March comes to a close, dark and grey and cold here in Tulsa. A diverse group of bloggers dedicated March, Women’s History Month, to Celebrating Women, and today is our last hurrah. Like the gloomy weather, I’m feeling rather anticlimactic about the celebration ending. After all my ranting and raving, after reading so many wonderful perspectives, well, that’s it? It’s over? Turn off the lights and head on home.
Or not. The question today is how do we move forward? How can we have a positive effect on women’s issues either locally or globally?
I sit here feeling powerless to do anything but be a constant yapping obstruction in my children’s ears, a clanging gong. In my own home, there is a tacit understanding that boys and girls have equal value and worth as humans. In school, that is less manageable, because mine is one, quiet voice among many as they walk through those doors. And indeed, boys and girls ARE different.
I could write about The Girl Effect and what great work they’re doing. I could talk about the women in Egypt who are tearing down political and educational barriers every day, at the very real risk of their lives. I could discuss the importance of humanity recognizing the value in others even when we disagree. But those just seem too big, too far away, too impossible for my words to push along.
According to some of my close readers, I’ve developed a theme over the month about how to involve both girls and boys in this conversation. Recently I was reminded of a sermon that illustrated this point. A few years ago, a church we attended was doing its yearly youth service. And once again the pastor went on and on about the importance of purity. He spoke about mothers talking to our daughters about remaining “pure” for marriage. Last time I checked, boys were also kind of involved in this whole “teen sex” thing.
How about we talk to our boys about respecting girls for who they are? And when will the church recognize that no matter how modest a girl is, a fourteen year old boy has quite an imagination. Pretty much anything can be alluring. Here’s another truth that might shock men: women have eyes, and we can appreciate the male form, even when we’re teenagers. It’s true. Promise. Women can be just as guilty of objectification as men.
Any group that puts the onus of modesty and sexual responsibility solely on women fails to address the entire issue and, by default, demeans its female members. For that matter, this system also dumbs down the men in the group. I guess it’s equal opportunity chauvinism. This paradigm communicates to women that no matter what, we are responsible and that boys are simply given a free pass to behave in whatever manner they choose. If they choose to objectify women, it’s because the girls dress provocatively. If they push sex on an unwilling woman, it’s because she lacked modesty somehow and therefore was asking for it.
No. Just no.
It’s fine to talk to girls about modesty. I, for one, am disgusted by the sexualization of our youth. But this discussion must be balanced by an equal conversation with boys about how a man behaves. That “No” means “No.” Always. That women are people with thoughts and ideas and inherent value, not toys placed here for their pleasure.
So, you see, I’m feeling rather discouraged that we still require a Women’s History Month to remind the world how far we’ve come. I’m glad for the Celebration, but I will be happier to celebrate when we no longer need to be talking about it. When male and female contributions to the world receive equal weight and equal praise.
Until then, I guess I’ll stay up here on my soap box.