getting into managerial jobs, some with distinction. The women’s liberation movement started to take hold. I saw more women coworker engineers whom I respected for their engineering abilities. So about 25 years ago I knew for certain that women were my equals or better without question. Today there are women who run some of our largest high-tech corporations and others who are Senators and have been Secretary of States and one narrowly missed becoming President of our nation.
Now I find it disheartening that in this country which prides itself so highly upon freedom, equality, and justice for all, there still exist social and professional inequalities for half of our population. It is equally disheartening to see that this is still condoned by even some women who are themselves repressed. We are critical of how some nations treat women as mere property but in our nation some still treat women little better. Women have been making much progress in gaining equal rights in the workplace both in opportunities and pay but abuses and inequities still exist. There are few areas including the military where women have not proven themselves man’s equal but they are still struggling to gain acceptance as equals. Macho superiority still exists in all walks of life especially those of a physical nature. The average woman is physically weaker than the average man but there are many exceptions. Often women of physical inferiority compensate by learning how to do the same task differently. But in some cases women may not be as capable as men just as some men are less capable than other men. But attitudes are slowly changing in this nation so full of traditions, some not so equal or opportunistic.
Women have finally gained the right to serve in combat roles in the military allowing them promotional opportunities that combat experience gives. There have been women law enforcement officers and fire fighters for some years that used to be exclusively man’s domain but they have proven themselves over the years. Pay equity has also improved and there are now laws that reinforce this. Women have broken most glass ceilings but full and equal acceptance is still more socially tolerated than embraces. In families men are still looked upon as head of households and women still do most of the child rearing and household chores even though they have equal or higher professional responsibilities. But more men are starting to step up to the plate and take more responsibility for raring their children and taking equal responsibility for household chores. So social acceptance of sexual equality has taken hold and social norms and attitudes are changing.
But things such as rape and women abuse are still tolerated by many. Women are still treated as willing parties instead of victims of rape and not treated as seriously as other violent crime victims. Husband spousal abuse is still often considers putting a woman in her place and not prosecuted as other violent crimes so husbands keep on repeating their abuse because women keep on returning to such relationships due to insecurities of living on their own or in fear of retaliation by their spouse. Better training in law enforcement has made progress in identifying and prosecuting such cases but even juries can still side with men.
Where I feel that we most desperately need far more women is in representing our population in government. In general women have much better communication skills, are much more patient at listening, are more willing to discuss than fight, and are more compassionate and in closer tune with the everyday citizen. Perhaps if half the ranks of Congress consisted of women, maybe there would be more communications across the aisle. Perhaps Congress would be more able to function and pass laws and budgets. If we had a woman President maybe she would think longer and harder before jumping into wars or more effective at dealing more positively in foreign policy. Perhaps there would be more peace and harmony in the world instead of war and tension.
Bottom line, things have greatly improved over the last 25 years but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Inequalities still exist for half our population but social trends are starting to be less tolerant of women inequality. We are seeing more women in managerial, executive, and government positions. But most of these roll are still male dominated. Women at least have a foot in the door. The trend towards greater equality is starting to show signs of convergence. Few social changes happen rapidly in America. But since women first got the right to vote in 1920 they are still fighting for equal standing. I feel 90 years is more than long enough for society to change.
I applaud your support for women’s rights. Progress is being made in the USA thanks to the many courageous women and men who’ve stood up and demanded changes for justice and equity (equal pay for equal work). Women now make 77 cents to every $1.00 a man makes for same job. That’s better than 59 cents a few decades ago. In 2008, Lilly Leadbetter won a landmark federal Fair Pay Act after decades of unequal pay as a Goodyear manager.
I found out how women worldwide are doing, when I wen to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women as a WILPF delegate in 2011. Here’s how most women are doing in the world, we are 1/2 the world’s population, do 2/3 of the world’s work (home care and work, too),
make 10% of the world’s income and own 1% of the world’s resources (property, assets). Women make up about 17% of leaders in government. Pretty dismal when you also include on Violence Against Women to the mix. VAWA just passed this week and was signed into law by President Obama.
When someone points out that women really don’t want to be community & business leaders, I note that many women of ability and potential willing chose to take care of their families rather than pursue the path of career advancement. Not many men choose to make that choice. In my case, my husband’s career always took precedence and this included moves across the country and job changes initiated by him. Our move back to California was initiated by me, because I detested Midwestern weather and culture. I’ve always considered myself a traditional housewife and mother, but realize that there is a time and place for me to make my own path, regardless of my traditional role. Men probably don’t think like women in putting family care before career..after all you think of yourselves as the breadwinners and heads of household, not caregivers to children and elderly parents, or making a home a safe and comfortable haven from the slings and arrows of society. What I notice is that many of my women friends, some immigrants had husbands who left them to fend for themselves with the children. I admire my friends for overcoming in this male-dominated society, finding jobs, and raising their children without a spouse. Would men do as well?
I am glad that you have empowered yourself to take control of your life and fight for your rights. Too many women would like to have equal rights but are not willing to take the extra step or effort to fight for it. They have been too well conditioned by cultural upbringing. The more people, especially women, who actively join your ranks the faster your rights and social norms will change. For sure if half the population pushed for equal rights you will be guaranteed those rights. We need by far more women leaders. Good luck and good wishes.
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