Soft, Hard And Does It Matter

Women, someone once told me, were soft because it was their nature.  Women, this person said, were best dealing with the soft things like babies and flowers.  Women excelled at things like cooking and decorating.  Where women would always fail, this person told me, was in the political arena or higher education.  Any place that required hardness and manipulation would be a place of failure for women.

No I’m not old enough for this to be a statement when women were first fighting to be seen as equals.  Notice I said first fighting because although we have come a long way, we aren’t there yet. We aren’t equals exactly.  Women do not equally match the number of male CEOs for example.  Women do not come equal to the number of professors in the halls of higher learning, and it becomes more noticeable in certain fields of study.

The thing is, women can excel at soft things and they can excel in politics and academics. Women can be whatever they want if they are given the same education, mentoring and such as their male counterparts.  And please remember how much longer men have been in these fields.

The truth is, anyone, when provided with the education, support, mentoring and opportunities to grow and learn can excel regardless of gender.  So why are we so stuck on these odd divisions still?  Why aren’t we ignoring that all and instead just helping another fellow human out when that person needs it?


Marginal Reminders or Champions Of The Margin

Everyone should have a chance to experience a Clarence Darrow or Atticus Finch in their lives, even if only through books or old newspaper articles.  Not so much because these men took the case of the underdog, although this too is important, but rather because these men took on the battled for justice and equality.  They showed that even in our darkest moments, humanity can still shine and find good.

Atticus Finch, being a fictional character could easily be crafted into something very mythical, nothing but goodness coming out of him. Harper Lee, though, assured readers of his humanness and such through her second story, Go Set A Watchman.  I confess that it pained me to read how easily Atticus was shown to be human.  Yes he fought for justice and the truth and yet he still harboured human hate and such.  I wanted, nay I needed Atticus, to remain above the rest of us.

Clarence Darrow, not a piece of fiction, wore his human complications on his very person.  He may champion for women, at least certain women he believed in and yet st the same time want a woman to provide him with all the expected female trappings.  Such as meals and subservience.   Darrow, for all of his goodness was also harsh to those who cared most about him, having affairs without concern for his wife’s feelings.  And in the end, Darrow who was a lion in court ended as we all do, damaged and weak beyond the image of his days in court.

I am not old enough to have witnessed Darrow, but I’ve read accounts of him.  Sometimes, when Beloved has found a certain topic that strikes his passion into an out of control wildfire I wonder if there is a hint, a small glimmer of something Darrow-ish or maybe Atticus Finch like happen before my very eyes.  After all Beloved seeks truth and justice for almost needing and demanding equality without qualifiers.

If I should be just a wee bit like any of these three men, I would be a much better human. I just work harder at this and never forgot those who are left voiceless by a system that fails to see the, clearly or equally.  Perhaps those are the gifts given to us in the form of Atticus Finch and Clarence always be the voice for the voice and the lion even when we feel smaller than a mouse.

In The Movies, Sorta

It’s not that often that I can go to a movie and feel myself real ting to a character so completely.  I went with Beloved and a few friends, a chance to catch up before the show and talk when it was done.  The only show that we could all agree upon watching was Free State of Jones.

Now having spent a portion of my academic career studying the US Civil War, I had some  familarity with the battles and rebellious uprising so I full expected to perhaps connect a little more with the movie than Beloved or our friends.  In all conflicts there are always people who rise above, people who refuse to lose sight of the fact that those fighting are human and of course that was the same in the movie.

After the movie I found myself having to explain certain things to my friends and Beloved.  Things such as the color bar that was well established long before the civil war and I doubt has ever been fully erased.  I also found myself having to explain the origins of things such as the Ku Klux Klan and the long arduous fight for emancipation and civil rights for all.  The war may have defined the nation, but the struggle would carry on long after owning another human being became illegal.

So much blood shed, so many lives fought for things such as basic rights and the ability to be considered human.  Newt Jones doesn’t see color in this movie.  Well he does at first, but in some strange way, as if he knows the system is wrong and he isn’t sure how he should go about disentangling it from his life.  He fought for the idea of all of us being human, color being irrelevant.

A friend lightly tapped me on the arm while I was explaining some of the nuances of living back then and told me that she saw me in the movie.  She told me that my need to find justice and peace for the oppressed reminded her of the character in the movie.  She wondered aloud what my conflict would have been if I were alive during the civil war.  Would I have fought for the areas I called home or for the freedom of all regardless of color or race.  Of course there is really no way to answer that.

Had I lived back then I would probably have been as stubborn, less educated and no doubt clearly living in poverty.  That’s whatmost people forget, those who didn’t own massive plantations or have some amazing business, the majority of people eked out a living that we would consider poverty.  And that is still the case for some today.

As I gently explained to my fend that I lack the courage of the character in the movie, but not the desire for true equality and freedom for all if it were up to me, that would be reached via education.  Hate will never let us overcome the horrors of injustice.  I can only hope an education that includes critical thought and the freedom to speak openly and honestly will maybe allow us to reach the true free state that all humans need and deserve.

Guilt, Gender, And Why

Every day I am reminded how blessed I am to live where I do and make a living the way I do. Part of that has to do with being born where I was.  Is that luck of the draw?  Perhaps.  I can’t say for sure, but I do know that being born a female on some countries limits one’s future options.  I was blessed to be born in a country where the only limits placed on my future where the ones I placed on it.

In my line of work I get to talk about, explore and give voice to things.  In some places this would be unheard of for a female.   I realize that I am lucky to be able to do what I do especially given my gender.  There are moments, sure, that I question the sanity of myself.  I suspect everyone does that from time to time when it comes their career or job.  But those are fleeting and for the most part I love what I do.

The thing that drives me insane is that when I stop and think about it, it comes down to gender.  Why?  When did we decided that women weren’t capable, competent or worthy of doing certain things?  How did we get to the point that we feel threatened by a gender?  And yes I say threatened because why else do you limit, restrict and silence one gender unless you are threatened by it?  I don’t see how anyone gains something from discrediting and ignoring a gender, but that’s just me.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, I want to live in a world where we drop these labels.  Where being a female doesn’t mean I was hired to fill a quota or be a token employee who may not be taken seriously.  I also don’t want to live in a world where I am made to feel guilty because of the fortune I’ve experienced due to where I’ve been born.  Yes I do think we have to support and elevate each other, but not by putting others down or holding onto a sense of entitlement.

It is a tricky subject with no quick fix or easy change to implement.  But to sit and do nothing, or feel guilty will not change a thing.  How do we, then, find equality and how do we balance this all given not everyone sees the western ideologies as something to strive towards?


What’s In A Date? My Issue With August 26

I have an issue with August 26th.  Not the number itself.  I’m not against the number 26, nor am I against the month of August.  It’s just that combination right now that is giving me fits.  And not little fits, equal fits to be honest.

Why?  Because August 26th is apparently Women’s Equality Day.  That gave me the shivers just to write it.  Equality is such a simple word and yet it seems to be so complex.  To me having a day that promotes women’s equality we are missing the point.  The point is equality without qualifiers, quantifies or labels.  Just equal.

I guess I wonder why we don’t have Men’s Equality day as well.

Sure ladies we have come a long way on this, getting rights and counting.  I’m thrilled with this.  I love this!  But not all fields are ones that we have to conquer because in some cases we more than conquered, we basically owned the field.  What about those areas where men are the minority?  What about those men who bravely waded into the nursing field when it was primarily held by women?  Do we honour them too, or do we say once upon a time this belonged to men and it was a field where women could get into it so that’s why it become unbalanced in women’s favour?

Maybe it’s just me because I have a thing against labels.  Maybe that’s why I have an issue with August 26th. Because I have an issue with labels, being defined by a label rather than my abilities or skills.

I want to make it very clear, I am completely for the strides we have made as women, we have many more to go,  but I beg and beseech of us to consider that there is more to consider.  Let us just consider equality as it is…equal.  Let us ensure each human is treated as an individual, provided equality opportunities and rights.  Let us embrace the diversity of skills and abilities we all bring and let us find a way to harness this all into a huge puddle of equality.  Now which day is that to fall on you may ask?  Let me suggest it should be every day!

Grandmotherly Lessons

My grandmothers lived through some amazing times from economic depression, to a world war.  From segregation to integration and a realization that people are all human and more alike in the end.  These events, as well as where they lived, taught them skills that aren’t really needed the same way today.

My paternal grandmother became an expert seamstress and learned how to make lace.  She did what it took to make ends meet and then some.  She canned, she pickled, and she wasn’t afraid to haggle for a “proper price”.

My matter so grandmother understood the value of relationships and trading what you had for something that you needed or wanted.  She knew how to take economical food items and turn them into a feast.  She pickled, she canned, she salted and she preserved.

Neither of these ladies let a thing go to waste.  Nor were they afraid to experiment with what they had to try and create what they wanted.  They didn’t apologise for anything either.  My maternal grandmother had an out of friends, the United Nations a of sorts.  Color, belief, gender and such didn’t matter at all to her.  The only thing she demanded was that people were honest and good.  Her definition of good of course! 😉 My paternal grandmother had friends that came from where she came from.  They helped each other, borrowing pantry and kitchen as needed.  She demanded fairness and honesty.

these ladies taught me some cooking skills, the importance of visiting over coffee or tea.  They taught me that you can no make something quickly and haven it just so  for company.  They taught me that less is more with some things, fresh flowers from your own garden are always sweeter than those from a shop.

they also taught me you can still be a female and hold your own.

They didn’t teach me how to can or pickle because both ladies were adamant that we would never fall on those hard times again.  I have rudimentary sewing skills at best, again both ladies felt there was almost no need to for this skill.  Both ladies felt it was more important to work on things like equality, human rights and staying strong.  These skills, they both agreed, were transferable regardless of the economy or political systems at work in the world.  These are the lessons my grandmothers taught me.

Finding Equal

What defines equality?  Does equal mean being identical, or having exactly the same things applied?

A more important question, I guess, is why is equality such a hard thing to grasp and apply?

I was recently shocked, not surprised, but shocked, to experience racism alive and well.  I also experience, on a regular basis, subtle discrimination based on my gender.  Oddly enough, I’m not shocked or surprised by this discrimination.  Probably because I’m used to it and just expect it.

Perhaps the shock is because it happened to someone I care about, and it happened where I could witness it.  You see, friends, I don’t associate racism with Beloved and yet I saw something, nay I heard something, that made me stop cold.  Some ignorant soul explained to Beloved why he will never a corner office.  Not that Beloved wants a corner office, but the fact that Beloved may  experience less of something simply because of where he comes from is sickening.  The fact that anyone experiences this makes me sick.

The world keeps shrinking, we are becoming more global and still we feel an urge to discriminate against certain groups of people.  Why?  Perhaps because some of those people are not equal to us.  They are, in some way,inferior to others.  Worse if the person happens to be the wrong gender as well as race.

Diversity surely is the spice of life and life needs to have new flavours, or mixes of flavours all blended together.  Will we find harmony this way?  Maybe, maybe not, but surely we can’t do any worse than we already are.