"A word in earnest is as good as a speech"
~Charles Dickens: Bleak House

Thursday, May 29, 2014

#Yesallwomen vs. #notallmen

Today California University began mourning for the loss of their friends, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers at the hand of yet another individual that pulled the wool over the authorities eyes - an individual who should never had access to a gun, and should have been getting professional help instead of being called "perfectly polite and calm."

And as has been the case in these all too common experiences, we will now play the blame game, we will blame the police, we will blame Congress, we will blame the pro-gun lobbyists, we will blame California University, we will blame the parents. But we will not blame ourselves, the global us .... humanity. Our willingness to use violence as a remedy for all that ails us.

I have had my rants about gun violence before, I have issues with stand your ground laws because it makes those states a shoot-em-up town of vigilante justice. I believe that there should be background checks for all gun sales and I believe everyone who owns a gun should have to get a license and it should be renewed regularly. But this blog is not the place for that.

An interesting thing has occurred in this case, women have found a voice. #YesAllWomen has gone viral. A way, a place for women to talk about the violence, shame, fear and unfairness they live with everyday. And men just don't get it. In a conversation with a man I generally respect I became accutely aware of just how much men don't get it. When feminism and the quest for equality is reduced to women just being on the most recent bandwagon it is clear that men just don't understand or just don't want to understand.

The response that I got was how unfair the world is to men, with some valid points I will admit. It is unfair that women can lie to police about domestic violence and get a man arrested no questions asked, it is unfair that women still have the advantage in family court when there is a good man trying to get custody of his children in a divorce - these things are unfair because there are good men in the world who get screwed in the system. But for every man that gets wrongly accused of a domestic, there are many women who are beaten in their own home. For every good man wanting to be a part of their children's lives there is a man using the children as a weapon. It is unfair that society has to error on the side of caution so that things like like the Jared Remy case don't happen on a regular basis, so that another woman won't be murdered in front of her child.

Having said that #YesAllWomen should not have to come with a qualifier #NotAllMen, because it is not about men. #YesAllWomen is about giving women a place to voice the concerns and frustrations they live with. Every woman I have ever met has a story of either sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, being passed over for a promotion, having the idea that they suggested rejected & then having the same idea presented by a man accepted, cat calls on the street, being called a bitch because you have authority, or get paid less for doing the exact same job, the lists goes on and on. Men do not have their gender defined as something weak ("You throw like a girl"), or too emotional, or have their value determined by how feminine they dress. Men don't have to worry if they are caught in a dark parking lot, or make sure their breasts are inaccessible to random gropers on the train. It is just not a reality that men have to deal with. And women the right to talk about those issues and concerns without making the conversation about men, when you do that you are lessening the woman's experience, telling them is isn't really that bad, telling them their story doesn't really matter .... that of course is part of the historical problem that women face because we are seen as lesser. 

But this is not a social phenomenon about us vs them, or man hating, or self-loathing. Obviously not all men treat women this way, if they did women would never be able to leave the house. And obviously there are situations where women are unfair to men, even cruel and vindictive.  But ALL WOMEN have experienced some form of gender bias or abuse in their lives - ALL WOMEN. 

As I began this blog I read that my hero Maya Angelou had died. She is my role model, the woman who gave me a voice. Who told me that no matter how bad things got as long as I had a voice to fight the injustice I would be ok. I thought, what a shame she isn't seeing this - finally women getting together and creating a voice, not a bandwagon, to talk to each other about what it means to be a woman in this world. Young girls today need more role models like Maya who celebrated diversity and perseverance and acceptance and life. I have talked of my love of Maya before several times, but today I will leave you with one of my favorites and one of her most famous poems that I go back to from time to time, when I am feeling boxed in because of my gender, when I think I can't do what I need to do to better my life, when I need the inspiration to just be me ... a phenomenal woman.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

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