15 September 2014

The Weaker Sex? I Don't Think So

**This post was inspired by The Underground Girls of Kabul, by journalist Jenny Nordberg, who discovers a secret Afghani practice where girls are dressed and raised as boys.  Join From Left to Write on September 16th as we discuss The Underground Girls of Kabul.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.**

I do not consider myself to be a feminist.

I believe in gender equality though,  and from where I sit, those two things don't always look the same.

Women have been defined as "the weaker sex" for as long as I can remember.  My father had very definite ideas about things that girls just didn't do.  This is why, at the age of 43, I have never mowed my own lawn.  Mowing the lawn is a boy's job, or a man's job.  He taught me lots of other things about why life worked the way it did for boys and for girls, and not many of them have played out the way he told me, at least not in my life.

As a mother of boys, I am keenly aware that how I interact with the world, with their father, and with them teaches them a lot about women in general.  I don't want them growing up thinking things like, 'she can't do that; she's a girl!'  When asked what I do, my first answer is that I am a stay at home mom. A very traditional role for women, yes? That's what I consider to be my most important work, my most valuable contribution to the world, raising decent young men and productive members of society.

But that's not all I do.  I am also a military reservist, a freelance writer, an advocate for abused and neglected children, a pregnancy resource center consultant, and a very active volunteer in my community. My husband travels frequently for his work, which is for the most part what puts bread and butter on the table.  But because he is away so much, all of the rest of the household work falls on me.  And not just the cleaning and the cooking. My boys see a mom who takes care of business whether dad is home or not.  They see a mom who can still beat them at HORSE when we play basketball together, a mom that they run to for help when they get hurt, a mom who owns and shoots her own guns, a mom who can cook and bake and get stains out of their sports uniforms, a mom who fixes things and kills spiders, and a mom who is capable and trusted in a military organization.  My boys are taught not only how to shoot a decent lay-up and how to safely handle firearms, but they are also taught how to do their own laundry, they're learning their way around the kitchen, they take their hats off at the table and they open doors for people.

I'm just one woman juggling my crazy life.  There are women who lead nations, who perform life-saving surgery, who argue cases in front the Supreme Court, who sit on the bench in the Supreme Court, who run large corporations and institutes and teach in universities. So many of these women come home at night and still have the full-time job of mothering and taking care of their families and children. Moms interact and parent differently than dads do; it's proven.  It's how it is supposed to be.

Women give birth.  Childbirth is allegedly one of the most intense and difficult to bear physically painful experiences known to man, and women do it every day. Many women do it again and again, voluntarily.  That alone should be enough to disqualify women, forever and ever, from the title of "the weaker sex."

I know a lot of husbands who say about their wives, "I don't know how she does it all."

So where does this idea come from in the first place? Who says that there are things women can't do?

Reading the stories in this book about girls who must hide who they are to be seen as valuable is heartbreaking to me.  I can't imagine being thought of as a burden to my family because I produced daughters.  I can't imagine thinking of my daughter as a burden or worse, as completely worthless. I simply cannot imagine it.  It shocks me that there are societies in which that is the norm.  I know it's out there, but it still shocks me.  To the core. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that everyone thinks like me, and people all over the world live like I do. Reading this book has given me a major-league wake-up call.

To see up-close and personal what these young women go through in order to have some worth just reinforces my belief that women are far stronger than they are given credit for.  I am reminded that women survive. Women overcome circumstances and make a way. Why do women and men have to be in competition with one another? We were made to complement each other, not arm-wrestle each other.  You will never convince me that women are the weaker sex.  Why does there have to be one anyway?


Alicia said...

I sometimes too fall into the trap of thinking everyone thinks like me or lives like I do or grew up the same way and it shocks me when I realize that they didn't. This book really opened my eyes too and I learned a lot. And I've never thought of women as the weaker sex, no matter what others may think. I'm a single working mom and I was mother/father to my two kids as their dad never bothered to see them again after I left him. It was the toughest job I ever loved!

Thien-Kim aka Kim said...

The book opened my eyes too about how we view gender--how society can shape our views on it in such a way that we cannot accept any other.

Jennifer Wolfe said...

Thanks for discussing that horrible generalization about women; I dislike being called weak, too! I think as women today we need to always do our best at what is before us, and that is how we not only contribute but also help shape the next generation.