Why Women Relinquish Their Power – Or Do They?

So today I’m going to write about something that isn’t about babies although by the time I finish it, I’ll probably connect it up to babies in some way.

Blogger Justine Musk of Tribal Writer posted a poem last weekend titled “we give up our power because.” There’s the link. Go read if you like and come back to discuss.

The poem is all about how women are still giving up their power. Being coerced (by men but also by society) into choosing skinny jeans and a sexy but nice image instead of the ambitious, ball busting CEO.

When I first read the poem I was filled with righteous indignation. Wasn’t this the truth! How unfair! How infuriating! But then I took a step back. So when was the last time I felt marginalized for being a woman? Hmm, that would be when my mom cited the saying she likes so much – A son is a son till he takes a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.

Besides that clever piece of wisdom and a few other things she says, I’ve never felt marginalized for being a woman. What? Really? How can that be? Men conspire against us at every turn to take away our power, right?

I can’t think of one instance when a man made me feel dumb or stupid or powerless because I was a woman. I do recall instances when other women (or girls) did. When I was in middle school I wasn’t allowed to shave my legs and it was awful. There were a few girls who would run their hands up your shins to see if you shaved and if you didn’t-oh my goodness the humiliation. Same thing about wearing make-up, wearing a bra, being flirtatious and chased by (and chasing) boys. The pressure all came from the other girls or for some girls, their mothers. The boys were thrilled if you played soccer with them and didn’t whine if you got pegged by the ball.

Most of my feelings of woman-based inferiority, if I have any, come from my mom. It’s okay, this is something we’ve talked a lot about and we understand each other well on this issue. She grew up in the 50’s and 60’s when women really were marginalized by men and although she struck out on her own, independent path, it was hard for her to completely rid herself of all the sexist expectations and couldn’t help but pass some of these on to me. Being a lady for instance and all the strange, vague arts that entails.

The main experience I have of feeling singled out as a female is when my mom would tell me to be a lady. I’d yell at her – “my brothers don’t have to be a ladies, why do I?”  Suffice to say I was somewhat of a tom-boy and proud of it. Suffice to say, yelling that at my mom was not being a lady.

In spite of my constant rebelling against having to be *ugh* ladylike. I did, indeed, somehow turn into a lady. I think. Hmm, sometimes maybe? It just occurred to me I still have no idea what being a lady means. Oh well.

Just to illustrate how complicated gender issues can be, consider this. I believe many parents, not all but many, would encourage their son to fight back if bullied. Fight back with balled up fists, not by running to the teacher. Why? Because all too often the teachers don’t do anything and all too often tattling will incur more and more bullying. So I’ve heard.

However, we also teach our little men to never hit a girl, right? Well, why not? Is a girl weaker? We all know that often, especially in grade and middle school, this is not the case. So why? It goes back to the idea that women are weaker, or, as I think my husband would argue, women are to be respected. Even if some women aren’t deserving of respect. It doesn’t matter. As an adult male, if you punch a woman, you are abusive. Unless…are there any unlesses? Unless you’re matched with a woman in a co-ed kick boxing competition? Haha, see what a can of worms this is? Also, if a woman punches a man, the man can claim abuse but there’s a pretty good likelihood he’ll be ridiculed. There are no shelters for abused men. Actually, never mind. I just googled it and there are some in California.

I really have to think about this stuff being mother to a son. My thought now is I’ll simply teach him to respect people, boys and girls. But also to stand up for himself when he needs to. Please, please, please, Charlie, try not to get bullied by a girl. In fact, just to be safe, my little cherub, avoid girls at all cost. You’ll thank me later.

And this is how all the problems begin. Good intentions, off-hand, silly comments, an ernest attempt to protect daughters, all wrapped up into the vague notion that women are trouble if not contained. I’ll have much more to say on this, I’m sure, if I’m ever blessed with a baby girl.

 

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