Around the world women’s lives are circumscribed by the culture into which they are born. I am lucky to be born in Canada to a mother who held feminist values long before the term was popularized.
She didn’t lead rallies, or even speak up to the men. Because she was born into a circumstance and era where women’s rights were curtailed, and the legal and social fights were hard. But she told me, her only daughter, all about it. The unfairness, the expectations, the obligations. She married because that’s what you did. She loved us after we were born, but didn’t desire us beforehand. She loved all the social movements for all peoples, and hoped for true and literal liberation for all women. She told me from an early age: “Don’t get married. Don’t have children.” She saw my personality, and my talents, and she was right. The freedom to not choose marriage or motherhood allowed me to pursue the artistic and academic paths that I cherish.
In her day a woman would be expected to resign any job as soon as she was married. A woman was not just expected to take her husband’s name (transfer from property rights of the father) but her husband’s religion if they differed. (Belief is apparently transferable as well.) Jobs and higher education could be gender segregated – separate and definitely not equal.
Pink collars, blue collars, white collars… Men scoff: How hard can it be to pour coffee? (After all women serve meals at home for free all the time anyway.) I say: How hard can it be to carry boxes? (After all, don’t men pay gyms in order to lift heavy things anyway.) Yet, female dominated professions like nurse, flight attendant, teacher, or librarian are sexualized in popular fiction penned by men, the actual hard work trivialized, pay issues dismissed. But the default for doctor or pilot or professor or dean is still male, regardless of the number of successful women in those fields.
We are still paid less, yes often in the exact same job, and products geared to us cost more. We are expected to spend that smaller income on clothing variety and beauty supplies. We have to take extra security precautions in daily life. Men, from fathers to husbands to paternalistic politicians, try to dictate our sex lives and our reproductive health. Strangers tell us to smile as if we were infants being patted on the head. Everything we wear, every pound we carry, every wrinkle and grey hair we earn is fair game for criticism from even the most unkempt, because he was born a man. His opinion, however uninformed, carries more weight in courts and legislative bodies.
Withholding birth control and sex education, making abortion difficult or impossible to access, controlling every financial choice from maternity leave to day-care to welfare to minimum wage in the pink collar ghettoes and especially health care. Single moms, working moms, welfare moms – the message is clear – Get married girls and your husband will support all those children you are destined to have.
“The pay gap between men and women is not all bad because it helps to promote and sustain marriages. Since husband and wife generally pool their incomes into a single economic unit, what really matters is the combined family income, not the pay gap between them.
… The best way to improve economic prospects for women is to improve job prospects for the men in their lives, even if that means increasing the so-called pay gap.”
The message from the right is clear. If you want birth control, you are a slut. If you want an abortion, you are an immoral slut. If you want a divorce, you are a bitch. If you want single-mom friendly socially just laws, you are a greedy bitch. Some of you are greedy immoral bitch sluts. The trolls on the internet will let you know what they think should happen to you : rape and death are usually in the top ten.
Why did they have to legislate powerlessness for women (voting, marital rights, property holding) and fight against equal pay? Women had to be forced economically and socially into marriage. Free of that coercion, a man must actually up his game and be a decent human being to win a wife. (in theory)