Friday, March 22, 2013
There's nothing like getting assigned a special month of one's own to let you know just how marginalized you really are. Signaling out women, or African Americans, or gays, or any other alternative color, lifestyle, or nationality, to be recognized for one month suggests it's okay to forget about us the rest of the year. You got your month, what more do you want? Now let's pop a brewski and watch the damn game, already.
Attempts to designate special recognition, however well-intentioned, usually only serve to point out how far the designee still has to go to earn a little common respect. Once upon a time, the Academy Awards designated 1992 "The Year of the Woman" Batting clean-up at that year's ceremony was Clint Eastwood's grimly guy-friendly western Unforgiven, winner of four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Revival Of A Macho Genre Previously Considered Stone Dead.
Its poster art features four craggy male faces and a large, prominent pistola clasped slightly below the Mendoza line. Nary a woman in sight.
Emma Thompson won the Best Actress award for Howard's End, beating out a fairly lackluster bunch of femmes, but the most talked-about female role of the year was actually played by a man—Jaye Davidson in The Crying Game. It's easy to fling about honorary designations, but the proof is in the pistola.
So while we're all busy celebrating Women's History—and getting all dewy-eyed over Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, and Amelia Earhart, all draped in nostalgia, now, like slightly mildewed lace, and safely tucked away in the past—let's spare a thought for a more sobering issue: Women's Present.
While so many women are running around trying to have it all, too many of our sisters at home and abroad are struggling to have any of it. A basic education. A living wage. The right to not get pregnant. (A tough one, since the new boss of the old church is—surprise!—same as the old boss when it comes to banning birth control.)
And this is a biggie—protection from rape, violence and abuse. And freedom from the fear that a rape won't be considered "legitimate" enough to earn those protections.
At the recent UN Commission on the Status of Women, the Catholic Church played footsie with Iran & Russia in opposing tough global standards to prevent violence against women and children that didn't consider "religion, custom or tradition" a mitigating factor. (Tradition that does not recognize assault by a spouse or partner as "rape," for example.)
It took the US Congress a year and a half to grudgingly renew the Violence Against Women Act, protections that had already been in place for years and had been cited as reducing domestic violence against women by as much as two-thirds. Meanwhile, an estimated 19,000 sexual assaults occur against women every year by their colleagues in the US military.
And even if a rape is considered legitimate enough to prosecute—even earn a conviction—that doesn't mean the rapist(s) won't earn more public sympathy than the victim. Last week, after two star players on the high school football team in Steubenville, OH, were convicted of raping an incapacitated teenage girl—repeatedly, while other teens recorded, tweeted, and texted the fun to share online—thinking people everywhere were outraged when a trio of CNN reporters, including two women, spent more air time maundering over the tragically blighted futures of these poor young men than on the fate of the girl whose life they had ruined.
The real tragedy is that none of these guys had any sort of internal moral compass—as men, as football players, as sons or brothers—that suggested that what they were doing was wrong at the time.
Here's a news flash: the mere fact of being female is not a legitimate excuse for getting raped, no mater how much you've drunk or what you are wearing. Hey, she was walking around with a vagina—it's HER fault.
But what can you expect from a culture that considers Viagra a miracle drug and the Pill the work of Satan?
We may have a month to call our own, but we still have a long, long way to go, Baby.