|[Warning: diversion from normal subject matter]|
Somebody should get a hold of every young woman when she is 10 to 12 years old, and work to convince her of one thing: she has ENORMOUS power, if she and all her friends are smart enough to wield it.
To begin my defense of this statement, I draw your attention to the fictional Greek comedy Lysistrata. In it, the title character, fed up with the men of Greece being off to the Peloponnesian War for so long, organizes all of the women of Greece to one purpose: end the war. How? you might ask; by withholding their "spousal duty" from the men. If memory serves, there comes a point where a few of the women go weak in the knees, but ultimately Lysistrata convinces them to hold firm. After a while, the men give up on war (for a variety of reasons) and return home to better behavior.
Warning: if you are tempted to go out and find this story, be aware that the Greeks were not particularly modest, especially in their comedic tastes. Subtlety was not a strong suit.
At any rate, I meditate on this story tonight because every day that I am in a school, or that I see a "reality show" with women, or that I think about the world my daughters are going to soon be ready to inherit, I grow increasingly angry and frustrated at the culture I see.
Women are cannibals. And it starts early, too--my pre-teen is experiencing some of that already. I don't know where it comes from, or why it exists, but there seems to be this odd dynamic among groups of women that discourages them from building each other up; or, more specifically, encourages them to tear each other down.
And the result seems to be the gradual collapse of the social order.
Let me propose a different idea. Imagine that every young woman in, say for instance, a school, decided that--together-they were not going to reward the boys for stupid or immature behavior. Suppose they could come up with, and stick to, a pact that no girl would go out with a boy who did not meet their standards of behavior.
Do you think the culture of the school might change?
There is no excuse for young boys to be able to treat young women as shabbily as they do, and yet, they do. Why? Well, poor upbringing, for one thing. But, for another thing, because young boys don't pay a price for being an idiot. "If Lisa won't go out with me when I refuse to walk with her to class, then I'll just go out with Erica. She'll be good to me, and I don't particularly have to do anything for her."
If Lisa, Jane, Alice, Julie and Sheryl refuse to date a guy who "cheated" on their friend, then that would be powerful; but if just one of them broke ranks because "he's cute," then the guy will always "cheat." That behavior which gets rewarded gets repeated.
But it's more than just that. Women--girls--have many of the same hopes and ambitions as men (boys) do, and are usually just as capable as their male counterparts of accomplishing anything. But, it seems to me, all too often, whenever a young lady attempts to step forward from the safe cluster of girlfriends to do something truly different, she has to deal with not only her own self-doubts (which boys deal with also), but she'll have her whole cluster behind her commenting on her hair, or her figure, or whether she thinks she's suddenly "too good" for them.
It's brutal, and its hard. And I think its a big part of why women--who tend to make up majorities--don't seem to have power in nearly the same proportion as their numbers.
Women need role models. And not just role models--like Oprah--of success; role models of how to build up other women and encourage each other to be strong and modest and well-treated. I sincerely believe the entire culture of our society could turn on a dime if women refused to be manipulated into thinking Heidi Klum has a normal body, or that having a man on your arm was a necessary precondition to happiness, or that every interaction with other women was a subtle battle for control.
I say this as a teacher, and as a father of daughters: women should rule the world. But as long as they--as any one of them in any given social group--are willing to hurt each other, then they will not.
Is what I am encouraging "women's lib?" Yes. But, it turns out, I think the first round of "women's lib" was vastly more damaging to women than they even had it before. With sexual freedom came disease and a lack of commitment from men; with lack of commitment came greater poverty, as women get left with most of the responsibility for unwanted children; and so on, and so on . . . As women found their voice, I think it was increasingly raised in shrillness and childishness. "Women's liberation" became turning princesses into frogs, and that means there's a lot of princes stuck as frogs, also. Boys are easy to manipulate--believe me, I am one. And if the Bewitching Mrs. BD asks me for something in the right way, or if I have reason to think that my compliance will earn a good mood, it's an unbelievable sure bet that that thing will get done. There's another way to get it done, too--nagging. And, eventually, whatever it is will probably get done, but in a vastly different way.
Real women's liberation would be to foster the sort of self-image--and group-image--that encouraged women to value themselves more than they do now; that encouraged them to refuse to be treated badly, and to refuse to treat each other badly; and that encouraged them to chase after their dreams and passions with the same safety net of friends and mentors that men seem to find it easy to build.
I want my daughters to look forward to taking risks in their lives because they believe it would be fun to share an adventure with their friends; I want my daughters to know that men are going to treat them well because the social stigma of treating them poorly would be devastating; I want my daughters to feel safe and welcome among their peers because they know that they wield power together to accomplish great things.
I know that boys have issues, too--but it has been my experience that boys confront each other and then go to their separate corners for the duration. Girls are different. And wonderful.
But they could be even more wonderful if they would just try to help each other out a little bit.
If it sounds like I might be on the brink of developing a program, I may be. I welcome thoughts and input, particularly from dads out there, because I think we all have the same interest.