Women were kept outof the mainstream of world events for the reason that they were physically and mentally unfit to do men's work. They had to be protected bymen from the harshness of work outside of the home, and governed by hissuperior mind. Early in this century their obvious frailties and dim wits were given by some politicians as reasons why women should not be allowed to vote.
Sojourner Truth,a woman, a black slave who was forced to labor in the fields, answeredthat idiocy with: "And ain't I a woman?"
All through history, women have risen to the challenges that threatened their homes and families. There have been outstanding womenthat we are only now learning about, who left us letters and diaries; whowrote books; and who gallantly fought against the stigma that their culture placed on their gender. However, mostly, they were little known outsideof their immediate locality, and were largely ignored by history and certainly not presented as exemplary womanhood to school children.
From our recent history,we know how the pioneer women opened the west alongside the men. We know how women have always worked the fields and farms when the men were absent in war.
Always, after thecrisis had passed and the men came home, the women were forced back into "their place." That is, until events such as WWI; a terrible depression and the courage of some remarkable women who fought for, and won a constitutional change that enfranchised women. [liznote]
Then, we began to hear about women and reproduction control; about the viciousness of child labor and the terrible violence allowed but kept hidden in our traditional family (values) structure.
Following WWII,"Rosy the Riveter" and many of her sisters refused to relinquish their hard-won personhood. This time, "Jeannie" would NOT be stuffed back into the bottle.
The woman's movement sprouted all over the country and burst vigorously upon a hostile world in the 60's and 70's. Women not only attended college but went onto advanced degrees; entered the professions in greater numbers and fought for, and won the right to reproductive freedom.
The Pill and other forms of birth control freed women to express their sexuality as only men had here-to-for been allowed by our culture. There were laws passed so women could sue employers for wage, race and sexual discrimination aswell as sexual harassment. No-fault divorce freed many women from the dependency that kept them in cruel marriages. Women started to run for, and be elected to political office.
There is still no United States holiday or coin that commemorates the life of any woman. There has just recently been a statue dedicated in Washington to the women who served in a war.
The Ascent of Women was not taken kindly by many people dedicated to the profitable status quo, so women started to experience a backlash of hate and violence.
This came from many directions and took many forms but had, and still has, its basis in economicsand control. Businesses, such as insurance companies and institutions,such as universities which had made huge profits by discriminating against women to preserve the status quo, were and still are the power behind the backlash. They utilize and fund PURELY POLITICAL religious groups who are determined to put women back under the control and direction of their church's doctrines. They encourage and incite inter-gender disagreements that lead to violence.
But the greatest threat to the hegemony (values and ideals of the power groups in a culture) were/are the Women's Clinics which began to spread all over the country. They provided reproductive services to women as well as general health care and advice, but they also became sites that the paternal power structure of this country feared. They became places where women started to bond, and this had to be stopped.
Women joining together was a political force that had to be stopped.
Copyright1997 Renee T. Louise and Ruth M. Sprague, Ph.D. These articles may be republished for noncommercial use only, provided that they are copied intact, and that this copyright notice is attached. Address all queries to: TWANDA@ConnRiver.net.
Ge n d e r G a p p e r s TM
[liznote:for more information on the remarkable and little-known details about how women in the United States REgained the right to vote via amendment to the United States Constitution, see Brooks and Gonzalez's fabulous Woman Suffrage Timeline at the liz library; also available on Laurie Mann's extensive women's history pages here.]