There was a lot going on in the news for us girls to discuss this week and I want to make sure none of you missed it. From the death of the first American female astronaut to go into space to the inclusion of Saudi women marching in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics; women and the issues we still face today have been front and center in the media. In fact, the 2012 Olympics have been “heralded as the Year of the Woman” because for the first time ever, every participating country has at least one female athlete competing at the games! However, before we get too excited let’s look at some of the other stories that came out this week!
It was upon the death of astronaut Dr. Sally Ride that the public at large learned of her sexuality and her longtime relationship with partner Tam O’Shaughnessy. Much has been debated back and forth about whether or not Ride should have given up her privacy over the years to be a spokesperson for the gay community. Never having faced her struggles, I can’t second guess her choices now. However, what made me sad were not her missed opportunities to speak out for others but that we are even still talking about this in 2012, that her sexuality should even still be news. It disappointments me, we missed out on really knowing who she truly was as a person. I want to live in a world where people coming out are not news anymore, because it is an accepted, every-day occurrence. I want to live in a world where being who you are is a non-event because we are all treated equally.
There was something else that was in the news this week that we, as women and as humans, should be paying close attention to! The debate over what female volleyball players wear to compete is an interesting one. It is especially interesting in light of the photo released on Tumblr last night of jubilant Saudi women marching in the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics for the first time ever, yet still covered head to toe. I want to live in world with a happy medium between what these two groups of women are wearing. How about a world where both groups will be judged by their athletic ability and not by what they are wearing when they compete; a world where their clothing is never even brought up in a serious conversation! You know, kind of like what we do with men! Seems reasonable doesn’t it!
Another disturbing but inspiring story in the news this week was blogger Jenn Gibbons‘ story. Gibbons has been rowing Lake Michigan to raise funds and awareness for her organization Recovery on Water, a group helping to empower breast cancer survivors. While on this journey Gibbons was attacked and sexually assaulted by a man authorities believe used her blog to find her. The fact that Gibbons chose to continue her journey and to continue her mission of helping to heal women is incredible and inspiring and I encourage all of you to support her cause. I want to live in a world where women (and men) are free from sexual violence, in a culture where violence is not glamorized. Why does that seem like so much to ask for?
Let us not forget, and let us remind our daughters, our sisters (and also our sons) that the “year of the woman” has also included debates about the morality of birth control, which at this point in our history is not something that should even merit discussion. We just want it. We just need it. Period.
This year has also included hot debates about the Paycheck Fairness Act which would have ensured equal pay for equal work. Remember, we are not talking about when a woman takes time off to raise a family. That is another conversation. We are talking about when every factor is equal: education, experience, commitment, quality of work, and yet pay is still not equal. In 2012 this should be a no-brainer.
Remember, recent headlines also included Michigan Democratic State Representative Lisa Brown being banned from speaking on the House floor in her state because she used the scientifically correct term VAGINA in a debate that was, in fact, about the female reproductive system!
Also this week, we’ve read that three more military instructors, for a total of fifteen, are being investigated in a growing sex scandal involving abuse of female recruits at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. So, we discover that while women are finally making headway in their quest for equality in the military, they are still subject to sexual assault at the hands of their fellow servicemen.
An finally, this year we are still fighting for marriage equality so that our relationships will be defined by whom we choose to love and not by whom the government sees as gender appropriate for us.
So while the toughest years for women’s rights may be behind us, at least in this country, the world we live in is still not nearly close enough to the vision we have so long aspired to. While I recognize and appreciate the accomplishments women have made in recent years, I look forward to a time when we don’t need phrases like “year of the woman” because every year will look the same, full of equality and opportunity. You know, kind of like what men have!
“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, and practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions . . . for safety on the streets… for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.” (If someone says) ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist,’ (I ask) ‘Why? What’s your problem?’”
Dale Spender, author of For the Record: The Making & Meaning of Feminist Knowledge, 1985