Friday, August 20, 2010

Sexism is so last century ... Not!



It's going to take is the same kind of courage it took in the 20th century to keep the journey toward equality moving forward in 21st. Women strong enough to speak up and men strong enough to listen. And a willingness to own that systemic sexism IS -- and that it's everybody's problem to solve.

A friend forwarded this post from a satire site called "Christwire.org: Conservative Values for an Unsaved World." It's entitled:

The 19th Amendment: Celebrating 90 Years of Feminism Destroying America, Vote by Vote

On August 18th, 1920, women were given the right to vote. On this fateful day, only 90 years ago, mankind in America — therefore the world — reached a sad end. Nowhere in our Constitution did the Founding Fathers give women the right to vote. All men are created equal, as per the wisdom of the men who fought to ensure a better land for a people, in a new nation under God himself, to thrive and raise families in Christian brotherhood and respect.

The list of offenses, the product of the female feminist vote, is too long to cover. It is not worth it. Let us keep it simple. Women are ruining society due to their inherent feminism, and against the will of our nation’s founding fathers, are now tearing us asunder.

It's supposed to be funny. And of course, it kind of is.
The idea of blaming everything wrong with the world on giving votes to women is -- from our enlightened 21st century perspective -- laughable. Hillary, Oprah and Rachel are national icons of strong-womanhood for heaven's sake. And in the Episcopal Church we have the dynamic duo of +Katharine & Bonnie -- while Kamala, Meg & Barbara fight it out in the midterm elections here in California.

Sure there are a some places left where this kind of rhetoric will cause heads to nod in agreement rather than shake in dismay. Rush Limbaugh comes to mind in the civic arena -- the Stand Firmites in the church world.

But they're the exception rather than the rule. Their antiquated rants about the evils of equality for women are a curiosity to some and an embarrassment to many. And satire about sexism is laughable because sexism is so passe. So 20th century. So old news.

Except when it's not.

I did not have either marriage equality or sexism on my "to do" list this August. I thought I was going to spend the month doing long range planning and cleaning out my office files. But just as Judge Walker's August 4th ruling on the Prop 8 trial added marriage equality to my August, a series of recent challenges faced by women colleagues added dealing with systemic sexism to my "to dos."
It started with a phone call here and an email there from a number of women in a number of different contexts.
"It's probably just me, but can't help feeling angry when my suggestions are ignored and my contributions devalued by the "guys in charge." But if tell them how I feel then I'm the problem. And if I don't, nothing changes. It's a vicious cycle and I'm sick of it."

"When the minutes of the meeting came out and nothing any of the women said was represented in the notes I called and asked the chair what happened. 'I just wrote down what I thought was important,' he said. And when I told him that made me feel invisible and ignored he said he felt attacked. What am I supposed to do now?"

"When I finally spoke up and said how having my ideas dismissed and being constantly out of the loop made me feel they told me I was wrong. How can my feelings be wrong?"

"Convince me that I shouldn't just quit. Nobody listens to me anyway. I might as well save my breath."

And I'm sitting here scratching my head thinking "Did somebody out there skip the 70's? If this is what "post-feminist" looks like then maybe we need some remedial reading assignments. And one place to start is with an excellent paper on the VISIONS, Inc. website by Cooper Thompson (an openly heterosexual white man:)
When women ... express their anger at the oppression they experience, we generally stop listening. Instead of trying to understand, we get defensive. as if we were the cause of their oppression. Or, we blame them for what has happened.
Which -- of course -- precisely echoes the experience of the women who feel so "stuck" in the quagmire of systemic sexism. And the sad thing is the men in question are just as stuck. Stuck in patterns of behavior that ARE "so last century." Stuck missing out on the creativity and energy the women who are being marginalized could be bringing to the table. Stuck feeling angry and threatened. Stuck in a place where everybody loses -- including the work that gets hamstrung and hijacked.

And it isn't something a blog can fix. Or an email. Or a pastoral care phone call. What it's going to take is the same kind of courage it took in the 20th century to keep the journey toward equality moving forward in 21st. Women strong enough to speak up and men strong enough to listen. And a willingness to own that systemic sexism IS -- and that it's everybody's problem to solve.

Put that on your "to do" list -- and let's keep talking!

1 comment:

Drew Downs+ said...

And now its back on my to-do list. Oh well, August was shot back in July, anyway.