Have you ever found yourself in the position where you know that your presence is making someone uncomfortable? Unfortunately what happens too often, and for the worst of reasons, is that I make slightly more then half the population uneasy. Why? Simply because of my gender.
Whether walking down a side street in twilight or sitting and sharing a doctor’s office with a single woman, I can sense the other person’s unease. I feel helpless with the knowledge that just by what I am and being there the other person is made to feel nervous. Is this anyway to live?
How have we allowed our world to degenerate to such a state where over half the population has been so subjugated, defiled, and maltreated in general that the natural state between our two genders is at best mistrust descending down into fear? With women still being treated as sort of high maintenance appliance by society, things aren’t likely to change for the better any time soon, either.
Its easy enough to point the finger of blame at the usual suspects: religious fundamentalist of all faiths primarily, but that’s a cop out. As is usually the case when we blame others we’re just as much at fault as those we try and pass the buck to.
There’s the dehumanization of women that occurs in the media. Commercials depict women as bleeding, smelly, and obsessed with vanity. I’m also still trying to figure out the connection between cleavage, cars, and beer. (Is it because the more beer a guy drinks the more deluded he gets about his appearance and ability to attract the opposite sex and the less capable of driving he becomes?)
But objectification can’t exist without a willing audience. If men did not accept this portrayal, if we were not complicit in the continual subjugation of half of our species, it could not occur. You may think that looking at pictures in a calendar or a magazine is harmless, or that telling that blonde joke doesn’t hurt anyone, but it all contributes to a culture of depersonalization. Each time we forget there is a person with a brain and feelings in that body is another time we treat them as less then ourselves.
It is this atmosphere that leads to the preponderance of rape, violence, and abuse. If we create a society where one segment, no matter how large a proportion, is considered something lesser, then that is the way they are treated. From the judiciary to the locker room, the male attitude of condescension is identical. Whether the dirty joke or the rape victim who is made to feel at fault its all the same thing. YOU DON’T MATTER.
Unfortunately there is no easy solution to this problem. With each passing generation there seems to born a new wave of repression. Currently the gangsta’ rap of the ghetto being adopted by everyone as cool has taken it to a new low. The backlash against political correctness fueled by the right wing has taken its toll on advances made in previous decades.
Women are again being divided into two classes. The scantily clad bimbo who is just waiting to fling herself upon the first available guy with money or the good girl who has kept herself for the marriage bed. These are the traditional polar extremes of what is deemed acceptable for women, of course, the whore and virgin. Sound familiar??? (Hint: check out the New Testament.)
Sure, a woman can now go out and work without social stigma attached (lucky to get equal pay for labour still) but that’s only because it’s convenient for the economy. But what about her rights as an individual? Her right to control what happens with her body.
In too many parts of the world, women are still considered no more then chattel to be bought, sold, or disposed of by men at their whim. In the more civilized areas we’ve managed to erode any hard fought for liberties under the guise of morality and righteousness.
What does the new American legislation allowing murder charges for damage to the foetus do to a woman’s right to chose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term? How will it affect Roe V. Wade? The conservative Christian agenda of eliminating abortion as an option is progressing on all other fronts. Is this not the final nail its coffin?
Right now there are three cases in the United States where women have either been forced to have caesarean section surgery or been prosecuted successfully for murder for refusing to have one. The one woman who was forced to have the surgery was dying of cancer and it was felt there was a better chance of prolonging her life without the surgery. The hospital got a court order forcing her to have the procedure. She died. One of the other two women is currently serving an eight year term for manslaughter in California, and the other is up on murder charges in Utah.
Thankfully there have been some improvements in that area. The family of the woman who died took suit against the hospital and won. The court’s ruling was that no woman could be forced into a caesarean section. This took place in back in 1987, and whether or not this ruling will withstand the tide rising against women is still to be seen. With the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor, I don’t see much hope.
The voices of women are being silenced and nobody is speaking up in their defense. While reams of paper are covered in detailing the oppression of women under the Taliban and other regimes, not a word is spent on the gradual erosion of their rights in the West. Where is the world’s press on this story? Why is no one screaming outrage when a woman in Washington is condemned to death by the courts when they are all able to find the energy to protest the stoning death of a woman in Nigeria?
Every time that a woman is prevented from exercising her choice over what happens to her body during a pregnancy, we take another step backward on the road toward equal rights. Every time a woman is forced to make a decision that endangers her life because it may or may not save the life of a foetus, we as a society are condoning murder. Every time we force any person to have surgery against her will we are becoming a totalitarian state, refusing to recognise the rights of individuals. Will hospitals be able to procure court orders over the wishes of patients because it suits the moral temperature of the times?
Canadians need not be smug. We still live in a country where there is no abortion law. Women are still restricted in their access to the procedure in some provinces. Just last month we stood only a hair’s breadth away from an election that could have seen a socially conservative party elected to lead our government. They have made no secret of their intentions to scrap day care funding, impose restrictive abortion laws, and implement other regressive social policies.
I know that a lot of people genuinely believe that abortion is wrong and will take offense at my comments. I’m sorry about that, and I don’t mean to belittle your beliefs, but one group’s belief system can not govern the way our society works. You may not like it, but we are a secular nation.
If you have any interest in making the lives of 51% of the world’s inhabitants more comfortable, then maybe it’s time to look at your own actions and think about what you can do to improve their lot. Even simple things like crossing the street at night, so you’re not walking behind a woman on her own makes a difference.
Don’t laugh at the blonde jokes, and don’t participate in the drooling contests. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just walk away. What’s the worse thing that can happen? The “guys” won’t like you? Tell me honestly, if you don’t like what they’re doing why do you care if they like you?
This world can be a bad enough place as it is without us alienating and making life harder for half of our species. Try to remember there’s a person behind the image, and act accordingly.
I have tried to supply links to the stories of the women who are facing manslaughter charges for refusing caesarean sections. Unfortunately most were so dated that they no longer work. The two below are for the one about the woman dying after a c-section and one of the women facing manslaughter charges. The second link takes you to a women’s forum, where about halfway down the page you’ll find a reproduced newspaper article on the manslaughter case.