Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. 1 Corinthians 14:34
I want to start this by sharing what I listened to while writing, it has taken me three days to form my thoughts around this subject so they were palatable for mixed company. While I worked through them I listened and sometimes watched as well.
I struggled with how I would approach the subject of women, society and culture. Of what it means to be a woman today nearly anywhere in the world. It would be easy to put my pragmatic hat on, pull out the statistics and studies, don’t worry I might still give you some of those, but at the end of it that doesn’t really speak to the truth. The truth is, being a woman of my age (56) means I have walked through a few fires simply to pay the price of being a woman. Why struggle with talking about this subject if we are going to talk statistics, better to talk from a position of authority, right?
For nearly as long as I have been conscious of being a woman, I have also been conscious it meant there were those who would always see me as one, if not more, of the following:
- Of less value than themselves
There is not a single woman, not one single one of us who have not faced at least some form of gender based harassment, discrimination or bullying in our lifetime. As young girls we grow up being told we are ‘not enough’, it might not be the intent of the messenger to deliver this message it is though the message we receive. The message of ‘Not enough’ is delivered throughout a woman’s life, they go something like this, NOT ENOUGH:
- To play sports, but YOU can cheer on the sidelines, if you are pretty enough.
- For college funds to be set aside or made available based on your performance and competency, boys first there is only so much to go around.
- To be protected from roaming hands, catcalls or sly whispers in hallways and classrooms, Boys will be Boys.
- For your aspirations beyond housewife, mother, secretary or assistant too some male, those aspirations are slightly ‘unnatural’.
- For your labor to be valued at the same rate as your male counterpart, instead you will work longer hours for less.
- To receive necessary health care at affordable costs, instead your body will be fought over as if it were an oasis in the Sahara to be confiscated by the fastest talking Bedouin every two to four years.
- For your ‘No’ to be true no matter how or to whom you say it or for any person to question what you were wearing or what you might have done to ‘ask for it’.
- To walk down the street at night and feel safe, even in your own neighborhood.
The list could go on, every woman could add to it from her own experience, these though are important and have been lately in the news:
- Not Enough to be safe even when using a field in pairs because there is no other place to empty their bowel or bladder, they lost their lives after being gang raped.
- Not Enough to be safe in their schools as the 276 young girls of Chibok, Nigeria would say as they were herded onto trucks and carried into the jungle to be sold in markets or to their kidnappers as ‘wives’.
Women everywhere, no matter the nation they are born in or their circumstances all have one thing in common it seems, they are born NOT ENOUGH.
We might be born into the very best circumstances, wealth and privilege. We might receive the best of everything, education and opportunity throughout our lives. None of this will be enough to protect us from exploitation, catcalls on the street, domestic abuse or rape. What these circumstances will provide is the chance those who do us harm will pay the consequence of their actions.
If we are born without privilege, without money, without opportunity; if we are born anywhere in the world even here in this nation that takes pride in its ‘advanced’ views and civil rights, we are lost before we step foot out the door. Despite lip service, our bodies are the battle ground men fight ‘morality’ wars over decade after decade. Whether we have the same right to sexual freedom and the same right to protect our reproductive choice the fodder for nightly news segments, pulpit rants and Filibusters from both sides of the aisle. Our right to say NO clouded by what we might choose to wear or whether we have deigned to say YES to others previously, our history as women the only thing on trial if we are brave enough to report our victimization at all. The very meaning of RAPE subject to redefinition to narrow the scope from a Violent act against us to whether it was a Legitimate act of Violence or not.
There is no woman on the face of the earth, not anywhere in any nation who in her lifetime will not experience some form of harassment, bias or bullying simply because she is a woman. There is no woman, not one who will not suffer some form of bias, will not have her options limited in some manner specifically because she was born with Breasts, Vagina, Clitoris, Uterus, Cervix and Ovaries rather than being born with Penis and Testicles.
While men continue to debate whether women should be paid equally, should have the right to body integrity, we as women seek simply to achieve equity in community and choice of how we live, how we love and who we love. Our struggle to reach equality, to be seen as whole and complete is tied to so many other movements toward equality we sometimes lose sight of our need as women to band together and lift each other up, we fail to reach across fences and work together for common cause.
Our gender creates a single unbroken chain across borders, faiths and race. As of 2013, out of 7,162,119,434 in the world we are 49.6% of the total and growing. We have enormous power in our hands and between our thighs. We are the mothers of the world, it is through us the next generation is born, it is with us the next generation learns their first words, takes their first steps and learns compassion, love and hope. We are the light of the world, without us there is nothing. Yet, six out of 10 of the world’s poorest people are women, 70% of the world’s poorest people are women, one in three American women live in poverty.
I struggled with how to approach this subject. I am reminded daily of what is wrong in this nation and worldwide, as women die simply because a man takes it in his head he is owed what is not his; a woman’s body the gift of sex or love, the gift of our gentleness, the gift of our hearts and our compassion cannot be stolen through violence and cannot be hidden behind veils or high walls.
Before I close this let me say clearly, I do not believe all men are bad or evil, truthfully I love a man. In fact I believe most men are not misogynistic, most men are not rapists, most men do not wish to harm women. What I think is most men do not know by their inaction they enable. The chain women must form across all the boundaries we have today, whether of our making or of society and culture, that chain must include men who believe as we do, that we are ENOUGH just as we are, that we have equal value within society and our contributions as human beings are not just welcome but sought. Were all of us, men and women together to begin to form common cause, the subject of our equality would no longer be subject of debates it would instead be a History Lesson, as would many other Civil Rights issues which frankly require a woman’s voice and a woman’s touch.
Things of interest:
Human Trafficking: The Polaris Project
Human Trafficking: The FBI Files
PCI Global: Women’s Empowerment