Saturday, March 19, 2011

Women's Movement 2.0

For some reason, the feminists of my generation think they invented the women's movement. They're the ones who made it happen. Forget the suffragettes who got us the right to vote, the female pilots who served behind the lines in WWII, the women who worked on the production lines, and all the other women who chipped away at the establishment over the years. 
           Forget the men who invented the pill. The men who passed the civil rights bill of 1964. The men who voted for Roe v. Wade in 1973. And the young men whose consciousness we raised as divorced or single mothers. Nope. My fellow women of the sixties truly believe they are the only ones who did any of the heavy lifting. 
          When I mentioned in a comment thread on facebook that I thought the women's movement didn't really gain traction until the men of my generation went to bat for their own daughters, I was told, basically, "You're wrong."  Now that we're in our sixties and seventies, my female cohorts are demanding their props. But I wonder, just how would that one-sided conversation go?
          Hey all you snot-nosed GenX and GenY bitches, we're the ones who did the hard work so you spoiled brats could go to law school, medical school, and business school. 
          We got the splinters from knocking down the doors, so you thankless thirty and forty-somethings could get as many athletic scholarships to pay for college as the male jocks. And maybe even parlay that into a pro career. 
          We're the ones who paved the way so you could grow up to experience life as a cadet at our vaunted military academies. Sorry for not mentioning the sexual assault problem. 
          We're the ones you can thank for the camaraderie and brutal hazing in your jobs as proby firefighter/paramedics or a rookie police officers. Good times, right? 
          Without us there's no chance you'd ever have the equal opportunity experience of PTSD, just like men in the military, and lose your legs when your helicopter gets shot down in a combat zone, even though we can't serve in combat zones. 
          Seriously, where's the love for your dedicated older sisters, who sacrificed their bodies to breast and uterine cancers, not to mention strokes, with those early high dose estrogen birth control pills, so you or you and your chosen one, male or female, married or unmarried, could have babies when you wanted them? 
          How about all the friends and relatives we had who sacrificed their lives when the right to end an unwanted pregnancy was still illegal? 
          We're the ones in smoke-filled bras who fought for the freedoms you younger women enjoy today. 
          The freedom to earn about 78% of what a man makes doing the same job. 
          The freedom to derail your life and job prospects while you take time off to deliver your babies. And leave them with strangers. 
          The freedom to work eighteen hour days because you want to have a career and family with someone who never lifts a finger to change a diaper or pick up around the house, refuses to wash or fold laundry, never puts the kids to bed, doesn't get home in time to help your children with homework, fails to walk the dog, and can't make dinner, unless he orders pizza. 
          Where's the thanks for giving you the freedom to move through the ranks in male dominated careers only to hit the glass ceiling at 45 because, let's face it, despite all the legislation, you are still just a woman and that's as far as you're going. 
          On the other hand, who, but those of us who blazed the original trail, should get credit for providing you with the freedom to start a new business out of the house, baking cookies and selling them online with what's left of your 401K? Between carpooling for soccer and ballet. 
          Goddammit, I hear the sixties' feminists say, those clueless babes in their Jimmy Choos should start paying us proper homage. Now. Before the truth hits home and they finally see that the perception of equality may not be reality yet. Now. During the halcyon times, while these young women are still really hot and the CEO likes their legs, giving them the illusion that it's possible for a woman to be all she can be in a man's world. Now. Before their implants no longer open doors for them anymore. 
           For those reasons and more, I stand by what I said -- that the success of the women's movement, or more accurately, improving parity for women in the workplace and at home, belongs to supportive men. 
          They are the ones still running the majority of businesses. They're still the ones who have the political and corporate power to make change for their daughters. They're the ones who can best teach their sons by example how to be equal partners with their wives. And share the work of raising a family with enthusiasm, not complaint. 
          The difference in attitude between the men of my generation and the men of my daughters' generation is remarkable. Cooking, cleaning, and raising children was the work of women, for women, and by women, whether or not they had careers. Changing diapers was an anathema. As if women somehow had a gene that prevented poopy diapers from making them gag. 
          My 42-year-old half brother is a partner in a law firm. He's married to an attorney who's a partner in another law firm. They have three kids under seven. And a nanny during the day. But he comes home to cook, clean, and care for his children as much as his wife. That didn't happen in my generation. 
           Of course, you can't measure the power of intangibles. A long time ago guys started to realize that bringing flowers home might not get them laid as easily as just bringing home dinner, washing dishes, folding the laundry or just spending a night with you anywhere there were no kids. Who knew marital aids could be as simple as Thai food delivered to the Red Roof Inn. 
           In the end, equality of the sexes may only be about sex after all. In either case, more makes both of them better. 


Jayne Martin said...

Really interesting piece. I, too, am a product of the feminist movement of the 60s. I agree that there has been a huge shift in the attitudes of men of younger generations and I wonder if much if it hasn't also had to do with being raised by strong, smart, working and very often single mothers who taught them well.

Mrs. L said...

I actually think our educational system gets a lot of credit for teaching girls and boys about equal rights for women. Years ago a teacher friend told me how her curriculum had shifted to emphasize equality and diversity.

Michelle said...

I think we women have just nagg them into submisson!