Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Feminist - why does the word get a bad rap?

It is International Women's Day, a time to recognize the accomplishments of women in history and highlight the issues that remain for females around the world. We tend to sometimes think only of our own experiences and assume that the cause for gender equality is no longer necessary. Remember, it was not that long ago when women could not buy a home or even get a credit card without a husband and his approval (yikes, makes my skin crawl just typing this.) The future for my daughters is much more open than in the past and they will have so many more choices about how to create their lives than their grandmothers and great-grandmothers were given. And my daughters and I have all of the women who went before us to thank for those choices. As a mother, I say thank you to every woman and man who fought for our right to vote, own property, attend college, the list goes on....

However, lets take a look at issues that still exist here and around the world that impact the status of women:

* Lack of gender balance among those in political power - even though women make up at least half of the population. Take a look at a photo of Congress and watch an interview or two during election season with someone who "just couldn't vote for a woman"... enough said.

* In spite of the phrase "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, the role of a wife and mother is seen as a secondary, lesser purpose. Stay at home moms are still viewed as not having a "real job."

* Women (and children) make up a disproportionate number of those living in poverty around the world.

* Instead of teaching our daughters to honor and OWN their sexuality and that it is a gift belonging to them we are teaching them that it should be fostered, packaged for others and given away. We are sexualizing girls at even younger ages instead of teaching them that their brains, talents and personality should be their focus.

* Cultures and religious traditions that consider women second class citizens and not as worthy as their male counterparts. It is easy to jump out side the USA for these examples, but lets look close to home also.

* The international sex trafficking trade- very young girls (and boys) kidnapped or sold into the sex trade. Innocence and a life destroyed. I guess we have gotten immume to horror because I still can't figure out why decent people around the world, governments around the globe, the UN, and every parent out there hasn't risen up and demanded an end to this crime.

* Rape as an act of war. Go ahead and google mass rape in the Congo and see what innocent women and children are experiencing right now as you are reading this blog.

Imagine your daughter, sister, mother in these very real circumstances that exist around the world:

* Girls are not allowed to attend school (read Three Cups of Tea or Reading Lolita in Tehran for real life searing examples.)

* Women cannot cannot divorce (but their husbands can drop them in a heartbeat.)

* Women can't drive a car

* Women can't own property

* Women are viewed as property to be bartered.

* Women can't seek preventive medical care because a man may see their body.

* A girl baby is born but her birth and life are not celebrated because she is not a boy. She may be abandoned.

* A girl has no right to say no so she is married against her will at a young age to an older man.

How does the word feminist fit into this blogpost? Somewhere along the way, the word feminist became a bad word. Women and men are afraid to call themselves one. A feminist is simply a person, man or woman, who cares about any of the issues highlighted above. A feminist is not a man-hating, bra burning scary woman, but a person who feels that women and men are equal and should have the same basic opportunity to shape their lives. Feminism is not about taking from men but about partnering with men for equality for all. What is so scary about that?

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