There is no way to downplay it. Tuesday, July 26, 2016 is now etched into the American consciousness because a woman is a major party nominee for president of the United States. Moreover, it’s etched into the hearts of millions of American women. This, as He Who Shall Not Be Named would say, is yuge.
It’s about damn time.
It’s only been 95 years since U.S. women have been granted the right to vote. Only. It only took us 145 years from the founding of the nation to get that. Only. The vote came only after women seeking the vote — women, the weaker sex, to be protected because we are so frail — were treated as harshly as any civil rights demonstrators of the ‘60s and ‘70s. While there are many examples in the history books, I refer specifically to Nov. 15, 1917, after a group of women picketed the White House in support of a woman’s right to vote. Thirty-three suffragists were jailed at the Occoquan, Va., Workhouse. That was bad enough, seeing as how these “girls” were only exercising First Amendment rights. The superintendent of the workhouse, W.H. Whittaker, then let loose 40 of his guards to brutalize these 33 women. They beat, kicked, dragged, choked, terrorized and humiliated them. (Source: Barbara Leaming, Katherine Hepburn (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995), 182. via Liana Laverentz’s blog, Nov. 2, 2010). The White House, specifically Woodrow Wilson, sought to have Alice Paul, an outspoken ringleader, declared mentally incompetent. Silence via the sanatorium. The psychiatrist called in to commit her refused, saying “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.” Would that we knew his name and could honor him.
There’s more ugliness in the historical record to underscore that we American women have been more than patient in our quest for equal rights. But that’s not my point, which is that it’s about damn time men stepped aside and let women get things back in balance before it’s too late.
Men have been in charge nearly forever. There was a brief period in human prehistory, called the Neolithic period, in which women set the tone. Everyone rightly figured out that, because women had babies, they had the inside track to human survival. If women were the source of life, in neolithic thinking, then what makes Mama happy makes everyone happy. While it was a matriarchal society, women weren’t superior to men. Each gender had its function, and there was no need for coercion to keep it that way. It actually did work best when women raised the kids and the men hunted and brought the game home. At the heart of it all was the understanding that Mama made it all come alive. Women were the spiritual heart of these ancient cultures. They were the spiritual leaders. They were the healers. The teachers. Too many archeological relics of fertility goddesses exist throughout the world to ignore that. I’d like to think one holdover of those ancient times is the notion that we live on Mother Earth, and that Mother Nature is still in charge.
For more information on this, read The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler. She has written a lot about men and women, about partnership, about the future. But this book set the stage by explaining how it all got so screwed up in the first place.
Basically, men who weren’t down with this whole fertility culture thing figured out a couple of things: They were bigger and stronger and could take anything they wanted. Women didn’t need to be revered to keep popping out babies, they simply needed to be kept barefoot and pregnant. Oh, and fed. Starving women can’t produce offspring. These guys couldn’t see any farther than the end of their cave entrance, and began to act as if what they owned was all that mattered. Thus was born the primacy of private property and the necessity for women’s sexual suppression. If they kept the same female nearby, she tended to have babies that looked a lot like them. If they let her run free, they never knew whose face might show up on the other side of the fire.
The end of the Neolithic era some 5,000 years ago ushered in a male-dominant culture that persists to this day. With few exceptions since that first caveman clubbing, men have had a stranglehold on the pursestrings, the weapons, the property, the reproductive rights, the theology and the bully pulpit of the human race.
How’s that working for us?
We are in danger, as at no other time in human history, of polluting our planet so badly it will no longer sustain life. We already know we are in the midst of the Sixth Big Extinction. Are we so vain as to think somehow humans are exempt? The oceans are becoming toxic. The topsoil is so degraded it drifts in the wind from one continent to another, having no substance to give it purchase anywhere and no nutrients to give the food it grows. We pump billions of gallons of water from the ground and then are shocked when vast caverns collapse because they have nothing supporting them. We mine precious minerals to make gadgets of wonder but cannot figure out how to dispose of our creations without creating massive environmental wastelands. Some of us don’t even think it matters. We dredge out of the ground pure carbon from the rotted remains of prehistoric jungles, burn it and then wonder why our atmosphere is heating up. Like any child caught doing something it shouldn’t, we deny responsibility for the mess we created, saying it’s just Mother Nature’s cycles. Sorry boys, can’t have it both ways.
By nearly all measures of human existence, we are in trouble. That’s what we get for having one set of brains run everything. It has to stop or we’re done for. Frankly, I’m not ready to let that happen.
I am no man hater. Men and women each have functions in creating the kind of world that supports human life and also makes it worth living. Bricks and mortar. Paper and ink. You get the point. That only happens when men and women work together, celebrating each other’s unique gifts and using them to benefit us all. Right now, most men don’t know how to play nicely with girls. Some do; they’re already busy doing the work.
I am an imbalance hater. We’ve had one way of thinking in charge for too long. Everything is out of balance. It’s time to give women a go. If we weren’t in such dire straits, I’d suggest men and women work on things together, play to each other’s strengths. But we need to drag these stampeding horses back from the cliff. We don’t have time to vote on who should hold the reins or who should jump on the back of the team to stop them. And if sometimes we make mistakes? Men have made plenty of mistakes. It’s time we ladies had a go.
Right now, guys, go play a few rounds of golf. We’ll call when we’re ready. Oh, and dinner? We might get around to it, but maybe you should just grab something. Better yet, have it ready when we get home.
A smart, compassionate, tough woman for President of the United States? It’s about damn time.