I just wanted to write to you in response to your blog post about the International Women’s Day event, Day Without a Woman. You seemed angry about that, and I suppose I can understand why. Women’s issues are getting a lot of press these days, and I don’t agree with everything the liberal feminist movement is doing, either.
But I disagree with you on one point, and it’s important enough that I felt I needed to write.
You assert that there is no disparity between men’s and women’s rights in the United States. While you may be technically correct—there is no law enforcing or enacting discrimination against women in America—I don’t believe it’s true that men and women have the same or even similar experiences in society.
When common phrases like “man up”, “take it like a man”, and “separate the men from the boys” (which a professor of mine once tweaked to say “this test separated the men from the… women”) are used as positives regarding the male gender, but “(throw, hit, run) like a girl”, “(cry, fight) like a woman”, and “women’s work” are used negatively toward the female gender, there’s not equity in gender perception.
When our country put in the White House a man who has so thoroughly, historically, publically, and unapologetically used, denigrated, and molested women, the message we women hear is that our honor and safety are of little value to our society.
When there are countries where a woman can still be stoned to death on the testimony of one man, and our government bans immigration from certain of those countries, the message to women is that we’re on our own. Our sisters are on their own. Women’s issues are not important enough for the men in our government’s administration—and they’re currently almost all men—to take note.
Matt, would you feel okay about going for a run alone after dark, if you couldn’t squeeze your miles in during the day? What if your wife or daughter wanted to? Have you ever gotten into a parking garage elevator late in the evening, found yourself alone there with a man, and mentally ran through your options in case that man decided to grab you? Have you ever been relentlessly stared at by a man for an entire train or bus ride, then followed by that man when you exited the vehicle, and had to figure out an escape plan?
These are commonplace experiences for women, Matt. And how are we generally taught to handle them? By making sure we’re never alone, not dressed in ways that might provoke attention, and better yet keeping ourselves always under the protection of a trusted man.
It makes one angry to go through life this way. It’s incredibly unfair. But it’s reality for us.
I didn’t participate in Day Without a Woman, primarily because I’m a full-time mom and didn’t have anything to strike from. It never occurred to me to abandon my family—was that really encouraged by the organizers? However, if I had wanted to participate by not momming that day, I would have had a conversation about it with my husband. I’d have said, “Hey, this is something I really want to take part in. Can you support me in it?” just as if he wanted to go golfing with his buddies he’d ask me, “Are you okay if I leave you with the kids all day on Saturday?” We have each other’s backs, and make sacrifices to help the other do the things s/he finds important. It would be incredibly disrespectful to him if I walked off the job without a word, just as it would be disrespectful of him to say, “Too bad, I’m not stepping up to do your work because I think that thing you’re doing is a waste of time.”
Mutual respect is what women want, Matt. We want to be not just legally allowed to experience life with the same freedom and autonomy as men, but to have the actual practice of it.
I’ve never been a man, so I don’t really know what a man’s experience of life in the United States is like. But it looks kind of good from where I’m standing. Can you say the same thing of your perception about life as a woman? Would you be content to swap places with a woman in today’s America? Would you want to trade positions with your wife? If so, why? If not, why not? I know from what you’ve written that you love, value, and honor her. But do you think the rest of the world does? As much as you think they should?
To me, that’s what the Day Without a Woman was about. It was to draw attention to the role of women and their experience in society. Are there better ways to go about it? Maybe. But after millennia of living as the oft-disregarded “weaker sex”, you get a little desperate for someone to take you seriously.
I just wanted to tell you that.