W-O-M-E-N: In Mississippi, Are Girls On The Side? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

W-O-M-E-N: In Mississippi, Are Girls On The Side?

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Just a generation ago, most Mississippi women were facing an M.R.S. degree. "In 1969, graduating from Millsaps, your choice was to become a teacher or a nurse or go to grad school so that you could make more money as a teacher," Linda Montgomery explains. "It was always, 'Get a job that you can fall back on,' which meant in case your marriage didn't work out. It was, of course, assumed that you would get married."

Times have changed. As Sen. Gloria Williamson, D-Philadelphia, explains, women took on careers while their husbands were at war—"They had gotten a taste of it, and they liked it," Williamson growls—and started speaking up for themselves. Women now find it easier to attain careers—not as fallbacks, but as signature parts of their lives. Things are getting better, but the voice of Mississippi women is not yet as loud as it could be.

Montgomery is now president of the Women's Fund, a group operating as part of the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, which raises money for non-profits aimed at aiding women and children. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, Mississippi ranks last for women with social and economic autonomy and reproductive rights. The state ranks in the lowest five for health and well-being and employment and earnings. Funding to address the needs of women and girls is scarce. Although more than $29 billion is given by Mississippians each year to philanthropic causes, less than 7 percent of all of these gifts go specifically to women's and girls' issues. Some attempts have been made to improve the state of women in Mississippi by the government, but funding has been a serious problem. The Legislature founded the Mississippi Commission on the Status of Women three years ago, but it has never received funding.

Many women are not aware of the challenges, Montgomery says, so the Women's Fund attempts to bring women together to understand the problems.

"We have been isolated from a lot of the problems, but now that we're finding out, we cannot allow them to continue," says Montgomery. "There are a lot of people who won't see it because they don't want to."

Raising money for women and children's issues has been easier than Montgomery initially had imagined. She began the Fund two years ago after noticing similar programs all over the country. At a Board of Trustees meeting, three women quickly donated a total of $100,000 to start the program. Since its inception, the group has raised over $300,000 for women and children.

"Women have never really felt empowered to speak up for themselves in Mississippi. They've played a secondary role to the men in their lives," Montgomery says.

It's Not About Men

To make things better for women, they must first be conscious of their own place, their own worth and roles. June Hardwick is more conscious of women's roles now that she's older. The 29-year-old single mother and law student at Mississippi College attended the historically black all-women's Spelman College in Atlanta.

"I became more conscious of womanism and feminism at Spelman College," Hardwick says. "I became more conscious of women's issues there, but I was not conscious of the women's plight fully then."

How does she define feminism? "A movement of like-minded men and women that help to raise people's consciousness about women's issues, to place the appropriate value of women's contribution in society," she asserts, never taking a second to think about her answer. "In a patriarchal society, anything feminine is devalued. It doesn't mean we hate men. That's too reactionary, that makes feminism too much about men."

In fact, feminism seems to often be about a woman's dual role as mother and career-holder. Hardwick is raising her 4-year-old son, Raja, to be a warrior. Hardwick wants Raja, whose name means happiness, to have a sense of history and passion. He is enrolled in Adhiambo, a private Afro-centric school in Jackson.

"He's in school while I'm in school," Hardwick explains. "He isn't deprived of anything. I am able to meet all of his needs on a shoestring budget. I don't even get caught up in being a single mother. I think about what I have to do, and I just do it."

Hardwick says she is his mother first, but it's important to her to get her law degree. Though she admits she didn't even want to go to college originally—her parents "made" her go—she now has plans to open up an entertainment company, complete with lawyers, managers and stylists, in honor of Raja's deceased father.

"For me it's easier because I'm in Mississippi," she says. "Having a support system is necessary, whether you're a single or married mother. A woman has to have the support of her community and family. It does take a village to raise a child."

Having that village might be harder than many women think, says Montgomery. Many younger mothers do not get the chance to further their education because they have no help in raising their children. "There used to be free childcare for mothers trying to get an education, but legislators just did away with that," she explains. "There is this condescension toward women who have children too young, and then the government tries to punish them by not helping to take care of their children."

Mothers who, like Hardwick, do work to attain the balance of being a mother and a worker do not receive the respect they deserve, says Ann Williams, a mother and forensic consultant in Jackson. "In Mississippi, as far as the middle class goes, women's jobs are to work full time, then come home and wait on the children, do laundry and wait on the husband," she says. "It's the man's role that hasn't changed. Women haven't gained more respect; they're just working twice as hard. Women need to get fed up with it."

Many younger women are already planning lives of careers and motherhood. Marley Braden, a 19-year-old sophomore at Millsaps College, can't wait to go on maternity leave and "hang out" with her kids. That's a long way away, of course—before she has children, she has to go to med school and get married. She wants to become a missionary doctor—alongside her goal of being a wonderful mother.

Though she wants to balance a career, Braden hates the condescension aimed at women who simply want to be mothers. The housewife depression described in Betty Friedan's seminal book, "The Feminine Mystique," has become expected at this point, she explains, noting that many find it unbelievable that women could be happy in a housewife situation. Consumerism also adds to the idea that housewives are lesser citizens.

"The more consumer-driven we are, the more emphasis is placed on how much someone can buy," she says. "If a woman is at home making no money, it's like she's not contributing."

Less Money Blues

Though it is easier for women to get jobs in almost any avenue than it was in the '60s, Hardwick says it's hard for many women to get out of the caretaker role. Many women seek jobs in nursing or teaching because the markets are easier for women to break into, and it upholds the caretaker role within which many women think they must remain.

"Mississippi is so traditional and conservative that it's acceptable for women to be teachers or nurses, but it's challenging for them to practice law, juggling being a wife, mother and attorney," Hardwick says.

Rep. May Whittington, D-Schlater, says that attitudes of what is acceptable for women have drastically changed, but this attitude change is not always reflected in pay rates and benefits for women. "The younger generation doesn't seem to have as much of that hang-up as my generation did. They are treated equal at home, so they go out thinking they're equal. Of course, this isn't always reflected in the corporate world," she notes.

Women who do manage to juggle these roles are often not rewarded with equitable pay rates. In Mississippi in 2002, women were only paid 77.1 percent of what men made, according to the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Hardwick says this is ludicrous. "There is no reason that a woman should be paid less," she says. "As long as she is performing, which women do—they perform just as well as men. What is essential is productivity."

Braden agrees: "If a woman is better at a job, she should be hired. I don't agree with affirmative action, but women should be hired according to their skill."

Thou Shalt Not Be Heard

This lack of respect of women is also made manifest through religion, Hardwick says. Noting that religion, politics and culture are so intertwined in Mississippi, Hardwick says that many women may be acting out of a self-disrespect they find in certain churches or versions of the Bible: "Given the King James version of how women are de-emphasized, women read that version of the Bible and they internalize a view that is anti-woman. They just keep acting it out."

But Braden, a member of the Presbyterian Church of America, thinks that a secondary role for women in church is not disrespect. Braden, who is reading the New Testament in Greek, says the original language of parts of the Bible suggests women should be silent in church.

"To me, it's symbolic of Christ being over the church," she says. "I've seen it in practice, and it works well."

Braden says that many people misinterpret the idea of subservience upheld by many Christian denominations. "Women should be submissive to their own husbands, not just any guy walking around," she explains.

But many women are forced into violently submissive situations. Williams points to the use of the term "domestic violence" as something that quickly needs to be abolished. This term softens the reality of crimes like assault, murder and battery because society sees women as below their husbands. This devalued idea of women manifests itself often in the criminal-justice system, Williams says.

"You can look at statistics to see how well we are respected," she says. "There are several rapes a week in Jackson. Very few are prosecuted."

Blaming the Victim

Much of the misogyny that exists within the criminal justice system is nationwide, Williams says, but Mississippi seems to have a particular mishandling of cases involving women that could be ameliorated if more money was put into training and compensating officers better. As it is now, many officers do not show as much respect with women's cases.

Williams teaches an enrichment class at Millsaps College called "Armchair Detective" that instructs participants on basic forensic science and medicine, with an emphasis on serial murder. In her last class, women reported disrespect from the criminal justice system.

"One received threatening calls from her boyfriend, who was threatening to slit her throat. Nobody did anything before David Clark was elected (Rankin) DA. The deputy sheriffs had laughed at her. They identified with the boyfriend," she recalls. Williams adds that in most serial killing situations, police blame victims first: "It is common for police to first blame the victim and consider it a domestic situation and minimize it. When that wears thin, when they realize through DNA that they have a serial killer, they start blaming the killer's mother."

To the Oval Office

Electing more women would combat this, Williams believes. Women would be more inclined to give more money to the criminal justice system, fully funding needs like the Mississippi Crime Lab that could lead to solving crimes involving women. "Women understand what it's like to live with the dark presence of rape every day. Women being elected would benefit the criminal justice system because they have more empathy," she says.

Electing women as top officials would solve a lot of other problems concerning women, Hardwick says: "We end up being left out in policy making, which really affects us. The more inclusion, the better off we'll be."

"That's not to displace men," Meridian Councilwoman Mary Perry says. "But women's voices need to be heard in government. Men don't see the small details like we do. Women see small details and the big picture."

Perry has been a teacher for 38 years, but got involved with government in the '80s. She went to a meeting in order to let the voice of teachers be heard. "We wanted our input in the system," she says. She had to fill the role when no one else would. Balancing her work as a teacher and a government official has kept her busy, but it works together. At the time of her first election, her class was studying government. She allowed the class to sit in on her swearing in. Though she recently retired, she still teaches adult classes and Sunday School. She is running for her second full term as city councilwoman.

Hardwick thinks women should be in all levels of policy making—all the way to the presidency—but others disagree. "I don't know that I would vote for a woman president. They have different personalities and strengths," Braden says. "But I am all about women in lower government positions. I want my mom to run for something, but she doesn't want to."

A State Run by Men

Braden's mother, who is on the school board in Brookhaven, isn't alone. Many women do not run for office, meaning state politics continue to be run by men, or women who do what men tell them to do.

"Women tend to not run because they're taught from the beginning of their lives to be caretakers," Williamson says. "For most women, the first 40 years of her life are dedicated to taking care of children and a family. They don't understand that they can do that and participate in the political arena." Williamson cites Cindy Hyde-Smith as an example of this merging. Hyde-Smith, a Democrat from Brookhaven, is in her second term in the Mississippi Senate and has a 6-year-old son.

Williamson joined other key female politicians in Mississippi last weekend at the capitol for a training session educating women on how to run for political office. Sponsored by the Mississippi Federation of Democratic Women, the "training academy" focused on developing a message, projecting a winning image, handling media and fund raising.

"Women are 52.14 percent of the voting power in Mississippi. There should be more than four women in the Senate!" Williamson exclaimed before presenting on how to dress for success. Williamson has been working with training programs like these for 10 years, explaining, "We need to teach women from a young age that it is OK to participate in politics."

Williamson herself held many jobs before running for the Senate in 1999. She had been a computer programmer, an analyst and a business owner with three stores before she began campaigning. Men tried to dissuade her, she says. "I would go meet some of these man and say, 'Hi, I'm Gloria Williamson, and I'm running for the office of state senator, District 18,' and they'd say, 'What are you gonna do, gal?' I'd say, 'Everything that the men do, but I'm going to do it better.'"

Williamson attributes much of her attitude to her mother, who worked even when Williamson was only 3. She ran for the office in the '60s, showing Williamson that women could and should run for political office. But many women need an extra push, she says.

"Women tell me they don't know anything about politics. Politics is in your church, your schools, your clubs. It's just a matter of where you see it."

Make Some Noise, Girl

Whittington agrees. "The more women who get into the political or administrative area, the better it is going to be for us," she says. "We just have to keep encouraging women and help them understand that women's voices are not coming out in the laws that we make." Whittington adds that while most laws are gender-neutral, issues like women's health and insurance need to be better represented.

Once women do get involved, the political arena may intimidate some of them. Whittington admits that it is tough for someone to attain authority, but she says a lot of authority is attributed by seniority.

Williamson doesn't let anyone intimidate her in the Senate. "I'm a tough woman, and some of the men are totally scared of me. They should be," she says. "But when you get to 60, I think you've earned that right. You just have to say, 'I was elected by 53,000 people just like you, and we're all here to serve our people.'"

Even if men do not consciously hold women down now, Hardwick says the effects of the past are still felt. "Men can take a hands-off approach now because they have already trained women," she says. "They have already programmed them to be exactly like the way they want them to be."

A former basketball player, Williamson adds that sports contribute to a competitive mentality that pushes women to want to get involved and succeed. "You've got to want to win," she says.

Previous Comments

ID
78020
Comment

IMO, part of the reason the feminist movement has faced tremendous opposition in the mainstream is due to the combative "us against them" attitude demonstrated by many of the self appointed leaders of said movement. Some of the statements made by Mrs. Hardwick, Williams, Perry and Montgomery are perfect examples of that to which I am referrring. ìWomen have never really felt empowered to speak up for themselves in Mississippi. Theyíve played a secondary role to the men in their lives,î Montgomery says. ìIn Mississippi, as far as the middle class goes, womenís jobs are to work full time, then come home and wait on the children, do laundry and wait on the husband,î she says. ìItís the manís role that hasnít changed. Women havenít gained more respect; theyíre just working twice as hard. Women need to get fed up with it.î This lack of respect of women is also made manifest through religion, Hardwick says. Noting that religion, politics and culture are so intertwined in Mississippi, Hardwick says that many women may be acting out of a self-disrespect they find in certain churches or versions of the Bible: ìGiven the King James version of how women are de-emphasized, women read that version of the Bible and they internalize a view that is anti-woman. They just keep acting it out.î Men donít see the small details like we do. Women see small details and the big picture.î ìMen can take a hands-off approach now because they have already trained women,î she says. ìThey have already programmed them to be exactly like the way they want them to be.î What I think many of these most vocal leaders refuse to recognize is that not all women think like them. Not all women define success and self worth according to the same standards as they do. Not all women consider a life devoted to putting her family before herself as demeaning or oppressive. Many of the leaders of the feminist movement have erred in thinking they speak for all women and know what is best for them. In so doing they have become oppressors of women's growth, exploration, expression and happiness; the very thing they claim to be seeking. True feminism seeks to open the gates where women can choose for themselves on which side of the fence (domestic or workplace) they want to graze, or if they want to move freely back and forth. Not only that, but true feminism will embrace whatever lifestyle and life choices a woman may make in her quest for purpose, value, meaning and joy in her life, instead of ridiculing her choices and "defending" her (bless her heart, she would do more if she only had more options) if she chooses a less "glamorous" lifestyle. And yes, I am a man. But I am a man that has been blessed to have a loving mother who made many sacrifices for my happiness and a wife who has done the same for me and our children. Both of them have taught me something that they learned from their faith, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is a lesson not lost on, but imitated by this man. Their form of "feminism" has done much more to change my views on women and women's rights than any of those who only want to get into a "peeing contest" with men.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-17T13:42:32-06:00
ID
78021
Comment

So, what, we shouldn't fight for equal rights, equal pay, equal time because some women don't want those things? Not buying it. No one says that all women have to define success in any particular way. But they are saying that when a woman goes to work, for instance, she should be paid the same as a man for the same work, judged fairly, offered the same career paths, etc. That when my girls are in school, they should be praised for their intellect and achievements, not for their looks or their ability to get along with others. This is NOT about turning women into men, but about valuing women and girls as highly as we do men and boys. It drives me totally batty, for instance, when I glance at the sports page and see huge articles about what the MSU men's basketball teams are going to do in a few days when they play a game, and a much smaller article on some game that the Ole Miss women's team has won. "True feminism" isn't about validating women's choices for women. It's about society as a whole - men, women, boys, girls, teachers, preachers, executives, doctors, governors, etc - valuing the feminine. Why is it still an insult to be called a 'girly-man?' Why were their columns talking about the awful 'feminization' of the democratic party? The battle isn't won when women are free to work and/or stay home with kids. It's won when we actually value 'feminine' traits, and are proud to be called 'girly' or 'girly-man.'

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-17T15:41:48-06:00
ID
78022
Comment

....All I have to say is "well said" June!

Author
vern
Date
2005-03-17T16:25:51-06:00
ID
78023
Comment

Brandon, you're point seems off the mark from the beginning. Certainly, you're correct that some feminists over the years have expressed "us versus them" comments -- as do people in every movement from evangelicals to anarchists. However, the quotes you share are clearly not doing that. Saying that women, for instance, have traditionally been unpowered and played a secondary role to men (as the quote from Montgomery) in no way is "either-or" -- that's poor logic. Clearly, Montgomery is calling for equality, not supremacy. There's nothing either-or about that statement, or the other ones you quote. Read closer. I think you're being a tad sensitive here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-17T16:38:14-06:00
ID
78024
Comment

GROANS!!!! Why the hell can't we all just let people do what they want as long as it's not harmful! If you're a woman who wants a big career -- do it! If you want to be a stay-at-home mom -- just do it. Why do people get all petty about all this ****??? If you just let people do what they want and not get finger-pointy about it, then this world would be a lot happier a place to live. Is THAT such a difficult concept to grasp, people??? You'd think by 2005 we'd have learned that lesson pretty damn thoroughly. I'm tempted to start ranting about how the whole cultural superstructure of ideas about what constitutes "normal behavior", "normal life", etc. are -- IN AND OF ITSELF -- an INSULT to human freedom and therefore have ABSOLUTELY NO place in a democracy and ESPECIALLY not inAmerica (yes, this is one area where I am admit to being outright radical, or at least at radicalism's borderline.)

Author
Philip
Date
2005-03-17T16:46:33-06:00
ID
78025
Comment

Kate, what you said in the beginning of your post is what is referred to in logic as attacking a straw man. Meaning, you attack something that I did not say, nor imply, which is obviously false. When in my comments did I say or even suggest that we should not fight for equal rights, equal pay. I agree with your first paragraph almost entirely. The only thing I would disagree with is the last statement, and it is not so much that I disagree with the premise, but perhaps disagree with the method. Should girls in school or anywhere else be praised according to their achievments and intellect instead of looks and congeniality....ABSOLUTELY! But the question is, how is this accomplished? Not by laws or government, but by parents teaching their daughters to earn respect for their mind and reject flattery for their body/beauty. By changing the hearts of individuals. The strong women in my life, whom I consider both physically and intellectually beautiful, do not define themselves by their appearance and therefore refuse to allow society to judge them by superficial standards, even when people try. I think the answer to the sports page reference is more economic that sexist. More people follow men's sports. Men's sports generate much more revenue and interest than women's sports, primarily because sports fans are more often men than women. It is simply supply and demand. I can assure you if more readers were interested in women's sports than men's, the tables would turn because the papers want to make money. Why are men's sports more popular. Probably because they have been around longer, but I'm sure you know that women's sports have increased exponentially in the past decade and will likely continue to grow. Another reason is because we men generally like to "waste our time" worrying about sports, whereas most women I know, even those who are sports fans, realize it is just a silly game and choose to devote their attention to more productive interests. As far as the last statement. The vast majority of men don't like or value a woman who demonstrates what are traditionally masculine traits. If that was what they were interested in they would choose to be with a man. I don't see that as sexist, but no different than preferring Chinese food to Mexican. Both have their place in our society, but are not necessarily equal in popularity. I really think we agree on the desired outcome, but perhaps disagree on the method.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-18T08:30:51-06:00
ID
78026
Comment

Brandon, I love ya, but I disagree. You overlooked this quote for example...."ìIn a patriarchal society, anything feminine is devalued. It doesnít mean we hate men. " (and that is true by the way. I personally bought my son a doll when he wanted one, but much to the dismay of others. now a girl playing with trucks is another story.) Yes, there are some women who devalue the role of motherhood....so have some men. I've had this conversation with tons of women, and as someone who has had time as a full-time mother I often heard "So do you work?" I got the "you must sit on your ass all day" attitude from some. Now, working full-time, when my son misbehaves, I sometimes get the attitude that since I have a life outside of motherhood, it's my fault my kid talks too much. I've been married and worked full-time, married and worked part-time, unmarried working full-time...I've run the gamut. I've had my choices critisized in every realm, and is why I call myself feminist. Well, other reasons too, but that's the main one. I absolutely agree that we should not define success by stuff and money, but what we are facing in our state are women who are struggling to raise children alone on a salary that does not cover our basic needs. We have women who are physically and emotionally abused (that problem is found from the poor to the rich here) and a society that looks the other way. It goes on and on. And the role of feminisim, to me, is talking about these problems and not looking the other way. And I do know how you feel a bit. In Donna's column, when she said some of us have made mistakes having babies young with bad marriages, it smarted me personally just a bit because I don't define my choices as mistakes, but in the end I know what she is saying. We mess up changing our hearts and decisions for the attention of men. Sorry, but it's true. I know I've done it in the past, and I know my friends have also. I love men. I love men to pieces. But it's MY mistake to put aside any dreams I've had in this life because my husband/boyfriend/whatever does not find it a valuable choice (writing for example.) As I've said before, feminism to me is not about taking on what I define as character flaws (greed, characterless pursuit of power) of what society seems to define as successful men. A true feminist cannot be classified as any one thing. When it comes down to it, that is the one common bond we feminists have. We want other people to quit defining us for us. --Signed...Vocal, self-appointed leader in the feminist movement :P

Author
emilyb
Date
2005-03-18T08:49:34-06:00
ID
78027
Comment

Ladd I do not understand how you cannot see that a statement like, "men can take a hands-off approach because they've already trained women...programmed them to be exactly as they want them to be" and "Men donít see the small details like we do. Women see small details and the big picture" as anything but us against them? Montgomery's quote was insulting to any woman who has chosen to put her family (secondary role to the men in their lives) before herself as though that makes her inferior or weak. Many people, men and women alike, find greater strength and value in being a servant of others, because it is an example that Jesus set. The way up is down. I am not defending holding someone (women) down, but praising a woman who chooses to function according to what she defines as her feminine strengths, instead of what others are telling her should be her strengths. I will say this, I highly commend your paper, and in particular the author of this piece, for including quotes from dissenting opinions. Some journalists do not have the intellectual honesty and integrity to present both sides of the issue and allow the readers to make up their own mind. Casey Parks did and that is why I will be reading her articles regularly. PS--I enjoy forums such as this where people can come at a problem from different angles and hopefully pick up a few kernels of truth and pearls of wisdom from those with whom they may disagree.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-18T08:50:01-06:00
ID
78028
Comment

And our economy is sexist as whole.

Author
emilyb
Date
2005-03-18T08:52:08-06:00
ID
78029
Comment

Brandon, I'm just not sure what your method is. That women should stay at home taking care of the men until equality of pay, of achievement, of fulfillment of potential just happens, by women being quiet? In one paragraph you say that we need to reject flattery, but you end by saying that woman need to be feminine to attract a man. Or something. And don't get me started on "they would be with a man." You completely missed my point about valuing the "feminine." It's not about gender. It's about yin/yang, if that's an easier way to state it. Or about feminine archetypes. It's not about "displaying masculine traits." It's about self expression, for men and women, based on who they are as whole people. Why is it such a huge insult for a boy to be called a "girl." Why is the guvernator making comments about "girly-men?" Because we as a society de-value feminine traits. Like listening, finding compromise, cooperation, social networking to solve problems rather than using force all the time. We got into this on another thread about the war in Iraq - that we are such a Yang/Masculine oriented society that we have completely blinded ourselves to problem solving patterns that don't involve force or coercion. Anything that smacks of trying to understand is viewed as weak, girly, and unacceptable. For @#$%!'s sake, why can we refer to god as savior, rock, light, redeemor, creator, prince of peace, father, but never ever mother? Why is referring to god as 'she' such a shocking thing to say? Try it in your local church, and see what kind of reaction you get. It's because we do not value the feminine/yin in our society on a fundamental archetypal level. As for the sports coverage - do you think that if for 5 or 10 years, the women's teams got equal coverage in the media, that their revenues would start to equal the men's? At the very least we need to stop this "the MSU basketball team" = men's team only. It's the Men's Team and the Women's Team. To assume that the "MSU Basketball Team" is automatically the men's team diminishes the work of the women. And as for the "if a woman wants a big career, just do it!" While things are a whole lot easier for woman now than they ever have been in the past, there are still huge double standards that exist in the workforce. And if I have to go to another global sales kickoff meeting and see women win "Sales MAN of the Year" and see the Global VP for Software Services and Support be referred to as a "guy" because she's the only woman on stage because she's the only woman out of 10 who's on the senior executive team, my head's going to explode. Happy Friday. I'm enjoying my first cup of coffee in about 6 weeks, so feel free to filter about 20% of the emotion out of my rant.

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-18T09:05:19-06:00
ID
78030
Comment

Emily, you said you disagree, but I'm not really so sure that we do. In fact, I shout amen, er, aWOmen, to what you wrote. the role of feminisim, to me, is talking about these problems and not looking the other way. it's MY mistake to put aside any dreams I've had in this life because my husband/boyfriend/whatever does not find it a valuable choice We want other people to quit defining us for us. Perhaps you are just better at saying what I am trying to say. Maybe that is why you get paid to write and I have to settle for forum writing. But for the record, men do that and are pressured to do that too. When we found out Jade was pregnant, I was a college freshman. Immediately everyone in my life began pressuring me to quit college and "get a job and support your family." In a "patriarchal society" (keep in mind virtually all men are raised, taught, cared for by women) boys are pressured into being breadwinners, often at the expense of fulfilling your dreams. You can't be a writer, musician, etc, because you can't make a living and support your family that way. If you do you are viewed as irresponsible, a dreamer. I quit college and started working 3rd shift in a factory, which by the way is the definition of hell on earth for me, and many men. Which also turns into a life sentence for many men, like my dad who at 17 found out he was going to be a father and went to work in a factory where he still is 30 years later. Why did I drop out instead of getting the English/History degree I had always dreamed about? Because that is what I was expected to do. I too allowed others to define me. But this story has a happy ending because I have since outgrown that to an extent. I do not let others shape who am I and what I do, but I do put my wife and sons first. There are still times when I sacrifice what I want because there is something I want even more, and that is for my wife and sons to have what they want. I guess that was my main point in cringing at some of the quotes. I know there are many women who choose to set aside what they want, because what they want more is to make their family happy. I can relate to that. I didn't want to be a husband and father at 18, I wanted to be Jimmy Buffett when I grew up, but I quickly found that what was more important to me than my dreams was a woman and a little boy that gave me new dreams.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-18T09:11:05-06:00
ID
78031
Comment

Emily wrote: I've been married and worked full-time, married and worked part-time, unmarried working full-time...I've run the gamut. I've had my choices critisized in every realm, and is why I call myself feminist. Well, other reasons too, but that's the main one. This is a key point, I think. As I tell my pregnant/new mother friends, "all the choices suck in some way. You just have to pick the one that sucks least for you." And you will be criticized for working/not working, etc. I know working parents who spend more time with their kids and feed them more home cooked meals than non-working parents. Nothing's a sure bet. And, while I'm "expressing myself" why is it we so rarely hear about the troubles that men have, balancing work and home life? Why is my husband treated like a freakin' hero when he helps out at Kindergarten parties? "Oh, it's just so *great* to have a Dad here!" The men really get the raw end of the deal, when they are encouraged to work all the time, and miss out on their kids child hoods. That's one of the biggest tragedies of our society.

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-18T09:14:57-06:00
ID
78032
Comment

Kate, no I don't think women's sports would generate the revenue of men's if they got equal coverage, because there is not equal interest. Capitalism thrives on people being willing to pay for what they want and someone being willing to supply it to them. No I don't think we should refer to God as she or woman, just as it makes no sense to refer to me as she or woman. We refer to God by all of those other words and terms because He did. You can call me Brandon, man, guy, male, father, husband, etc, because I am those things. It makes no sense to call me woman because I am not, not because it is an insult, just inaccurate. Let me close with this and I will stop, I loved your yin/yang illustration. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I must go now because I have an appointment at the gym to pump iron (a very yang thing to do), but I will take my iPod and listen to Natalie Merchant while I work out (a very yin thing to do). For the record, that was tongue in cheek.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-18T09:54:12-06:00
ID
78033
Comment

So God, which is infinite, creator, encompasses all living things, all of creation, is never female? That's just warped. What does that make the female half of creation? A mistake? Something outside of god? How do you presume to know how god refers to itself? How do you presume to put limits on the creator? As for the sports, I don't see why there will "never" be interest in women's sports. Did you watch none of the women's teams in action at the olympics, for instance? Or the women's world cup? It'll happen. It's going to be a long slow road, but it'll happen. It's not just women who watch women's sports, after all.

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-18T10:27:09-06:00
ID
78034
Comment

Not a mistake, not outside of God. Created by God out of man. I presume to know how God refers to Himself by reading His Word. I would not dare try to put limits on God, it would do no good for me to try anyway, but I can only reflect what He has said about Himself. Personally I find the woman to be the crown jewel of God's creation. The two women closest to me are my wife and mother and both of them are harder workers, more intuitive, more thougthful and compassionate than me. They have also helped me to become better in these areas where I am weak.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-18T14:11:51-06:00
ID
78035
Comment

Mr. Jade, putting women on pedestals - 'crown jewel' - is not really helpful either. Plus, you'll find that in Genesis, there's 2 different versions of creation, and in the first, "man and woman he created them." Without all the nonsense of the rib. And, can i just say that the bible does not represent the sum total of god, since god is limitless. So, you're taking an awfully narrow view of god by presuming that god is masculine only. And I'm still not seeing what your method for advancing equality for women is. Your original post really struck me as "y'all are just being too noisy about this. just settle down, and reframe domestic bliss with a post feminist lens, and everything will be just fine. You say that feminism misses the mark by trying to tell all women what to do and think - but then your response is to tell all feminists what to think. This is not something I'm going to be 'quiet' about for risk of offending a few people. Inequities are real - 77 cents to the dollar, for example. They hurt women, they hurt men, they hurt children, they hurt the environment. I don't really care if some women like it this way, or accept it, or however you want to say it. The system is unjust and broken. I'm not going to settle for a world where I'm under paid, under valued and my face/body/experience is somehow not supposed to be reflected in the Divine.

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-18T14:44:07-06:00
ID
78036
Comment

i dont think that many of the women i interviewed have a solid us against them mindset. in fact, every one of them is a mother and has, at some point - maybe even now, depended on men. i think what montgomery and hardwick both want is the OPTION for women to not play secondary roles. as ann williams says, if women were really happy and respected as "housewives" (i hate that term, but i cant think of a better, more ubiquitous one right now), then that'd be great. Hardwick even admits that she would rather be at home with Raja. I think what everyone that I interviewed essentially wants is just the right - the voice - to make their own decisions, live their own lives.

Author
casey
Date
2005-03-18T18:25:13-06:00
ID
78037
Comment

oops - marley isn't a mother!

Author
casey
Date
2005-03-18T18:25:48-06:00
ID
78038
Comment

I'm paranoid as hell, but even I couldn't find an "us vs. them" vibe in any of the article quotes. I saw an "us" vibe, which is going to show up any time members of an identifiable group--women, Presbyterians, chihuahua owners, whatever--are interviewed about said group. I think we all tend to read our own histories into articles like this. Feminism has always been a comfort zone for me--it's one of the places where I stand. It threatens some of my male privilege (which I'm more than happy to get rid of, since I have a guilt complex), but it has never threatened me. Some people have had different experiences, and looking at how social circles can gender out if you're not careful ("Men at table A, women at table B, single heterosexuals who are trying to score at table C"), I guess I can see why some folks would see somebody else's angry mob. Me, I see part of my own angry mob, so it's all good. Nicely done! Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-19T03:09:25-06:00
ID
78039
Comment

Donna, this might be a dumb idea, but I just read Kate's posts and it dawned on me that somebody could do a weekly op-ed column on women's issues alone and there would be more than enough grist for the mill. Have you already thought of doing this? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-19T03:14:19-06:00
ID
78040
Comment

(And no, I'm definitely not suggesting myself for the gig--a man writing a regular women's issues column would kind of sum up exactly why the world needs a regular women's issues column...)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-19T03:23:50-06:00
ID
78041
Comment

Kate can you find even one post where I said explicitly, or even implied subtly that women should stay domesticated and be content? Or that women should not be paid dollar for dollar with men? When did I ever try to tell feminists what to think? I was being critical for their snide remarks about women who put their husbands first. And I am not speaking about women who are abused and therefore have to put their husbands first out of fear, but those who choose to do so out of love. Some of the quotes were very condescending toward those women. Nor am I trying to silence your voice, as if I could, or even would want to if I had the power to. Although they were apparently highly offensive, though not intended to be, my original comments were trying to help the feminist movement bridge what I see as a gap. I get frustrated because whenever a man dares to comment on feminism, even when it is constructive criticism, all of the buzzwords quickly coming flying out. Oppressors, patriarchal society, et al. Are there too many men who fit these roles? Yes. But there are also, in fact the vast majority that I know, those who are disgusted by sexism. Whether you agree or not, most people view feminism in a negative light, men and women and it is partly because of the angry rhetoric that comes from what I referred to as the self appointed leaders who presume to speak for all women, when in fact they do not speak what 90% of the women in America think. Most women enjoy the idea of putting their families first, they are not oppressed and forced to do so. Those who do not want to live that way don't. As with anything there are exceptions, and grant you those exceptions are heart rending cases which need options to get out. Kate, I have been trying for several posts to extend an olive branch. I know you will never believe me but I am on your side, I just disagree with the method (not all of them, but some of them), not the motivation or desired outcome. It is sad when someone disagrees or offers a different perspective that he obviously just wants women to stay barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen and like it. You can reduce my comments to that if you like, but that is an unfair and inaccurate commentary on my beliefs. PS--we might as well drop the God issue because we will never see eye to eye on that. I am a believer that the Bible is the Word of God and it alone is our source of authority for matters of faith and I don't think you share that view. If that is the case, then it would be fruitless to discuss anything related to religious matters because you will not accept my answers which would be quotes from Scripture and I would not accept your answers because they dismiss what is said in the Bible.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-19T08:27:20-06:00
ID
78042
Comment

Mr. Jade, I still don't know what your method for advancing equality is. And who are these leaders? Name some names, and we might have some common ground. I'm not going to indict feminism on some vague statements. And where, pray tell, do you get the statistic 90%? Love to see the data on that one. And what do you mean, "put families first?" That's as vague a statement as ever I've heard. And, if you mean "not work outside the home" then that would imply what - that working women don't value their families, don't put their families first? Can you please think about what you're saying? You're upset because of generic comments about your lifestyle, but you proceed to do the same to the other side. You say you're concerned about these issues, but then say that "most" women are content. You know what, I like my life, too - but that doesn't mean I'm content with the way the world is set up. The two are not mutually exclusive. I know that there's some criticisms of stay at home moms. But there's also a shitload of criticism of single mothers who work, single mothers who don't work, married working mothers, married working women, etc. That's the issue. That men don't have articles written about the "choices" they've made, about "balancing work and life" and so forth. Women are criticized no matter what, and I for one am sick of it. I also don't think you can claim any true perception of equality for women when you deny any feminine aspect of the Divine. It just doesn't add up for me. And why do you sign both your name and your wife's?

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-19T08:52:47-06:00
ID
78043
Comment

Mr. Jade, I never reduced your comments to 'barefoot and pregnant.' But what I do hear is you saying that "most" people believe that women "should put families first". And my issue is that you provide no data for "most" and no definition of "families first." Your root issue seems to be that some feminists are too angry and some have criticized your way of life. Name some names - I'm happy to discuss particulars. Not generalities. I also don't think that this article is a good example of your point at all. Which leads me to think that alot of this is knee jerk reaction on your part. I also really really want to know what you think should be done, and how.

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-19T08:59:34-06:00
ID
78044
Comment

Brandon, Okay, even assuming an infallible Bible, I still don't get the God-has-a-schlong theology. It has long been a staple of both Jewish and Christian thought that God has no body; that's why the Incarnation is such a big deal. If God has no body, then God has no biological gender--and no need of one. Genesis 2:27 also clearly states that the human race (be it translated "Man" or "humankind"), created "male and female," was collectively created in the image of God--suggesting that men have no greater claim to the imago Dei than women. If men and women have equal claim to the imago Dei, then God is not literally male; we just relate to God as if he were. There's nothing wrong with that; it beats impersonal pronouns. But it also suggests that feminine ideas about God have equal standing. All of this is beside the point, because to be perfectly honest I don't know what you're arguing for. I know the comments in the original article offended you. I don't really know why. I also know that you have a pretty unrealistic idea of what most feminists believe, and you somehow associate this idea of malignant feminism with women merely telling their stories when their stories suggest that these women don't fall into line and live the sort of lives that you, a total stranger, believe they should live. If you sit back and take an objective look at how your argument actually sounds, I think you might see why some folks find it offensive. You're using a global, intellectual argument to make your personal, emotional reaction into a case against feminism. It doesn't really wash. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-19T13:53:14-06:00
ID
78045
Comment

Wow. The web comments field censored my Yinglish! Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-19T13:54:09-06:00
ID
78046
Comment

tom head! hello! i'm glad to see you on here. i used to work at video library and check you out all of the time :) (this of course is my senseless, networking-via-jfp-Web site-drivel) brandon - do you think it's at all possible that some women are 'happy' in those roles because they're programmed to be? i'm not one to knock happiness if it's genuine and well-founded. but i think there is certainly some societal conditioning that goes on there.

Author
casey
Date
2005-03-19T21:21:30-06:00
ID
78047
Comment

Ditto, Tom Head. Your comments rock. And I checked out your Web site. What a list of books you've written. And it's great to see you spreading the gospel of progressive faith. Right on.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-20T22:39:59-06:00
ID
78048
Comment

Casey--I certainly remember your ubercool self! I'm thinking of course of both Video Library and when we crossed paths at a conference last April. ("I am Marcus of Borg. You will be reinterpreted in light of contemporary scholarship.") How did the senior project go? And have you seen Rabbit-Proof Fence yet, by any chance...? (Any movie with a Peter Gabriel soundtrack--with the possible exception of Birdy--is required, by law, to be astonishingly good.) As far as checking out goes: Let's just say that there were definitely times when I asked about experimental European film directors, and all I really wanted was an excuse to strike up a conversation with a certain adorable video clerk! And I second the brainwashing explanation. Remember, Brandon, that there was a time in history when we were all happy to go months at a time without bathing, having no idea what things like toothbrushes and toilet paper were; a time in history when men were happy to kill people and take over their land and resources just because they happened to be born into the wrong tribal or ethnic unit; and so on and so forth. Heck, until about ten years ago most of us were happy without the Internet or mobile phones. Progress can be a beautiful thing. I won't live to see it, but I'd like to think the day will come when race and gender and income level don't have any real meaning anymore, when the world capital is in Nigeria and men get pregnant and nobody ever has to live on the streets, when socially constructed ethnicities and genders are just roles we put on like new jackets or hats, when nobody eats meat because there's no reason to kill animals for food. It all sounds so flaky, but I'm sure daily showers would have sounded pretty flaky to King Charles II, too--and the Internet like street corner lunacy. MLK liked to quote the 19th-century abolitionist theologian Theodore Parker: "The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I get chills of delight when I think of what human life could be like in 500 years, if we don't destroy ourselves first--what a wonderfully alien society we could eventually create. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. (And you may say I'm a nutjob, but I'm not the only one of those, either!) Donna, thanks so much for the kind words. :o) By the end of the year I'll have two books published that I think folks here might find really interesting: The Absolute Beginner's Guide to the Bible (coming in September from Que/Pearson) and Conversations with Carl Sagan (coming in December from University Press of Mississippi). I really should update my web site and brag on these a little! I love that cover story you did on progressive faith a few months back! Please let me know if you want to do any profiles, features, etc. on the topic in the future; I can put you in touch with some really interesting people... Cheers, Tom

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-21T02:51:30-06:00
ID
78049
Comment

Tom, you, along with a few others, have put words into my mouth. You have expressed ideas that I do not believe. For example, I do not associate the stories of these women as malignant feminism because they do not fall in line with how I think these women should be living their lives. My point is none of us should be telling these or any other women how to live their lives or what would be best for them. When I quoted Montgomery, she said in MS women have taken a secondary role to women in their lives. That is not telling "her story", she is speaking is broad terms and generalities about all women in MS. That was my point. Don't try and tell all of the women in MS that they have been brainwashed into putting the men in their lives first because she doesn't know that. Maybe in her life that was true, but she wasn't giving her own testimony. ìIn Mississippi, as far as the middle class goes, womenís jobs are to work full time, then come home and wait on the children, do laundry and wait on the husband,î she says. ìItís the manís role that hasnít changed. Women havenít gained more respect; theyíre just working twice as hard. Women need to get fed up with it.î How is this telling her story? She is presuming to speak for and tell all middle class women in MS what to do and think. If she is fed up with it, great, but it is arrogant to talk down to those who are not and tell them they should be. ìMen can take a hands-off approach now because they have already trained women,î she says. ìThey have already programmed them to be exactly like the way they want them to be.î And yes I am offended by this statement. I have never "trained" or attempted to "train" any woman, nor do I think I could if I wanted to. I can say the same for my father, grandfather and all of the other men in my family. These are blanket statements that indict men as a gender. If this is her experience and story with the men in her life, speak on that, but she is speaking of men in general. To me this is a condescending statement that implies the stereotype that strong women so hate (that women are weak minded and physically weak, pretty little naive things that can be manipulated with compliments and sparkly things) is true. My whole point was that many of these quotes sounded like the same things they were condemning, telling women what they ought to do and think.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-23T09:24:09-06:00
ID
78050
Comment

ladd, I had a suggestion that might be an interesting read. Why don't you, or one of your columnists, conduct an informal survey and write an article that explores how people define and feel about the word feminist? It could be interesting to learn how men and women would define the word differently. How those of different ages define the word. How those of different races and even social classes define the word and feel about it. I think it could even be beneficial to hear from the "extremists" of both sides (i.e. men who think of feminists as "feminazis" and women who believe all men are chauvinist pigs). My personal belief is that the more we can learn about differing views, even radical ones, the better we can understand one another and the more capable we are of affecting true change. Even if I think a person is wrong, I want to understand why they feel the way they do and how they came to believe what they believe. For example, and I know this is off the subject and might spur another debate, but I support using military force to destroy terrorists. HOWEVER, I am not a "war hawk" who just thinks we should kill everyone we perceive to be a threat. I think we need to invest equal time, effort and money to understanding and learning WHY do these people hate us and want to destroy us. If I can understand why "my enemy" hates me, perhaps I can find a way for us to have common ground and coexist in peace, if not in unity. Anyway, it was just a thought and I would be interested in learning what you think about the idea. PS--What is the opposite of a feminist? Or rather I should say, what is the male equivalent to a feminist? Is it just a chauvinist or can a man be a "masculist" without being at the same time considered a sexist? Just some thoughts.

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-23T09:37:27-06:00
ID
78051
Comment

Brandon, I think she's presuming to speak for women in general--and is entitled to do so. More entitled, at any rate, than we are. It sounds to me like your issue with her comments is that you think women choose to work all day and then come home to traditional "women's work"; I'm sure that's true of many women, but it should not be the societal norm, and it is. This is a case where our culture has not caught up to reality. Are there exceptions to the rule? Of course; nobody interviewed in the article suggested otherwise. But that doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist. The article is indeed addressed to women, Brandon, but listen to what you're saying: Women are too strong to be unduly influenced by the men in their lives, but they're weak enough to turn on a dime because of an op-ed? Going around talking about the natural role of women isn't brainwashing, but a woman expressing her views on the state of women is? And where is your argument? You're criticizing her, but at least she can speak from personal experience; all you've got to back up your case is the fact that you're a man and she's a woman. The sad thing is that, in most circumstances, that's enough. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-23T09:44:18-06:00
ID
78052
Comment

The technically accurate term for men who believe that women do not deserve equal status, or women who do not believe that men deserve equal status, is sexism; men and women who believe in positively altering the role of men in society, not necessarily vis-a-vis women's status, are masculinists; men who believe that women are inferior to men are chauvinists. (The terms are "masculinist" and "chauvinist" are sometimes used interchangeably, but they probably shouldn't be--though it has been my experience that most professing masculinists are chauvinists, when you get down to brass tacks.) Men who believe that each gender has separate roles set out by God could be accurately described as religious sexists, though the term "sexist" has connotations that most of them would not embrace. They are not chauvinists unless they believe that women are given their predefined role on the basis of inferiority. St. Paul would have been a sexist (he believed that wives should submit to their husbands and did not believe that women should be allowed to speak in church), but not a chauvinist (he believed that men and women are fundamentally equal). I consider myself a feminist; I am both a supporter of women's liberation and a supporter of the feminization of culture. I think the existing social order as it pertains to gender oppresses both men and women, though in a way that leaves women unequally yoked. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-23T10:01:47-06:00
ID
78053
Comment

(Incidentally: Since nearly all of St. Paul's contemporaries were chauvinists, he was actually a feminist by the standards of his time--despite being a sexist. How's that for complicating things? Cheers, TH)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-23T10:28:22-06:00
ID
78054
Comment

Tom, what do you think about the idea of a column that explores how various people define the term feminist?

Author
brandon/jade
Date
2005-03-23T13:08:42-06:00
ID
78055
Comment

Brandon (who is Jade anyway? Your wife? Y'all are welcome to two different screens names, for the record) ... I'm not sure a column on that makes a lot of sense -- because a column is usually focused around a single idea and is one person's viewpoint. It could be done, but it seems like it would be a bit sprawling for it to be well written and very interesting. However, we did run in the last print edition Street Talks asking people, "What does feminism mean to you?" You can pick up the last issue ("Loud and Proud") to read those. That issue ran out fast, so call here if you want to pick up a copy. Why don't you do start a forum thread called "How do you define feminism" in our Culture forum? That way, people could chime in as they wish, and you could get a lot of different viewpoints in one place. Sounds like the best plan, from an editor's standpoint.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-23T14:48:06-06:00
ID
78056
Comment

Brandon, I agree with Donna on the column thing (though I still hope somebody picks up the ball and runs with a weekly women's issues op-ed column!), but you might find this URL interesting: http://www.faqs.org/faqs/feminism/terms/ By the definition of this FAQ, I would be a radical feminist in that I want to transform both male and female gender roles. But some other references I've seen more or less reverse the terms "radical feminism" and "cultural feminism," so I have to be careful in describing myself as a radical feminist; what I want to do is change the culture so that gender as a whole is less important, not further divide the culture into male and female camps. I differ from liberal feminists (the most common definition of the word "feminist") because I don't just want equal rights for women; I want to radically transform the way society looks at gender. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-23T16:53:21-06:00
ID
78057
Comment

Thanks, Tom. One comment re a "women's issues" column. Other than our lighthearted "chick" column (which can be serious, too), I tend to want to stay away from a "women's column." Women's "issues" too easily get ghettoized into categories like that. And women's issues are people's issues. Personally, I prefer men and women with strong voices to express well-researched, thought-out views in the JFP as they are compelled to. I think that's a more effective way to get women's issues out there. To me, a feminist is someone who believes in equals rights, choices and opportunities for all genders, period. It has nothing to do with being superior to men, or disparaging women who make the choice to stay home with their children or to have a career in the home. I've known very few "feminists" who feel otherwise -- although for years now people who are against equality for women have tried to cast this discussion as something extreme and man-hating. That's ludicrous. I've never met a strong man who is threatened by feminists or feminism. And most strong men I know, if not all, are feminists. They understand what's it all about. Remember when the right made the Equal Rights Amendment about uni-sex bathrooms when it was actually about the legal standard that would be used in gender discrimination cases? I rest my case.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-23T17:02:56-06:00
ID
78058
Comment

EVeryone is colored by their own perceptions -- which may or may not be true when applied strictly to their life's experience and nothing more (I certainly have experiences that color my perception of who people are, yet at the same time others will have a different opinion about those same people because of their different experiences with that same group). So it is with the opposite gender, whichever gender that is for you. Women fortunate enough to grow up and be exposed to a supportive circle of men will naturally have more positive images of men, while those with lots of bad experiences will say "men are chauvinist pigs" (though "supportive" is a very relative term -- which brings us down a muddy dirt road of socio-psychological dynamics we can argue for generations about -- LITERALLY). To summarize what I said in my post listed above -- just give people the freedom to pursue their heart's desire without subjecting them to scorn for any choices that are contrary to expectations ("she HAS TO do this, that, these, those, etc," "he has to do this, that, these, those, etc.".). Jettisoning our societal expectations of what we expect of certain groups would go a long way to building a safer and more stable society.

Author
Philip
Date
2005-03-23T17:55:13-06:00
ID
78059
Comment

I applaud JFP for creating a chick issue each year exploring women's issues. We were in the lobby at the Hilton post-SPQ Brunch Sunday, and a lady ran up to me with a JFP in her hand. "I'm about to fly home, but do you know if 'Dress for Success' will take clothes from out of state?" She had read this very article. I just recently learned of the Women's Fund of Greater Jackson. These programs are so, very important, especially in a nation where women's needs are politically stereotyped and often dismissed as laziness or ignorance...again "welfare queen." Donna, I believe Brandon has Jade's name on his signature because when he originally joined, he had found my column on alt-weeklies and had posted for me to contact them. Jade was my very best friend growing up, and it's very poignant after what we experienced as young women and adult women together, that she has refound me among women's issues dialogue. Very, very poignant. I haven't talked to her in a decade until recently. Brandon, I'm still not getting your point completely, and I certainly don't understand the words "vocal, self-appointed leaders." Not sure if you are disgruntled that you think they personally appointed themselves, or that we as women have appointed them. But you seem to have a distate toward whoever did the appointing. And "vocal" seems to be a negative statement when aimed towards women. Just my thoughts. I'm loving this dialogue though, and I hope it continues. I also disagree with the sexualization/genderization/whatever you call it of God. I think God is beyond our comprehension, but when we were created in his image, it was an image of his soul, not what we would see in a mirror. I believe when we attempt to classify an all-powerful God, we simply project our own culture or gender-bias upon him, and from what I have read of the Bible, it really ticks him off when we try to pretend to be him. I'm also an English major with a keen interest in etymology and question the King James translation greatly. Oops, I'm Baptist. Did I say that out loud? :P

Author
emilyb
Date
2005-03-23T20:12:07-06:00
ID
78060
Comment

Hi, Donna. I agree 100% on the ghettoization issue--come to think of it, I take back the recommendation. Women's issues are important, but you're right: When they're shuffled off into their neat little category, the danger of creating a "separate but equal" standard of some kind is there. I guess I'm more interested in seeing a women's issue columnist than a women's issue column; I want to see a new advocacy platform suddenly appear. But we can do more damage to patriarchal power structures if we refuse to give the issue its own little corner. The image of a "Women's Page," where all issues specifically affecting women can be neatly disposed of, horrifies me. I'm working on a history of American criminal justice for Facts on File, and faced the problem of how to address issues affecting African Americans. The series format favors thematic chapters, but what I found was that the issue tied into so many other aspects of history that I found myself addressing it in every single chapter, integrating it into the larger discussion. As a result of that, you get a very "black" book--but one that will, I hope, be more true to history than some of its competitors. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-23T20:28:43-06:00
ID
78061
Comment

Emily! Love your post. :o) And I won't hold the fact that you're Baptist against you--my grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher! Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-23T20:29:55-06:00
ID
78062
Comment

WAIT. It really ticks him/her off!

Author
emilyb
Date
2005-03-23T20:43:56-06:00
ID
78063
Comment

Tom, this is an issue I go back and forth with. I do think it's important to discuss "women's issues" and "African American issues" and other specific categories. But, ultimately, I think it's more important for us all to embrace problems of specific groups as our own issues. Of course, there is the risk of them getting lost in the fray if we don't call them out. My ultimate point is that I don't see anything wrong with doing a fun/serious Chick Issue and a fun/serious Guy issue (which we do, too, for the record), and nothing wrong with having one or more columnists who are especially concerned with women's (or black, etc.) issues. However, I don't want to relegate issues to certain categories, as you are saying. (We're saying the same thing. I just felt the need to repeat it apparently. ) It's much the reason I don't make a big deal out of Black History Month -- I'd rather be a paper that deals with "black" issues throughout the year, and women's issues, etc., than do stuff one month a year. What you're saying about your Facts on File book is interesting; I know what you mean. The JFP has been accused of being a "black" paper from time to time simply because we actually cover the community instead of just one part of it. After we published a couple issues, local (and not good) freelance writer called me and asked me, "Are you a black paper?" It's amazing to live in such a small cocoon. Likewise, many media outlets never use photos of African Americans or other minorities for any stories other than "black" stories. Why? Because people will think the story is a "black" story. How 'bout that circular logic? So, it sounds to me like you're doing the right thing. Black or women's issues don't just deserve a chapter or two in a bigger book, or one month a year. They need to be there year-round. All that said, I am on a tear for new columnists, especially women with strong voices on hardcore issues. The truth is, I get more pitches on political issues and such from men, and that's a shame. Find your voices, grrls! Lift 'em up and scream! Otherwise, Emily, I now get why Brandon/Jade has both names in it. At first, I thought it was like married couples who share e-mail addresses, like they're some merged identity. It's their perorative, but I'm thinking that everyone should have his or her own e-mail account. I don't have many secrets from Todd, but I can't imagine him reading my e-mail before I get to it. Icky.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-23T22:16:36-06:00
ID
78064
Comment

Brandon, I think I've been confused by your remarks ever since you brought up "peeing contests." I've truly never had a desire to piss on a wall. I promise. ;-) And I've never envied a, well, you know. I love being a woman and wearing pink lipstick and calling politicians a bunch of dumbasses when I feel like it, because I have a voice. And it is just true that too few women have found their voices. We live in a society that allows women to be labelled as bitches and castraters and browbeaters when we express the same opinion that would have a man branded "wise." Now, I have to tell you that I've expressed my opinion for so long that I don't give a damn if a bunch of whiny babies with little, well, you know (kidding) start whining about me "having a chip on my shoulder." (I just saw that on a C-L forum about myself. They truly crack me up.) However, I can understand why, as a man, you don't want to be stereotyped, and I think it's fine for you to challenge the statements that you believe do that. But, as you point out, it's good for us all to hear what different viewpoints say -- and you're running the risk of jumping so quickly to defensiveness that you don't seem to be listening to what these women are saying very well. And no one said you have to agree with them. Also, if you're really concerned with stereotypes of men, I'd suggest that you pay more attention to the "boys will be boys" mentality that tends to come from anti-feminist camps that assume that men are going to do certain bad things. For instance, the mentality that excuses date rape because, well, you know he got all hot and bothered and couldn't stop. This kind of thinking assumes men are helpless little sex machines instead of responsible adults who can control themselves. Who's insulting whom there? (And this is a reason I turned on Bill Clinton: screw the "boys will be boys" thing. I'm not going to insult him that way; he needed to be accountable for the bad decisions he made.) Less dramatic, it is terribly condescending to men to assume that they're all going to be threatened by outspoken and opinionated women. The only men I've ever known who are threatened by strong women are stewing in their own insecurities. And too often those are the very men who try to keep women down -- the ones they're talking about above. Truly sad, society too often backs them up. That we need to talk about more often even if it makes some of you uncomfortable. Someone made the point here that, as a man, you can't speak for women. This is true. You cannot. Even for your wife. A big point being made is that women often say what society and the men in their lives tell them is OK and nothing more. Therefore, it's possible for someone's wife to be miserable with her decisions and not say a word about them to the blissful men in their lives, who are thinking the women are thrilled as punch to be doing what they're doing. I know for a fact that women, so often, bottle up their frustration. I hear about it ALL the time in the writing classes I teach, where many women come to find their voices because it's been bottled up for so long. And often it's a voice of frustration because they didn't feel like they had enough choices earlier in their lives and are now trapped because everyone expects them to stay the same way forever. Screw that. Feminism is about telling women they have choices. And they have to believe it -- or they don't.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-23T22:24:29-06:00
ID
78065
Comment

Whether you agree or not, most people view feminism in a negative light, men and women and it is partly because of the angry rhetoric that comes from what I referred to as the self appointed leaders who presume to speak for all women, when in fact they do not speak what 90% of the women in America think. Most women enjoy the idea of putting their families first, they are not oppressed and forced to do so. With this statement, Jade's Husband, you are proving that you're living in a dream world. It might be one that suits you personally, but it doesn't mean it's accurate. Feminism is viewed in a negative light because people such as yourself misrepresent it and turn it into something it's not and throw around a bunch of scare tactics about it. For instance, being one's family first, as you put it, and being a feminist is not mutually exclusive. I believe you were the one who complained up above about either-or-thinking--you are extremely guilty of just that. It seems that you have decided that feminism is some man-hating, family-despising place where only extremists live. You are so wrong, friend. And your comment prove Emily correct -- we sure do need to talk about this more often. Thank goodness for Casey's article and the women she interviewed who were willing to say things that make folks like you uncomfortable with your mythical views and give ther rest of us the chance to point out that you just might need to do a bit more homework before annointing yourself the king of talking for 90 percent of American women. You're woefully unqualified for that task, brandon/jade. I promise.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-03-23T22:33:58-06:00
ID
78066
Comment

Donna, my worst shared email story: I was briefly interviewed on TV seven or eight years ago along with a (female) friend. Watched it on the nightly news, emailed her to tell her she looked beautiful on camera, and got an insanely angry response (accompanied by threats) from her boyfriend, who had apparently made a habit of intercepting and reading her email (with her permission). Creepy! I question Brandon's assertion that most people have a negative impression of feminism. I don't, and I haven't met that many people who do. Some varieties of cultural feminism leave a bad taste in my mouth because, well, I'm a radical feminist--the idea of splitting men and women apart into two cultures is repulsive to me, whether it comes from the right or the left. I'm pretty androgynous--I think my Bem Sex Role Inventory score was 0.53, where 0.00 is perfectly female and 1.00 is perfectly male--and anything that says that men are good only as men, that they have pre-set roles, denies much of my value as a human being. If I were to really ruminate on that, then I might get a very faint sense of how women are made to feel in, you know, the real world. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-03-24T01:51:50-06:00
ID
78067
Comment

Gang, I've been following this from afar, on my blackberry (takes a *long* time to load), unable to post. Donna, you said what I figured you'd say on the column idea, and much more articulately than I could have said. Tom, thanks for all the definitions and clarifications. Love that stuff. As to my random god comments, I personally believe (based on no real research, but that's my next project) is that since we as a society have no strong female archetypes (other than mother/Virgin Mary), women are psychically short changed. Which bugs the crap out of me. Brandon, as for you, you still have not said where you get your statistics about "most" people, and "90%" of women and so forth. Could it be that you are speaking in broad generalizations, which are based on your limited experience and not on any real research? Also, still trying to figure out what it means to "put your family first". My assumption is that it's women who don't work outside of the home. Which means what - that paying the mortgage and providing health insurance are things that only a man can/should do? That men who work outside the home are putting their families first? Or second? How does this work? You seem to be oversimplifying the choices faced today by families. As to your issue with these quotes: ìIn Mississippi, as far as the middle class goes, womenís jobs are to work full time, then come home and wait on the children, do laundry and wait on the husband,î she says. ìItís the manís role that hasnít changed. Women havenít gained more respect; theyíre just working twice as hard. Women need to get fed up with it.î How is this telling her story? She is presuming to speak for and tell all middle class women in MS what to do and think. If she is fed up with it, great, but it is arrogant to talk down to those who are not and tell them they should be. ìMen can take a hands-off approach now because they have already trained women,î she says. ìThey have already programmed them to be exactly like the way they want them to be.î I'll grant that these are not the most precise and accurate quotes. However, they are backed up by tons of research over the past few decades. Have you read any of it? Every study I've seen in my adult life backs up the notion that working women still do the bulk of the child and home care, and that men's role in home and child care has increased infintessimally. As to the "programming" quote - it's kind of an inflammatory way of putting it, but really all they are talking about is the process of "rearing" children. How we nurture girls is very different from how we nurture boys. This has a direct effect on the goals they set for themselves, how they interact with men, etc. Go look at the research. While you're at it, go look at the research on the effect that gender neutral language has. Let's staff booths, not man them. Let's have police officers and fire fighters and mail carriers, instead of police/fire/mail men. And before you mock the idea, go read up on the research. Love to do the research for you, but I'm on the road for business (putting my family first, by paying the mortgage and providing health/dental/vision benefits, and giving my husband a chance to be the primary caretaker). Except, really, I don't want to do the research for you. Go google it yourself.

Author
kate
Date
2005-03-24T07:49:20-06:00

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