Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted March 6, 2012

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International Women's Day

by Spiritual Echo

I am sixty-one, part of a massive demographic group known as the baby boomers. We are an anomaly, a population segment that both forced social change and staggered through life without mentors. Nothing our parents did prepared us for the challenges.

As a young girl the expectations were clear. My Bible on womanhood was a magazine called Chatelaine. The articles outlined good housekeeping practices and recipes all geared towards excelling at being a good wife.

For the first two decades of my life the goal was indelibly etched into my consciousness that for a woman, success in living meant marriage. We dressed, giggled and weighed our dating 'gifts' as a means to the end. There was a fine line between letting a guy cop a feel and being called a slut. We were aware of our sexuality, but few of us thought it was anything more than a way to entice a man. Orgasm for a woman was something I hadn't heard about or experienced until I was in my mid twenties. Sex was something the boys wanted, and we had the power to provide that pleasure.

The introduction of the birth control pill in the early sixties, in my mind, changed the course of our generation. It was a long time before sexually transmitted diseases invaded our mind set. The only fear a girl had was getting pregnant. Suddenly the pill forced women to take stock of their own sexuality, their wants and their moral compass. Few men understand how free choice can mess with a girl's head. The sexual revolution, Woodstock, the summer of free love, were all benchmarks in the changing, twirling, spinning excitement that signified a change in women's place in our society.

I was caught in the middle. Raised by immigrant parents, they'd hardly adjusted to North America, let alone the bubble of feminism that was percolating below the surface. I had a rebellious spirit, but I was swathed in tradition. I married at eighteen and tortured my young husband with my growing pains for the next twelve years.

In my time, girls thought they could change men, honestly we did, but no one prepared us for the consequences when we were the ones who changed. To the men's credit, they mostly adjusted to the independence well, but the women were in the throes of revolution. Confrontation and belligerence were daily postures. Once female liberation evolved into feminism, it was difficult to avoid issues. Even the women who somehow thought that embracing equality would mean they'd morph into hairy dykes, had difficulty in accepting the differentials in wages between the sexes and the restrictions, the men-only pot holes that laced through their lives.

I'm sixty-one years old. It's a full fifty years, a half century, since women were regarded as second class citizens. Today we celebrate International Women's Day, and in North America and most of Europe, it is a time for reflection for women of my generation. Younger women have no idea how costly their freedoms are or how much internal war women waged to ensure their daughters were afforded the same opportunities as their sons.

But, while we pause, we should remember that out there are women who are stoned for adultery, even when it is a forced rape, and mutilated in order to ensure that they will not experience any sexual pleasure. There are woman forced to wear burkas under a scorching sun, confined to their homes and denied education. In my lifetime it is improbable to see all ills and wounds heal, but that should not stop us from being vigilant and trying.

Be kind to yourself and each other.

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