Wednesday, March 8, 2017

National Women's Day

I forgot today was National Women's Day. I got on Facebook this morning and saw a couple articles about it and against my better judgment, read a few comments. Of course the comments started with, "get a job." or, "they should be fired for being unreliable." or, "I'm a woman and I went to work today and I pay my own bills. You should too."

So many assumptions being made in these comments. Just so many. But the underlying sentiment seems to be, "your cause isn't valid." or "you don't represent me as a woman." and/or, "I'm strong and you aren't." or maybe, "I'm behaving and you're not."

After the women's march in January, I heard a lot of similar comments. The most common complaint I heard was, "Please tell me what rights women don't already have." Some women even posed this question to me assuming I would agree. But you get the distinct impression that they don't actually want to hear what you have to say. I get the impression that many people of both genders think, "you can vote, you can work, you can own property, that's enough. Be happy with what you have and be quiet."

Meanwhile, the other headline I saw this morning was titled, "Devos employee likes to 'shake' his wife." His comment seems to have been made in passing - meaning it was so casual to him it didn't cross his mind he shouldn't say it:

Does he really shake his wife? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, the language is damaging and dangerous. But oops, I shouldn't complain about that because women have enough.

Ignore the statistics about violence against women and young girls. Ignore the rape statistics. Ignore the lack of funding for rape kits. Ignore the messages in the media women read and hear all the time making us feel less-than. Ignore all the challenges women face because um, helllloooo we can vote now! Also, did you hear that some women littered at a rally? INVALID! (Not that I'm ok with littering.)

I relate it to something I hear other white people say sometimes about black people. Because I am white too, these things are sometimes said around me with the assumption that I will be on board. Things like, "Black people need to get over it. Slavery ended a long time ago." Or, "If black people don't want to get arrested/shot, maybe they should behave."

My blood boils. And I speak up.

I'm not black and I could never pretend to know the challenges African-Americans face. But when they tell me they face challenges I wouldn't understand, I listen. And I believe them. I don't think, "slavery is over. Jim Crow laws are over. Most states have integrated proms now. Get over it. We're all equal now. You're just looking for something to complain about."

Am I saying we all have to agree with each other? No. But I wish we would listen better. And maybe not immediately speak out against each other. Maybe try to understand, try to find the parts we agree with, try to build bridges, try to feel more love instead of hate.

Or at least not make hate and anger our first reaction.