I haven’t had very many occasions to reflect upon this quaint folk saying of my grandmother’s other than….well….to remember my grandmother fondly. She had many sayings like, “If you and your folks, loved me and my folks, like me and my folks loved you and your folks, there never was folks like folks loved folks, if you and your folks loved me and my folks like me and my folks loved you and your folks.”
As for the latter, I always imagined Granny was trying to teach me to love everyone. She was a Godly woman. Well before WWJD wristbands, she practiced “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (she was a King James fan, obviously.)
The folk adage that is the topic of this post, however, was visited upon me whenever I chose to whistle. I liked whistling. A lot. I thought my grandmother was teaching me the equivalent of step on a crack, break your mother’s back or if you spill salt, toss it over your shoulder. Yes, I know, superstition and religion aren’t supposed to be bedfellows, but in the South of my youth, I think “old timers” operated under the maxim better safe than sorry.
Lately, I’ve been revisiting this saying. I started to realize that it was actually telling women not to act like men. It is bad for women to do what men do. We will experience something bad if we act like men; perhaps we will even be punished. I know Granny meant nothing nefarious with this saying. It is likely she disliked whistling and thought this was as good a way as any to get me to stop. But the point is that women can be guilted into, brainwashed into, or peer pressured into believing (or pretending to believe) that women who want equality to do both the good things and the bad things men do are misguided, idiots, misguided idiots, want a sugar daddy (the government) or are just plain evil.
I grew up in a time where the generation of women before me wore heels to cook dinner, dressed to the nines even if they had nothing more important than vacuuming to do, were expected to have a lot of children, and happily put dinner on the table by five o’clock every day (or whenever their husbands told them to.) I, on the other hand, grew up in the Hamburger Helper era with role models like Charlie’s Angels, Maude, Mary Richards, That Girl, The Flying Nun, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Cagney and Lacey, The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, Police Woman, Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, Carole King, Jane Goodall, etc. These were the strong women of my formative years. Love them or hate them, these were my “normal.” I’m not endorsing nor am I apologizing for any of them. All I can say is that they told ME that I was important, I could do great things, I could do important things, and perhaps even that I could do equally stupid things as men.
In the 70’s, Little League baseball was opened to girls. Women were admitted into U.S. military academies. And Title IX was passed right around the time I was entering second grade. For those of you who don’t remember or don’t know, Title IX was part of the Education Amendments Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in public schools. Mine was the first generation to not have these restrictions on us simply because God made us female. There was, and still is, discrimination, but we have it darn good, comparatively. Or, at least, we did.
But the pendulum seems to me to be swinging the other way. Daily, I see a backlash against women who take their destinies in their own hands; who want nothing more than to say when, where, and how with their own lives and their own bodies. Sadly, some of our biggest and meanest critics are other women. Maybe we have ourselves to blame. There was a time when “liberated” women poked fun of and marginalized women who still aspired to be moms and wives. We forgot, or ignored the fact, that what we had been working toward was the right to be who and what we wanted whether that was a doctor, a lawyer or a stay-at-home mom. What the movement was, or what it should have been, was to be all that we could be and all that we wanted to be without anyone judging us for our choices. We shouldn’t have kicked some women out of the club. So, I guess it is no surprise that our sisters who wanted to be moms and wives looked for a place to “fit in.”
Everyone wants to be part of a group where their ideas and beliefs are accepted. Sometimes we are forced to take on other beliefs (or ignore them) that we don’t necessarily agree with to remain in the group. That goes for both sides. I don’t like it when my like-minded brothers and sisters on women’s issues start making jokes about Christians and their anti-intellectualism. I’m pretty smart AND I don’t believe that there is a “fact” of evolution. Just a theory that cannot be duplicated in a laboratory and which cannot explain the origin of life. But that can be left for another time.
In any event, one of the best things I have ever done in my life – the thing that gives me the most satisfaction- is being a mom. But before some of you start gloating, that may be because I have had the opportunity to be “all that I can be” including being a mom. I had choices. They were important choices. They were truly life changing choices for a female who did not have wealth and privilege on her side.
Those important choices, however, do not deserve anyone being relegated to a “class” referred to as feminazis, whores, sluts, bitches, amoral and prostitutes. Even the word “feminist” is thrown from the mouths of detractors as if it something vile, like they are being forced to taste dog poop. The same goes for “liberal.” I would argue that feminist and liberal, for many on the far and vocal right, are interchangeable insults. In fact, I believe that many of them believe that if they could just eliminate “feminists”, there would be no more problems and the Democrat party would look just like the Republican party.
So, what to do? Are we moving forward or moving backward? Do we all just pretend to be one person amongst this group and someone else amongst that group? Do we overlook the really bad behavior and vitriolic name-calling we see because the group we are aligned with agrees with us on one or two issues that we think are important? As for me, my New Year’s resolution is to call out bad behavior whenever I see it. I will try and be gentle. I will try to be even-handed. I will try and use discretion. But I will not just remain in the background while people I love and respect are either vilified or are demeaning themselves by participating in this behavior.