Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Women's History Month

If you know us, you know that we're not feminists, we're humanists. We believe that every human being has inherent value, and that the actions of each individual should be given merit where they can regardless of our personal feelings, or even the apparent contribution of those actions to society. If a person's choices aren't doing overt and widely-accepted damage to the social fabric, those choices may be of value to someone else even if we don't see or understand it.

You may also be aware of our views on women's empowerment, that we believe that for anyone to wait for power to be given is foolish and wasteful, that each on their own must find the power within themselves and make of it what they will. If the external universe doesn't respond in the way we'd like, it's up to us to take the initiative to work at understanding why, make the changes we're able, and, if necessary changes are beyond our reach, find another approach or move on to another goal.

Some might say, "This is what I want and I won't give up until I get it even though I'm just not going to," and those individuals have invoked their power to make a choice, the choice being to fight ineffectively for an impossible outcome. This is the appearance given by the movement for women's empowerment.

There are good examples out there of women who don't wait for anyone to give them power. They set their minds to things and then go about getting those things in whatever way they're able within the framework of their reality. In general, they tend to be women who neither bow to nor fight against the men around them, but simply work with them, understanding that those men are also human and addressing any issues that arise as a result of that humanness in a kind yet assertive way. If that bothers the man, if he can't accept his own or her humanity without having to have some feeling of dominance or control - if he's insecure, in other words - the empowered woman will do what she can to acknowledge and address his fears, but will not allow his reactions to dictate her actions. If the wider world around them punishes her for expecting to be treated with the same respect she gives, she'll take that punishment - head held high knowing that she's done nothing wrong, i.e., with grace - and she'll make a choice moving forward whether to continue to deal with that world or whether it's time to move on. These are truly liberated, empowered ladies, just as men and transgendered folks who deal with the world similarly are powerful in their own right.

On the other hand are the weak, the needy, the angry, the entitled, and so forth and so on. Shaking fists and rattling cages may change things, but in the end those changes are rarely productive in any real way. So a law gets passed that protects some human rights. The other side of that law will be that for some contingent those same rights are violated. So we change social norms to punish certain behaviors through shame. That will only serve to exalt other behaviors that are just as egregious if perhaps in different ways. Every faction has its own ideas about what's right and wrong, shameful or worthy of glory, and each will tailor their laws and punishments to their own ideas. The only thing we all have in common is that we're human, and human nature can't be molded by force.

True power is made manifest in human terms only when individuals have both the ability to think and act in their own best interests, and the understanding that each of our individual best interests are most fully addressed when our social network is healthy and robust. When any one of us can feel truly confident that, when we fall - and we're human, so we all will from time to time - our world won't crumble, that when we rise we'll bring others up with us, and that when we're just going along and getting along the rest of the world is too, we'll all be confident in our personal power. We won't need to control anyone but ourselves, because we can rest assured that others are perfectly capable of getting done what needs doing in their own world, and that they'll feel free to ask if they could use a little help, male, female, child, elder, no matter who they and we are. We won't need to look down on any social group, nor will we see others as being in some unattainable elite echelon. Financial issues will be a moot point, as power won't lie in money, but in one's inherent sense of self-worth and -awareness. Fame or infamy will be natural by-products of life in that system for those who choose them, but will no longer drive people to make choices they might not otherwise just for the sake of achieving either.

That said, we owe much to women throughout history. What's interesting is how the focus has been shifted over time. Women have always practiced medicine, for instance, and worked and been influential in law and the sciences. It was mandates made to standardize those fields as professions that excluded women from them for a time by excluding them from the training needed to become 'professionals' - women did what needed to be done and found their ways into those institutions of higher education regardless - and it's a pathological need for 'equal' to mean 'the same' that has held the female gender back from making as much money as men, given that biologically women are and always will be different than men and adjustments need to be made in dealing with either. Perhaps in general women are less driven by money - ladies who've made their mark in what have become 'typically male' fields have done so because they loved what they were doing without need for financial compensation (as have many men) - and it's counter-productive for so much of this argument to rest on whose paycheck is the biggest. These arguments serve only those for whom wealth is power and in no way advance the cause of women being treated as equally valuable human beings in their own right. Paychecks will come into balance when society does, and not before.

On the subject of 'equal but different': No two humans are the same. Lines cannot effectively be drawn around any gender, skin color, culture, religion, or any other defining factor and all the people within those lines said to be 'of a type'. At the same time, there are traits that can be said to be more or less common amongst any group of individuals, including groups that are inclusive of people from every sector. For instance, in the case of women vs. men, the obvious difference is that women have babies and men don't. Not every woman is necessarily maternally-oriented, some men are more paternal than others, but the fact of the matter is, babies can't yet be grown entirely without a human involved, and that human - at this time and Thomas Beatie notwithstanding - has to be a woman. Some women have an easier time being pregnant than others, so may be able to work right through birth with barely a blip while others need to sleep a lot and stay off their feet. Some may be great with the day-to-day demands of child-rearing while others are emotionally healthier and more able to be moms if they spend some time each day away from their children. Some may not be equipped or have the desire to bear or raise children at all. In a healthy society there's room and respect for all of those ladies. The same can be said of men and their varying degrees of ability or desire to be involved with the raising of children, and there's room for each of them, too, if we're willing to stop making it all about a paycheck or some imagined 'social norm'.

What's happened instead is that in the name of being 'equal', many women have felt the need to be the same as men, or in other cases to use their sex or sexuality to control and dominate men. There are women who're just inherently sexy or sexual beings, and that can be useful in the workforce when the time and place are right. There are others who tend by nature to be more aloof, and again, that's appropriate in some workplaces. There are also men whose natural tendencies run along similar lines either way. Too many right now, in the name of gender equality, are altering their natural behavior in order to conform to an unattainable social standard. Women find themselves having to be bitchy in order not to be seen as inviting harassment, while men can't be friendly for fear that it will be seen as such. Women feel they have to put off or forego having children in order to keep up with their male counterparts on the career ladder, while men are being asked to accept things like 'menstrual leave' without resenting, in a world that screams for equality, that there's no equivalent break offered to them. Again, the problem isn't the acknowledgement of the reality of being a female (or male, or black or white or any skin color between, or Christian or Muslim or Jewish or atheist, etc.), but the idea that egalitarianism is about treating everyone the same way rather than giving everyone the same level of individual respect, which inherently means, yes, everyone will be treated differently to everyone else, as is appropriate to their personal makeup, their goals and dreams and desires, their choices, and everyone's needs will be met.

The history of women is rich, varied, and interesting, and wouldn't exist without men. Truly influential women are and always have been those who are most inclusive, who work under a notion of basic human worth and the rights of every individual to make their own decisions based upon what's important to them. They understand that the vast majority of reasonable humans given the opportunity to make a well-informed choice without being subject to unrealistic expectations or untenable restrictions will make the choice that's best for themselves and any others who are involved or affected. Let's honor their legacy by setting aside the fight in favor of cooperation and mutual respect all around.
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