Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Struggles of Women in America

The Struggles of Women and Single Parent Families

By Lady Rhiannon

            Since the dawn of humanity, man, as a whole (not each individual), has sought to dominate over the female of the species. First he used his superior size and strength to physically bully women and weaker men into submission, and later used his established authority and power over other men to do so. Men even created religion, in part, to justify masculine domination, in asserting that even the all-powerful creator of the universe is male, and made women to be subjugated by men. For thousands of years women have been divided, and conquered into the oppressed majority.  This paradigm is the result of men’s fear, and men’s lust for power and control over everything.
Women have always been paid less than men because of the commonly held assumption that men can obviously perform tasks better and more efficiently because they are bigger, stronger, and smarter. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the only jobs women were capable of getting were service positions (nurses, maids, nannies, teachers), or menial, unskilled factory jobs. Female factory workers in the first decade of the twentieth century were paid less than twelve dollars a week on average for their work running the machines. Most women were paid about six or seven dollars a week, and they were all paid about half of a man’s average salary. The more intricate and skill based industries, such as jewelry, watches, clocks, and rubber, were dominated by male workers and had very few female workers at all.  
            Today, we have made good progress, but we are a far distance from equality or fairness. Women are paid a national average of 77 cents to the dollar of what men make on average, most of the southern states are much worse. Our country falls behind much of the developing world on feminist issues, ranking 90th in the number of women we have in our legislature.  Only 17% of the seats in congress are held by women. Women are often discouraged from running for office and many are passed over for male colleagues.
            Women kept poorer than men, and within limited means of power and control is a collective effort that has been established in almost all societies for thousands of years. This has been an almost completely successful strategy to maintain patriarchal dominance over the female of the species.  This is why men were against females getting an education, why women were kept secluded in the home, instead of being allowed to convene with other women, or be a part of the political or public life, why we have been barred from most positions of authority, and why women in the middle east are still required to cover their faces and go nowhere without a male escort. Women who manage to have a better education and a better understanding of the world often seek freedom, independence, and they tend to question the status quo and break from tradition. Intelligent men know this, and many of them fear it. So the effort has historically been to keep women isolated, poor, and stupid, which keeps them dependent and subservient.
            Many men seek to do away with all competition because it makes them paranoid and uncomfortable. This is why American men wiped out the Native Americans, the Mexicans, and enslaved the Africans. I think this is also representative of an irrational fear that men must be the dominant ones, because there must be a hierarchy, and if they diminish their control than women will take over the world, and enslave men the way men have always done so with women. I have met men who speak of women like they are secret agents, conspiring against men for no reason at all, because women are given “all the advantages” in life and feminism is just “propaganda” used to manipulate people and gain control.
            The struggle of women is connected to the struggle of single parents, who are usually single mothers. In Wisconsin, a Bill sponsored by Republican Senator Glenn Grothman and Republican State Representative Donald Pridemore, declares that single parenthood is a threat to the welfare and safety of children, and single parents should be immediate suspects for abuse. Grothman asserts that a child is “20 times more likely to be sexually abused”, if a child is being raised by a single mother, than by a mother and a father, a statistic that is utterly false and unfounded. This is an effort to strip single mothers of their credibility and their rights as parents.
            Hatred of single parent homes, especially single mother families, is another example of men’s fear of the breakdown of the status quo and patriarchy. Men have historically always wanted, and tried to maintain, control of procreation as much as possible by establishing marriage and family laws to legitimize births and establish the father as the head of the household and owner of the mother and children. Without the apparent need of a father in a family, or the need of marriage in order to have a child successfully, the entire fabric of society would surely crumble and chaos would reign. This is the irrational fear that stems from men’s real fear of being deemed worthless and obsolete, which is even worse than losing supreme dominance.
            In Australia, statistics have shown that there are a growing number of single women ages 25-34 in the country, and some men are considering it a crisis. According to Fr. Tony Kerin of the Archdiocese of Melbourne, women are getting too “choosy” and need to make their aspirations be finding a man to marry or they will lose their chance. There are a growing number of women in America as well who choose never to get married. Teenage pregnancy has actually decreased and now there are a growing number of older women in their late twenties and thirties who are independent and choose to have children on their own, often by artificial insemination. This is very threatening in the eyes of many men.
            Men and women who seek to maintain the established way of things justify their blatant objections to single parent homes by insisting that it is obviously better to have two parents  (one male and one female of course). To deviate from that standard is damaging to children, at the very least it is an inherent disadvantage. In truth, while single parents do suffer a greater economic struggle due to inequities in the system which makes it nearly impossible for a woman to support herself and her children, the quality of the parenting and the relationship between the parent and the child is no less because there is one instead of two. Children of single mothers have even reported that they feel that they are more of a priority in their mother’s life than did the children from two parent homes who report more often that they feel “ignored”. The well-being of the child is dependent on the quality of parenting, not the number of parents involved. The two parent household can certainly be easier for the parent in terms of work load, but it is of no inherent consequence to the child.
            Most societies have always looked down on women and single parents. There have been very few societies that have deviated from the patriarchal establishment. In the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China however, there are the Mosuo people, who deviate from convention and live in a matriarchal society. The women of this region live on their own or with her family, and never get married. They have what is translated into “walking marriages”, with men of their choosing. Women can have many suitors in her life and she raises her children herself, usually with the help of her family. Brothers have more to do with the upbringing of their nieces and nephews than they do with their own biological children. They are quite happy with their tradition, which has been their way for centuries and is apparently very peaceful, and allots both men and women with a lot of personal freedom. Unfortunately there are always pressures by their government to conform to the patriarchal standard of the majority if China.
            In order to change our society, we need to end the stigma of nonconformity. Good mothers need recognition for being a good parent, regardless of marital status. Difference should be tolerated unless something or someone is being hurt or otherwise abused. Single parent families need not be considered a disadvantage, or a dishonor. Successful, happy people come from single mothers and parents all the time; Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, Halle Berry, Lance Armstrong, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Clinton, John Lennon, Demi Moore, and Maya Angelou are just a few examples.  Opportunities and equal pay for women will go a long way in decreasing the level of financial disadvantage that single mothers face, as well as forwarding the interests of the feminist movement.
            There will always be misogynists in the world that hate, resent, and/or fear women, but education is key to weakening those numbers. Women’s history should be a required course in both high school and college. Sociology and American history should also take greater priority in our school system.  Both men and women lack a working, analytical understanding of women’s issues, the history of women, and the feminist movement.  Many men lack information, and lack empathy for the suffering and disadvantages women have faced, and continue to face. Some men and women deny that sexism even exists, while others still believe that women should not be equals and should be subservient. Education is our greatest hope in preventing this level of ignorance, prejudice, and hatred from continuing to infect our future. 

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Neill , Charles Patrick, (1913). Report on Condition of Woman and Child Wage-earners       in the United States. By United States Bureau of Labor.

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