Monday, May 21, 2012

What are they so afraid of?

It’s easy to get lost in the details of the war on women. After all, the repeated and hateful assaults on our access to health care, safety from domestic violence and even our right to vote are nearly overwhelming.

But why is this happening? Why now? Why, instead of focusing on jobs or military spending or any of the other fiscal issues facing this country are the Republicans so determined to subjugate and undermine women?

Because we scare them.

By being strong, we are a threat to their masculinity. Our strength is their weakness.

Men are raised from birth to see themselves as the caretakers, the breadwinners, the pants-wearers of the family. When women are capable and independent, it threatens to encroach on the very role men were taught was their due.

Our gender identities are cemented from a very young age; through the toys we receive, the lessons we are taught and the role models we watch. Girls are given tea sets and miniature kitchens and easy-bake ovens and dolls – toys that prepare us for the inevitable future of domesticity. Boys are given toy swords and guns and construction sets and action figures (not male dolls – these are “heroes,” ready for action) – all things that develop their “natural” aggressive, strong, leader-of-the-pack mentality.

We learn that girls must be “ladylike,” but “boys will be boys.” We see the roles that our parents, grandparents, and the adults around us play. We become aware of the fact that most of our teachers and babysitters and nannies are female, while police officers and soldiers and politicians are men.

When we dress too provocatively, we are whores. When we demand control of our reproductive lives, we are sluts. When we speak too loudly or too passionately, we are hysterical. When we seek out careers in male-dominated fields, we are butch, or trouble-makers. We are always subject to the judgment of men, particularly religious men (and women) who benefit from finding us wanting.

So we maintain the status quo, but each generation of women grows a little more restless. We see some women break the mold. We gain the education that would never have been available to our grandmothers. We start to recognize that our worth is not tied to our anatomy and that we have something to contribute to the world beyond a womb fertile for breeding.

And that scares those people whose worth is tied to our suppression. If we are no longer the sinners, are they still the saints?

Religious men cling to their beliefs and their religious texts (this is not just a Christian or Catholic phenomenon – it transpires in various religions) as a means of securing their “God-given” superiority. They trumpet their bible verses and the entrenched beliefs of their forefathers as proof that we are not as good, or as worthy, or as human as they are. The truly insidious ones claim it is for our own good – that they have our best interests at heart.  

We have to break this pattern. We have to speak out against every instance of misogyny we face, because every catcall, every pointed look, every missed promotion, every real or implied instance of “you’re just a girl, what do you know” allows fear-based hatred to continue.

Every time a man is allowed to get away with treating us as if our opinions, our bodies, our lives are subject to their approval, we are only cementing their belief in their right to dictate to us on issues of our safety and health. By sitting quietly in the face of ignorance and deep-rooted misogyny, we are complicit in our continued servitude and the rapid devaluation of our very lives.

So be scared, boys, because I, for one, refuse to be silent.     

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