Scratch a Woman

“Scratch a woman; find rage” a counselor once told me. Scores of reasons can excite feminine rage, but the one scratching at me now is the social conservative labeling women who need birth control sluts and whores. The same party that screams “Second Amendment” when asked to control automatic weapons, legislates to limit abortion rights.

What’s going on?

My theory is that men, on some subconscious level, are reacting to women’s economic and political gains over the last 45 years. Remember that women didn’t have the right to vote in the US until 1920. My mom was five years old then. Women haven’t even had the vote for four full generations yet.

I was alive and awake for the women’s movement in the late 60s and early 70s. I didn’t burn any bras, but I sure don’t miss the other restrictions I grew up with. I was an honor student in high school, but it was very clear that my career choices were nursing, teaching, motherhood, and office work. I went to college expecting to find a husband and get a teaching certificate to “fall back on.” What a rude awakening when no husband showed up, and I hated teaching. Looking back, though, thank goodness. Otherwise, I’d never have learned to fly.

My anger is directed at men of the Baby Boom generation, who have benefited from the sexual freedom women felt when the pill became available. Mine is the first generation with a reliable means of birth control, able to enjoy sex without always worrying about unwanted pregnancies. Some of the same men who would make a woman pay for her own birth control, have exercised sexual freedom without recrimination for years, and famously. The only way I can make sense of it is to look at the bigger picture–the rising majority of educated women and people of color coming over the horizon in the next few decades.

China and India are nipping at western heels. Chancellor Angela Merkel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have blasted through the glass ceiling. We have a Black President. Fight or flight provides the natural choice when we are threatened. But where’s a white man to go? Now don’t get me wrong. I have sympathy for some confusion when it comes to gender roles. What I will not tolerate is the scapegoating of women and other oppressed groups.

What’s a woman to do?

My approach, after a little ranting, is to ask, “How do we move forward?” I have some ideas, and here are a couple to start–

o REALLY listen to people. There’s a guy in my art class that’s always spouting off political views I find absurd. I’ve reacted angrily before, but now I find something amusing if I can’t find a kernel of truth. I’ve asked him to help open my paint tubes, and I work at seeing his good–he loves his granddaughters, and he practices yoga.

o Read history. I’m looking forward to reading Catherine the Great, and finding out how many of the legends about her life are really true. She and Cleopatra, another powerful woman, have been rumored as ultra-sexual beings. Maybe their lives provide some clues to our current dilemma.

How about you? How will you move forward?

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