Monday, June 8, 2009

Don’t call me liberated.

This is a guest post by Sarah Carmichael

Sarah declared when she was three years old that "no man is gonna take my name away from me!" Ever since, she has advocated for justice and called out bigotry, as she believes that silence is permission.  Sarah currently supports young people in their advocacy efforts, online and offline, and is passionate about social media for social change.

I hate to say it, but the women’s liberation movement did me and the women of my generation (and those to follow) a grave injustice.  I appreciate the intention, but the implications have been damaging.  The fiercely independent women of my generation have not been taught how to let someone else take care of us, and we have been conditioned to resent taking care of a partner, especially a man.  How then, can we create and foster meaningful, lasting relationships?

By most standards, I am a pretty successful woman.  I have a career.  I make more money than my male counterpart. I have paid off my car, which I was able to buy new. We bought our house on my credit rating, which is impeccable.  I am a mother. I run my home and provide the basics for my family – food, shelter, and love.  I don’t do it alone, but I know I could if I had to.

Good for me!  I am everything to everyone.  Thank you, liberation.  Having not lived for the better part of the 20th century, I cannot speak to the intentions of the women who fought for our rights to be human (aside from speculating that the intention was good and pure and true).  Unfortunately, implication trumps intention and the implications of the feminist movement are severe.

Instead of celebrating the differences of men and women and demanding that the work that women have been doing for thousands of years be valued, women’s liberation focused on ‘anything you can do, I can do (better).’  In so doing, forcing women to change to meet the standard in order to prove our worth, instead of forcing the standard to change to include us.  Internalized oppression was so profound that women did not see the worth in what they did and what they were inherently good at doing.

I have no interest in becoming a ‘like a man’ to prove my worth.  I am different from a man and I embrace that.  I want to throw like a girl and run like a girl and drive like a woman.  That is what I am.  I don’t want to be expected to “man up” and “grow a pair.”

We need equity, not equality; they are not the same.  Equality is about sameness.  Equity is about recognizing differences, celebrating them, and not evaluating people based upon those differences.

For thousands of years, women have provided for, supported, loved, raised, fed, and loved our families and children.  We have prepared our young for the world and for their futures.  We have been entrusted with the task of raising the generation to follow us (generation after generation).  In what kind of world  is providing the basic needs of food (cooking), shelter (homemaking), and love (staying at home)  not valued?

As a result of being liberated, I am now forced to choose between providing for my child and parenting him.  I do not have time to prepare the healthiest of meals, nor do I have adequate time to maintain a healthy home.  Sure, I get help from my male counterpart, but the responsibility falls upon me.

The pressure is overwhelming and the expectations, extreme.  Women have not been liberated, but the illusion that we have has been masterfully created and maintained, which further devalues us and strips us of our voice.  We have been silenced by the right to vote and the right to work.  As much as I appreciate those developments, I recognize that they both should have been a given in the first place.

Equity eliminates power structures and oppressive systems.  If cooking, homemaking, and child-rearing were valued to the same degree as working outside the home and making money, then there would be no supremacy in the home and more balance.  Having everyone responsible for everything is ineffective and inefficient.

I am not liberated and I am tired having my worth defined by how well I measure up to the male standard.  Value what I am inherently good at and allow me to do it.   The freedom to choose comes from true liberation.  Women need to choose what they are good at, individually and feel free to do that.  However, society needs to value what has been dubbed “women’s work.”  There needs to be a paradigm shift to remove the negative connotation and stigma of what has been women’s work for centuries upon centuries…

I struggle with the values of this world I know.  I know they are arbitrary and misguided, wrong and damaging.  They are so ingrained that even when oppressed people stand up and fight for their basic human rights, the message is twisted and the standard gets to be perceived as doing them a favour, and that’s only if the rights are granted, which they are often not.  Why do we let let this continue?


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