Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Are You a Woman? We've Got Something for That...

Imagine Susan B. Anthony's surprise upon waking up in the 21st century (suspended disbelief people, work with me here) to a world of gender equality, where both sexes enjoy the freedoms and opportunities afforded them by virtue of their innate dignity as human persons.

How astonished might this champion of women's rights be to find a world where men and women are at last enjoying equal rights, equivalent pay scales, and educational opportunities not contingent upon gender?

As long as Susan doesn't venture into a doctor's office, she'll probably be pretty content with the current state of affairs. Because femininity is at long last being recognized and celebrated as something good, something beautiful, in fact. It's no longer a crime to be born a woman, (unless, of course, you're in China) in fact it's advantageous in many ways.

You see, women were once labelled as being weak, overly emotional, sensitive, innocent, gentle... along with a whole host of other pejorative terms. But all that's changed now, we've wised up as a species, and now we recognize the unique gifts and capabilities of both genders, embracing our similarities and our differences. Right?

I would argue otherwise. You see, what we often mistake for equality is really closer to assimilation in disguise. Women as individuals certainly enjoy vastly superior civil rights than our sisters of 400 years ago, but are women as women, and not merely as androgynous citizens, truly being afforded real dignity? I mean, tolerance is one thing, but it's quite different from an open-armed acceptance and embrace. I tolerate irritating TV commercials or prying questions from distant relations at perfunctory family gatherings. I accept the love of a friend, a dinner invitation to a lovely restaurant, or a gift from my mom. See the difference?

So women, do you feel accepted, truly welcomed and affirmed as you are, without alteration, or is tolerance more the order of the day? Is it okay to be woman? To be moved to tears by an other's suffering? To love what is beautiful and to desire to clothe oneself in beauty? To menstruate and ovulate? These are unarguably and innate feminine qualities. And guess what ladies, the last one is exclusively feminine. Belonging uniquely to the fairer sex.

But oh, it's inconvenient. We're inconvenient, with our mood swings and our hormonal surges and our propensity for pregnancy... We are inconvenient. And something must be done about it.

And something has been done. A pill, a patch, a shot, a surgery... take your pick, there must be 50 ways to spay your lover.

Just so long as we're not inconveniencing anyone.


  1. Brilliant discussion! As a woman, I don't feel that my femininity is accepted in society. Women are suppressing the very qualities which make them are indeed right that this is "assimilation in disguise."

  2. Last night we were discussing that whole bizarre situation of the woman becoming a man while pregnant. It's so bizarre-- why does the woman want to be a man if she wants to continue to do woman things? It's the perfect attack on womanhood-- now a man is pregnant...
    I was hoping you'd discuss that someday. : )

  3. Oh Joannie, discuss it I will... but let's be careful not to play into the diabolical confusion over terminology this situation has created.

    Thomas (born Teresa) is in fact, a woman. She has functioning ovaries, a uterus, and mammory glands capable of milk production. She is a "he" inasmuch as she underwent a masectomy and subjected her body to testosterone treatments to acheive "masculinity"

    Now, if gender is just a construct (which our world assures us is true) than Teresa has succesfully transitioned into Thomas. But we know gender to be nothing less than a divinely appointed intrinsic characteristic of our souls. And as far as I know, they have yet to develop a metaphysical regimen of hormone treatments. How can I de-masculize my soul? Or de-feminize it, for that matter?

  4. Excellent post! I think birth control is the only pill one takes to "fix" something that is perfectly healthy.

  5. I'm sure this is not what you meant, but as I read this post of yours, I was really struck at how much I love being a nurse.

    I live in Europe, and in this country we don't wear scrubs. The hospitals provide us with our uniforms, and we get to choose between a tunic and pants (and these come in both male and female versions, the latter have princess seams), or a dress. When I see the baggy clothes American medical personnel wander around in, I am so glad that I by virtue of my vocation get to run around in a white dress. :-)

    And we get to use our training and skills and observations to care for others, to help them as much as we can, and while of course we don't sit around crying all the time (one couldn't stand it) if the pain and suffering really get to you so that you can't not weep, your colleagues understand, because they feel it too.

    However, of course, our pay is almost 30% lower than that of people in the private sector with an equivalent level of education, in more male-dominated jobs. Perhaps this is society's way of saying that if you are going to be separate, you can't also be equal?

  6. Rebekka, that's so beautiful...What a testament to the dignity of a typically "feminine" vocation.

    I don't know anyone who would argue against nursing as one of the world's hardest jobs. Thanks for sharing!


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