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A Lady Laments About....Womens' Liberation
by Jennifer Philo
Please welcome another new writer to our every growing group - Jennifer. She will be writing - well, lamenting - each Tuesday here at FTTW.
I am woman, hear me roar. A very notable line from a very notable song that was the anthem to womens' empowerment heard round the world 30 years ago. The last time I heard that song, I was watching television with the kids and after a forewarning from a dear friend, caught a glimpse of the remake; a Burger King ad focusing on a man who was "tired of chick food" and rallied a posse of other men who apparently were also tired of "chick food" and various other activities subsequently defined as "chick-like". I am man, hear my arteries clog as my waist-line expands in true American fashion.
Despite this ridiculous variation on Helen Reddys' soundtrack to bra burning, I found myself thinking about womens' liberation and what has happened over the past 30 years since the song was penned. Although I wasn't even a twinkle in my adolescent mother's eyes, I would be introduced to a world a little over a decade later that consequently took mom out of the apron for 8 hours, slapped a name tag on her and then sent her back home to retrieve the apron to prepare dinner for her family.
I can't hold Helen accountable for being passionate about equality. I only wish her song came with a manual and an alternate version, "I am Man, Watch Me Iron". This way, once us women found our roar it would be loud enough for the men to be distracted from our now drooping breasts and bedroom eyes (only these bedroom eyes are from lack of sleep, not overactive sex drives). Womens' liberation certainly opened the door to a new frontier in career evolution, but it obviously forgot to point out the fine print at the bottom of the contract: equality in every aspect of life.
Twenty years later, Helen Reddy has become an icon of days gone by and our bras have returned with new frills and padding and, in some circumstances, edible versions of its equal partner, the panty. The foundation that would bring us equality hit a backlash as soon as Helen hit the first chords and has yet to find it's way out. Infiltrating the workforce was a severe hurdle, getting past the gender biased of designated male and female jobs was and still is. It wasn't easy breaking down the door of corporate America, but making a mean pot of coffee and typing 45 wpm wasn't quite what Helen had in mind, was it?
It wasn't as though no one had tried before the anthem was heard. Perhaps we'll all take a moment to pause and remember Susan B. Anthony, pioneer for womens' suffrage. She dedicated her life for equal opportunities for women. I briefly remember hearing about her in Social Studies, along with countless other women such as Dorothea Dix, Sandra Day O' Connor and Joan of Arc, not in that particular order. All examples of courageous women, some knowingly fighting on behalf of women everywhere, others fighting on the front lines along side men (later depicted by hollywood starlets in three hour epics), and all of them crossing the boundaries between what defined a man and what defined a woman.
I work in a male predominant field, selling hardware and striving to blend with my male co-workers. Not an easy task when you have breasts, but it's a job. The hardware world was one I was not prepared to enter; Cosmo never mentioned what a drill chuck or a Miter Saw was (unless you count the article "How to Make His Drill Chuck and His Miter Saw"; hardly a lesson in power tools and accessories). I can't blame this oversight on Cosmo though. In a nation so hell-bent on making women think about beauty, babies and Botox, it's hard to find room for more than just a refreshing article on how to balance career and home while still looking like Jessica Simpson (let the record show I do NOT look like Jessica Simpson after reading said article). And while 30 years ago not shaving was a sign of empowerment, not shaving these days reflects more of a motivational impairment or a severe lack of time.
It's not as though balancing home and career is new either for us women. Susan B. Anthonys' life-long politcal partner, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, was married and mothered a number of children yet still made the history books in her fight for equality. I'm lucky if I can balance my check book before reading my kids a bedtime story. Have we, as women, become mere shadows of those who came before us? Would Susan, or Helen for that matter, turn their heads in shame looking ahead at the generations they worked so hard for?
I don't know the answers to these questions. I know that Websters' defines liberate as "to release from slavery" or "to secure equal rights". Well, I can vote, I can work and apparently I can roar. Sad truth is, I'm so damn tired I can't move. Liberating, isn't it?
Jennifer collects Susan B. Anthony quarters