The other morning I saw an episode of “Torchwood”1 that reminded me of a gender myth about flexibility. How important, whether in simple conversation or in complicated social evolutions, is it for us to roll with the punches? Be prepared for the upheavals that start as microblips? In “Out of Time”2 Torchwood meets a plane after a presumably short flight from London to Cardiff. Though not always prepared for what faces them, the valiants of Torchwood received a simple time slip which brought the pilot and passengers from 1953 into the 21st century with a little less stress than facing an alien invasion offered them.
What a perfect time to bring them from.3 Though society was less naive after World War II, folks kept a death grip on innocence. It was a time that would be less shocked by 21st-century changes in technologies, than in the changes in social conventions. There were so few women in business, that they were a rather well-kept secret.
The 2014 State of the Union address pointed out areas in which women in business, while much more prominent, are still lacking parity with their male counterparts and, while those issues were not addressed in the opposition’s rebuttal, they are still hot issues in a time when the Tea Party seems to want to take us back to the way it was in the 1950s.
The only male aboard the plane in the “Torchwood” episode, passenger John, was not prepared to find himself in a new century with his family gone and such daunting changes to make. He chose not to live a new life. My first response was that the three stories had predictable results. I’d always heard that women were more flexible than men. Of course, we’ve had to be, particularly in the fifties and sixties when women’s lives began to broaden. The possibilities were increasing for all women rather than for the strong few who did not need external nurturing to follow their bliss. I was a toddler in 1953 and it seemed that most of the women of my generation – at least, the ones who got the publicity – flowed with the enlarging of a woman’s possibilities a lot easier than I did.
Women in the 1950s and 1960s did not invent feminism, but, by the close of the sixties, they were ready en masse to fight for it. They began to see they had a lot to gain. On the other hand, men seemed less flexible because they perceived they had an equal amount, if not more, to lose. In the decades between 1969 and 1999, I saw a lot of insecure men who felt cheated because they had to compete with women in business arenas which had been primarily male playgrounds or as if a field in which even women could succeed was no longer worthy of them. They seemed unaware that the playing fields were still slanted in their favor.
I have conservative friends who understand the changes were good and I’ve got conservative friends who are “clueless.” Just as severely insecure men were waiting for champions like comedian Andrew Dice Clay who verbally bashed women in frightening ways, some families who missed the entire second wave of feminists may be waiting for deceptive comfort the retro politicians aiming at the women who chose differently than “feminists” and “liberals” whom the politicians choose to demonize. The vilification of those two liberals and feminists has effectively blotted out “second wave” of feminist who were fighting equally as hard for women to choose to work within the family structure and to be taken equally seriously in terms of financial security.
Some conservatives seem to believe that the women who chose to serve in capacities previously limited to men have in some way stolen something from those who chose tradition over the alternatives. And don’t think for one moment society did not go through the same phase after the changes brought by the Civil Rights Movement. People will persist in believing that their lost opportunities are someone else’s fault. Most of the richest men in the world can’t help give the impression that the money earned or given members of the lower class represent money they are being deprived of. So? Can your never have too much money, but have too little to matter? Can a same-sex marriage on the west coast take something vital from a family in the Midwest? Can a female CEO of Yahoo10 steal some intangible thing from a housewife in Florida? Is a woman CEO of Mary K. Cosmetics11 is less a threat than a female CEO of General Motors12?
You might think so, but I don’t see it. What I see is a portion of society under siege by those who would steal power through fear tactics. Those who would prey on natural insecurities promising to transport us back to the fifties when we “prospered” over the unworthy. Maybe liberals and feminists fight harder now because we have so much more to lose than those who chose traditional lives. Author and life coach Steven Barnes14 has said we need conservatives to nurture life as we grow and we need liberals to keep us from stagnating. I can’t imagine a life without either of them. I can’t imagine a life without feminists either. For it is they who would teach women and men to be strong and unafraid in the lives they choose.
1. “Torchwood” is a spinoff of Dr. Who about an organization that deals with extra-worldly threats like aggressive aliens and time flotsam. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0485301/?ref_=nv_sr_1
3. In case there are among my readers those who would criticize that sentence, I refer you to Merriam Webster’s video in which Associate Editor Emily Brewster questions the distaste we have for ending a sentence with a preposition. This folderol began within a 1672 English review by poet, playwright, essayist John Dryden which castigated the previous generation of writers (including Shakespeare and Ben Johnson) for many things, including ending a sentence with a preposition — probably because Latin doesn’t allow it. Dryden’s suggestion got passed down as grammar law. She postulates that perhaps a sentence-end preposition may sound bad because we’ve been conditioned to thinks so, but it was perfectly legitimate until Dryden stuck his nose in the air. Sometimes the opposite sounds worse. As in the famous, if apocryphal Winston Churchill quote: “This is just the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put.” Brewster suggests you decide what sounds better to you http://www.merriam-webster.com/video/0025-preposition.htm?&t=1391284090
8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrea_Dworkin9. http://www.returnofkings.com/75440/38-pictures-that-show-the-decline-of-america-since-the-1950s
10. Marissa Mayer, CEO Yahoo http://money.cnn.com/2012/07/16/technology/yahoo-ceo-marissa-mayer
11. Mary K. Ash, founder of Mary Kay, Inc., now run by her son Richard Rogers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Kay
12. Mary T. Barra, CEO GM. http://www.gm.com/company/aboutGM/GM_Corporate_Officers.html
14. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Barnes; http://www.diamondhour.com