August 26th really is our birthday, that is, for women who are citizens of one of the lesser, gender-equal nations of the world. It was on this day, 77 years ago that women were reborn as members of the human race, IF we believe we were originally created as such. Reborn because, even though man's science, history and most religions hardly even mention that we exist, biology has confirmed that we did. Whatever niche was assigned to us, they had to trot us out whenever men needed something to begat against -- or into!
Of course, you will also find us leading man astray with apples, turning into pillars of salt and, more recently, stealing welfare money from the RIGHT stuffed-shirts. Our rebirth came when we finally got a voice in our government. We were allowed to vote (August 26, 1920.) Get that! "ALLOWED!!!" Pity there are no survivors to bear witness to our Mother's and Grandmother's struggles and sacrifice. More pity that we still must struggle and sacrifice to maintain our human rights.
We must continue to struggle, not only against man's culture, but against women who either want to turn back the clock or who refuse to take responsibility for themselves.
In July of 1848, five very brave women drafted a Declaration of Sentiments a.k.a. The Woman's Declaration of Independence. Shortly thereafter, over 300 women met in Seneca Falls, NY. They adopted the Declaration and its 12 resolutions. You all learned in school about the Bill of Rights? Well this was the Bill of Human Rights! Betcha most of us didn't hear about this until we took a woman's studies course in college. [liznote]
Those radical resolutions stated that to improve women's LIVES, women should share the human rights afforded to men: women should own property; control their wages; obtain a divorce; exercise free speech; have equal access to education; equal opportunities in business and the professions; and A VOICE IN THE LAWS WHICH GOVERN THEIR LIVES.
Strip those rights you were born with, that are listed in the paragraph above, from yourself. Pretend for a moment that you lived back in pre-vote days. Do you feel like a slave? Do you know what a slave is? Do you know what a woman is?
Since the mid-1800's, there have been great changes in women's lives -- a high point being 1920 when women were enfranchised. But change comes slowly. We know that only very important changes can occur overnight. Take this quite recent example of a rapid change in family values that happened in another country:
A journalist had done a story on gender roles in Kuwait several years before the Gulf War, and she noted then that women customarily walked about 10 feet behind their husbands. She returned to Kuwait recently and observed that the men now walked several yards behind their wives. She approached one of the women for an explanation. "This is marvelous," said the journalist. "What enabled women here to achieve this reversal of roles?"
Replied the Kuwaiti woman, "land mines."
We know from our own lives that women's lives are better than they were. We should know that the United States Congress is 89% male; women do sit on about 60% of Fortune 1000 boards, but membership still is mostly male; 95% of corporate offices are held by men. We actively should be doing something about it. Why? Because we constantly have to fight the efforts of both male and female religious/political groups who are out to restrict our hard won rights with corporate pac money...
Rights not just limited to the ones the Women of Seneca fought so valiantly for, but for the progress we have made since then by increasing our numbers in the professions, in universities, in woman-owned businesses, and especially in reproductive freedom. We have to fight a culture that allows the batterer/rapist/child-molester off with little or no punishment; a society that blames poor women for its problems; a country that devalues its womenfolk by sexual intimidation and discrimination, and forces them into either low paying dead-end jobs or to work for 70% or less than a comparable male wage.
Our forces are sorely divided in this struggle. For so long, so many women have turned to men in power to get power for themselves and to solve their problems. These women actively oppose human rights for self defined women. We must learn to claim power as our right and raise our collective voices independent of the control of men.
Yes, after countless centuries, women have won back human rights by law. Now we must regain the integrity we were created with.
Copyright 1997 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: email@example.com.
G e n d e r G a p p e r s T M
[liznote: for more information on the remarkable and little-known details about how women in the United States REgained their right to vote via amendment to the United States Constitution, see the Woman Suffrage Timeline at the liz library; for more information about how achieving women have been erased from our history books, see Irene Stuber's Women of Achievement: Herstory, at the new Women's Internet Information Network site, currently in development.]