Is it just me or do we seem to be going backwards on the evolutionary ladder? Maybe not as a species, but as a society. We sure seem to be sliding back to the primordial pool. If we use the way women are being treated today (as opposed to about fifteen years ago) as a bellwether, you can see how what I’m talking about.
I’m sure you’re wondering where I can possibly get off saying things like that, especially living as I do in Canada, where we have social programs a lot people only dream about and a standard of living better then half the world.
It’s all relative, you know. Since the 1970’s, women have been gradually gaining rights that had been denied them by law since men started treating them like chattel and trade goods thousands of years ago. They managed to begin being treated like equal partners in a marriage instead of the property of the husband. They managed to gain legal control over what happened with their bodies. They started to make advances in the work force through the availability of accessible daycare.
All this coincided with Western governments’ willingness to invest in the social safety net starting in the 1960’s. In Canada we followed the Western European example of the Welfare State and sewed up a pretty tight safety net. It wasn’t until 1980, when Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister, that things began to unravel slightly, but even he wasn’t much for tampering with it. It was the Liberal government of Jean Chretian that began the dismantling of programming by cutting funding to all the social programs in search of the all mighty balanced budget.
The mantra of business (“balanced budget, balanced budget”) was the death knell of social spending. Funding for daycare, hospitals, job training, life skills, and provincial disability and welfare programs was either frozen or cut. While this may seem not to directly affect women in all cases, single women with children are still the people most likely to draw upon the system for help.
If there is no daycare and a woman doesn’t have parents she can leave her children with, how does she hold down a job? She has to be on welfare and try to raise her child with some dignity. Unfortunately, just when the Liberals started to try and make up for their cruelty, they lost the next election in Canada.
I’ve written extensively on how the Conservative Party of Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper has, in a year, turned back the clock on social programs in other places, so I’ll just cite an example: A new daycare program that works based on tax credits. It’s only helpful to those who have a taxable income and doesn’t create any new spaces. In other words, people who can afford to pay for daycare out of their income are getting reimbursed, while those who can’t afford it in the first place are out of luck.
Money isn’t the only problem. The general increase in conservative attitudes towards women around the world is the most frightening. From the Vatican to the Muslim world to the White House and back again, steps are being take to revoke what few gains women have made in their struggle for recognition as equals in the eyes of society.
Women who are raped are still being threatened with death by their own families. Women who refuse caesarean surgeries are being jailed in the United States. After a brief respite, more and more men’s magazines are appearing on the markets that treat women as objects, not sexual beings. Even worse are the attitudes being expressed by even mainstream magazines.
A recent cover of the Canadian news magazine Maclean used the word “skanks” to describe a mode of dress employed by young girls. On the cover you can see a young woman wearing a tank top and mini-skirt. How does the way someone dresses imply anything about their character? How could any supposed responsible magazine even imply that, no matter what the context?
Then there is the great catch phrase, “Traditional Family Values”. This has to be the biggest obstacle facing women today. Anybody who says the words traditional family values has visions of wife staying at home barefoot and pregnant making supper for Dad and being totally dependant on the man for everything.
What do you think they see in their narrow little brains when they say that expression? Two people working together in an equal, loving, and sharing, partnership? Or a dominant husband with a meek little wife staying at home with the kids and slowly going crazy?
That a program about every ten-year-old boy’s fantasy concerning suburban housewives was a top show on network television in North America tells you something about where people expect to find the woman of the house: at home. The show wasn’t called Desperate Corporate Executives, was it? Even Desperate Garage Mechanics would have been fine.
For a woman to want to have sex with anyone, she has to be desperate – unlike a man who is just enjoying himself. If a woman displays any sort of normal sexual urge, she is considered a deviant. She’s only supposed to be willing and compliant, and have no desires of her own in order to be normal.
How often do we have to hear somebody say that a woman “asked for it” while walking around dressed “like that” as a response to her being raped? She didn’t ask for it. Nobody asks to be raped – and people are free to dress however they like. There is no excuse for rape. It’s a crime – remember?
When are people going to remember the woman is not the one on trial in those situations? The man either attacked and raped the woman or he didn’t. It doesn’t matter if she was wearing a bikini or traditional Muslim garb. Saying any different is saying it’s okay to rape women in certain circumstances.
Sometimes I feel some hope, like when I look around and see some young women who have it together and haven’t bought into some sort of stereotype about roles in society. Then I see all the others who are starving themselves to death because they don’t like who they are. Isn’t that the biggest indication that something wrong with the way we treat women in our society? So many of them don’t like who they are. Where did they get the idea that there was anything wrong with them?
Sure, sometimes it can be blamed on the parents for being emotionally or physically abusive, but a lot of the time it comes from whatever impression the young person has formed about what a women should be based on what she hears and sees in the media and from her peers. Augmented models with perfect waists, breasts, and buttocks who have no relationship to reality or gravity are not role models guaranteed to help someone establish their own self esteem.
Did you know 1976 was the United Nations International Year of the Women? Do you know or remember what the motto for that year was? It was a simple question “Why Not?” The way things are going these days, I’m afraid it needs to be amended to “When?”
Instead of things getting better for women the world over, they are getting worse in country after country. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the so-called developed or undeveloped world, women are still second or lower class citizens.