Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Than Half the Sky

Women Holding up the Sky
When I was coming of age there were many jobs that were unthinkable for women to hold. My best friend wanted to be a disc jockey, although we'd never heard of a female disc jockey. A prominent newscaster stated publicly that witnessing a woman read the news would be just like listening to nursery rhymes. It was rare to hear of a woman doctor or lawyer. Now the law and medical school enrollments of women top the 50% mark.

Of course, women still earn less than men (about 77 cents to the dollar). In some Muslim countries, like Iran, women, by law, inherit half of what their brothers do and when it comes to testimony in a court of law, it takes two women to equal one man. Yesterday in Abidjan, on the Ivory Coast, seven women were killed when their protest was fired upon with live ammunition. From denial of the right to an education, "bride-burning," genital mutilation, flogging, stoning and enforced confinement in the home, women's suffering in the world is clear, our lot is still not an easy one.

Back here in the States feminism ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime. In the ridiculous category, there seem to be an new crop of television ads that feature only women talking about some aspect of washing clothes, vacuuming or some other facet of house cleaning. The strange addition of the title Ms. as a selection in multiple choice paperwork totally defeats the purpose of using it at all. The original intent was to utilize it as an all-purpose prefix before a woman's name. Universal and non-marriage specific the way that Mr. is, not as a third category for feminists.

But here as well, the stakes are high. Domestic violence is a deadly problem. The economic subjugation and deprivation of women takes a tremendous toll on single mothers trying to raise children. And stereotyping and and job discrimination is no laughing matter even in positions far below the proverbial "glass ceiling"  world of the management elite. 

The new generation of American feminists is quite different than the one I grew up with. Just yesterday I was reading a lesbian news blog, that is a well researched and serious endeavor. The desciption reads, " A gay girl's view on the world." It's ironic, that when I was 19, I was already demanding to be called a "woman." Girl was considered derogatory and belittling. I guess that's a sign of improvement, though. In the Germany of the thirties, I probably wouldn't have referred to myself as a Hebe or a Yid, but now I might, in jest. The moral here is that when you can relax a bit about your identity, it signifies that things have improved.

So keep on keepin' on girls, gals, babes and women. Whatever you call yourselves, I celebrate our day with the pride of being one of your number!