Ideas with Attitude: Channeling
It is no surprise to anyone that human beings are a combination of nature and nurture. The trick is to determine which traits result from heritage and which result from training after birth. Very early in life boys gravitate to playing with guns, building blocks and toy trucks while girls end up playing with tea sets and baby dolls. If both parents work outside the home their jobs may still represent stereotyped occupations in terms of which sex engages in this work.
Early school readers showed the role of parent as traditional with mother staying home and caring for children and keeping house and father going out to work. There were 138 careers shown for men and only 26 shown for women in the readers even as late as the 1960s. One of the careers shown for women was fat lady in the circus!
Men were depicted as heroes and leaders while women were shown in the kitchen, helping rather than initiating activities and even suffering calamities. Boys were shown downgrading girls and calling them stupid or silly. Even a double standard of morality was in evidence as boys who misbehaved were overlooked or the viewer would say, “Boys will be boys.”
Times have changed but still the major focus of sports is on male-only sports teams. Seattle doesn’t seem to blink an eye when still another stadium is being considered—this time principally for male basketball. I fantasize bringing suit against the city or any other entity that pays for stadiums that are built principally for male sports in a state that has passed the Equal Rights Amendment supposedly guaranteeing women equal rights in this state. Women in this city still do not have the power to push to have the city, county and state provide for their special needs—for example, providing a nanny for a young mother, family service centers including childcare and counseling in every neighborhood and support in attending college for all those who have borne children. Most employers still do not provide compensatory time schedules for parents so they can be with children more often. In my own neighborhood the open area where boys and girls once played freely is now fenced off with high powered lighting for sports—utilized by males for the most part.
Television further cements the separate roles of males and females. Ads proliferate in which women are looking in the mirror and disapproving of their shape. They are urged to get liposuction and all manner of cosmetic improvements. And aging is now a dirty word—especially for women since men often prefer women years younger than they are. An old friend of mine tells a story of going to the racetrack in her wheel chair and sitting by a fellow in a wheel chair. He turned to her and said, “I am looking for a younger woman to take care of me so I won’t have to go to a nursing home.” Then he looked at her and asked, “By the way, how old are you?” You can imagine how my friend felt.
Worldwide the problem for many women is lack of education and freedom to make their own career decisions. Even in this country, where those who landed on Plymouth Rock were looking for freedom, men still control government for the most part and some men in government still want to control women’s bodies. Let’s hope that this rise in patriarchy doesn’t erase the gains that were made by women over the years and force a new generation of younger men into another war.
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-935-8663.