Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted November 20, 2014

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The New Face of Feminism

by Spiritual Echo

Right before my eyes, the evidence of a half-century battle for female equality went unnoticed. I took for granted single-parent homes where the father was the custodial parent, including my own son who is raising a son and daughter alone. I hardly noticed the brigade of fathers who were pushing strollers or walked in malls with babies strapped to their chests.

What once began as an outdoor sport, the possessive male chef who claimed the barbecue, moved indoors, and it is no longer unusual for the husband to be the prime, and often the only person who cooks meals at home.

It is not at all odd to see fathers participating in 'princess' parties, wearing proudly the tiara their daughter has bestowed on her daddy at a birthday party.

These men, the by-product, the sons of we feminists who needed to battle fiercely for every right that is now the legacy of North American women, can be seen in hair salons, dress shops and PTA meetings as active participants in their children's lives.

These once-upon-a-time macho men do laundry, scrub toilets and most of them seem to know how to have a conversation with a woman without staring at her breasts. Many of them have female supervisors and although I've overheard them curse that their boss is a bitch, it's not gender specific; somewhat like my under-breath mumbles about the pricks I've had the 'joy' of working for.

Why had I never noticed? Perhaps now, I was taking it all for granted.

The realization came to me like a gentle wave that wiped the soot from my eyes while I was sitting watching my grandchildren taking swimming lessons. Through the months, the guardians of the children became friendly as we snickered at belly flops and cheered for accomplishment. I often chatted with a man in his mid thirties, and on one particular day, I asked him how it was that he managed to arrange his schedule in such a way to be at the YMCA each week.

"I'm a dad. I don't want to miss this stuff. My wife and I work opposite shifts so that one of us is home with the kids all the time."

I grunted in approval, but it wasn't the first time I'd heard about this type of arrangement--I'd just never thought about it.

In a book I wrote, I catalogued my own experiences growing up and finding myself embroiled in social, professional and even spiritual battles for equality. No one under the age of fifty can pasteurize the concept that women once accepted their diminished value in society. 'Barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen' was a phrase that summed up our expected destiny.

I shall always remember a couple who thought they'd worked out a fair division of domestic labour. It was back in the seventies, just as the women's liberation movement was gaining traction and I was a recruiter, causing shit at a dinner party by espousing my views.

"Sure we're liberated, enlightened," the woman giggled. "Harvey does the blue jobs; taking out the trash and shovelling the snow. And I," giggle, giggle," I do the pink jobs."

Forty years later I can still remember the conversation and the women getting up to do the dishes while the men went outside to smoke.

"It's a boy,' was always the best news, as parents dreamt about the child's destiny and opportunities, while a daughter's worth was calculated in terms of a companion or caregiver--a consolation for parents. They assumed a son would forge out into the world, but a daughter would always be there. There to birth the grandchildren, and nearby to assist her aging parents.

When I see the benefits of feminism, the enormous strides that have happened for both men and women over the last fifty years, I am humbled. Damn it! It was worth it! I can stand back and look at the victories and take tremendous pride that I was enlisted; I was a warrior in that long war.

During one of the early decades of this evolution, Alan Alda appeared on the Tonight Show and announced to the world that he was a Feminist. He qualified the remark by reiterating the goals for equality for his daughters and all women, but his initial comment was met with outrageous laughter from Johnny Carson and the audience. For me, it was a memorable moment.

We need a new word for this battle, something to replace 'feminism.' Far too many people have a stereo-type emblazoned in their minds of some ball-breaking anti-man tyrant. That's just not true.

Social justice is a valiant global goal for every minority or persecuted group, but it is a phrase that becomes a giant melting pot that catches every prejudice and inequity. It doesn't capture a horrific, and yes, bloody war where the victims are women.

When girls like Malala and one mentioned here on site, Bundhoo, are shot because they want to go to school, women and men alike need to be reminded that the war for equality for women has simply moved off-shore. To be stoned for adultery for marrying outside of a faith, is a sordid example that in some parts of the world, women are forbidden to choose, think or live in any way except under the rule of men.

More wars have been fought in the name of religion than from any other cause. It would be simple to blame the atrocities, the sexual slavery, female circumcisions, the right to own and destroy women as chattels, on radicalized terrorism, but that would be missing a subtle point. That social justice, that melting pot, allows us to feel incapable of fighting for decency; we hesitate to speak and do nothing from our safe harbour.

And yet, we have started to make a difference. The world both rallied around and honoured Malala. Although those three hundred girls who disappeared into a Nigerian jungle have not been rescued, we did not sit in silence. We DEMANDED that our political leaders protest and deliver our contempt for the brutality.

Meriam Ibrahim gave birth in chains and was scheduled for execution, but she is safe today because of our collective outrage, our small voices that joined together and screamed--NO!

For every man and woman who is reading this, I beg you to become a 'feminist' and chance the laughter of your audience to become the new generation of warriors.

Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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