It's Women's History Month!
Over at the blog Newvine Growing's Blogversation 2012, I posted a series of questions about being female and making the world a better place for females.
I invite you to weigh in with your own thoughts.
What's great about being female?
It's March, Women's History Month, and I'm incredibly proud to be part of a long line of people - other females - who have taken charge of seeing that things go well on so many levels of life - in the home, in workplaces outside the home, in neighborhoods and other kids of communities, in the world at large.
I'm pleased to be part of a group of people who have figured out to make relationships a primary focus in life, and who see to it that relationships around them go well so that everything else in life goes well.
As a group, we've done and continue to do a kick-a** job of leading work for social change, including work around eliminating key forms of oppression, including racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. We've voiced our opinions and spoken our minds even when we've received both subtle and blatant messages to be quiet, be nice, and preserve the status quo.
We also make fantastic artists, manual laborers, athletes, comics, politicians, and community-builders.
When I think about al the women who have come before me and the women who are living now, I beam with huge amounts of pride.
What's hard about being female?
It's been tricky growing up in a time period in our culture where there's this huge pretense that sexism does not exist any longer in the Western world. There is an accepted notion that all the sexism exists over there in the non-Western world.
The effects of that pretense are huge. First, it justifies the oppression of peoples in these countries and the wars we wage and prop up abroad. Second, it sends a message to Western women that our fight to end sexism is over. Our "liberation" is presented to us as endless choices, mostly consumer choices. We're "free" because we can "choose" what we look like, different ways of augmenting our appearance, what career we can have.
The other result of this pretense that sexism is over is that it has left us women and girls feeling like any struggles we have are purely personal and individual. It's like any place we have a rough time - be it in our personal and intimate relationships, in our efforts to build community, in our ability to trust our own thinking, in our quest to stay on top of our health and well-being, to raise children, to balance the demands of work in the home with work outside of a home, to make a decent living - is due to some personal shortcoming, some failure to "figure it out." Women's magazines and self-help books offer endless tips and tricks to make things more manageable, somehow implying that if we just take this course of action or that one, we should be able to work out the ways our lives are hard.
With sexism and its effects on women hidden, trivialized, and denied, it's difficult to place any of our struggles into some larger context; in turn, it's been hard to team up with other women (and men!) to challenge sexism and also where women have internalized its messages.
What would make the world a better place for women and girls to live in?
- Ending racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia would hugely improve things in the lives of girls and women. These systematic forms of mistreatment wreck the fabric of our lives and keep us separate from each other.
- Any adult who plays a role in the life of a young female (including girls, teens, young adults) needs to treat what they say and do as important and significant. This means listening without interrupting or giving advice.
- Adults can also back young females to take risks in areas where they’ve been excluded or discouraged from participating - e.g. in math, science, and athletics. As a preschool teacher, I've make it a point to spend time with girls who are building things with blocks and other materials at choice time, and ask them questions about what they are doing.
- I'd love to see another identity besides (or at least in addition to) the one of "princess" that young girls can latch onto and explore.
- When females have conflicts with each other, the people around them need to step in and lend a hand. One of the big reasons women and girls lash out at one another is because we've internalized the ways we've been belittled or invalidated. Without tools to heal from that mistreatment, we take it out on each other. (What's crazy to me is that popular culture, especially reality shows, capitalizes on the struggles between females and makes it into a spectator sport.)
- I want all guys to know that they can be awesome allies in ending sexism in all its forms, and that their lives, also, are better without it.
- So much of the work that women do, especially domestic work, is unpaid or underpaid. That needs to be changed!