Women have some idea of the challenges that men have historically faced, one of the toughest challenges being to go off to fight in wars. Men are expected to be kind and wise and to be incredibly responsible as citizens, workers, husbands and bread-winners. Women have some empathy for these male roles which many men obviously struggle against sometimes.
But not all men seem as understanding of the imperfect lives of women and the challenges they have faced and the challenges they still face. Almost every culture has traditions or laws or customs that circumscribe the lives of women; that hem them in to their own traditional roles as wives, housewives, child-bearers, child-raisers, household managers.
Often religion has been used to keep women close to home and uneducated. Many churches did not allow women to worship with men, and even primitive cultures that predate religion often had separate rituals for men and women. In modern novels there may be women ostensibly living in early cultures running around hunting with spears or fighting in wars, but in real life, I’m thinking, it was quite rare for a women to get a chance to learn or use these skills.
Women have been bought and sold, used as hostages, kidnapped to be sexual objects, been forced to suffer through clitoral mutilations so that they would find no pleasure from the sexual act, had their feet bound for the sexual pleasure of wealthy men, have been killed in honor killings for breaking any number of cultural rules or taboos and have suffered atrocities too numerous to mention.
Obviously life on earth has not always been, nor is it now, easy, regardless of someone’s sexuality. Since we have access to books and histories that allow us to view the lives of humans over hundreds of centuries we might be expected to learn from the histories and stories that we read. You would think that we would try to take some of the burdens off both men and women, and that we would ease each others’ journey through lives so full of the paradoxes like wealth and poverty, good and evil, health and illness, war and peace, joy and grief, pleasure and pain and more.
So why are some men still trying to control the lives of women and take away hard won rights and set back the fight to offer greater freedom to women around the globe to lead lives that are as full of opportunities to succeed or fail as are the lives of men? Just watch a TV offering like Dateline and you will see that men (mostly men) kill women for all kinds of reasons, like jealousy, or because they see murder as the only route to freedom, or there is some primitive impulse still in them that makes trying to murder a woman and get away with it attractive.
Men often have complicated feelings about women and women are often victims of emotions that men cover over for long periods of time with manners and a fog of romance perhaps. We see over and over that we may never actually know someone we have lived with for many years. Of course this can also be true of women, although they may not choose murder as a way out.
It is not difficult to see that the wiring in our brains may still resemble the wiring we had as Neanderthals. With 9 billion people due on the planet real soon we may have to give up our primitive imperatives and we may have to “fake it until we make it” to a more evolved wiring system in human brains.
Women in America came to believe that the ideals expressed by our forefathers, when they said all men are created equal, used the term men to stand for mankind and that this freedom did include women. America has offered women opportunities to fight for rights, many of them having to do with matters which have traditionally concerned women but some which have broadened the freedoms women could exercise in our world.
When I look back and see that women in America did not win the right to vote until 1920 it seems impossible that it could have taken so long to gain such a right. We have only had the right to control our own pregnancies since 1973 when Roe v Wade passed the Supreme Court and there has never been a day that someone has not wanted to chastise women for ever wanting to stop a child from being born, even though men have killed women for becoming pregnant inconveniently.
So I went to the Women’s March, January 21, 2017 (although I went locally and not to Washington) because the battle to take these hard won rights away from women has grown more fierce in the past 8 years, so much so that some stern male purists even want to take away our modern methods of contraception.
It makes perfect sense that I would want to go to a demonstration of our resistance to this attempt on the part of some men to take away rights women have won. It makes perfect sense that I would be happy at a rally where someone has a sign which reads “1958 is calling…we’re not answering” or where there is a sign that says “If you don’t have a uterus, then be quiet.”
I appreciate that so many men and boys attended the demonstrations. I appreciate their support of women and I am glad to see that there are men with healthy egos who are not threatened by women who express their skills, talents, and personalities. The presence of men also told the world that this resistance is a movement of the many American people who feel that the authoritarianism we have always tried to expose and overturn around the world is now a real threat to America that must be resisted.
Charles Blow said it really well in his article in the NYT this morning
“And the marches, which included quite a few men and boys as well, also represented more than that. They were a rebuke of bigotry and a call for equality and inclusion. They demonstrated the awesome power of individual outrage joined to collective action. And it was a message to America that the majority did not support this president or his plans and will not simply tuck tail and cower in the face of the threat. This was an uprising; this was a fighting back. This was a resistance.”