In recent months there seems to have been a flood of polarizing and controversial articles related to mothering and so-called "women's issues." I find myself easily seduced by the sheer drama of the opinions expressed and drawn in by the subsequent backlash of women attacking women. But I am beginning to wonder if the inflation of articles on "Mommy Wars" is constructive. In view of the fact that this is an election year, it is pivotal to examine the agenda behind what is getting massive media attention. Considering that women are the country's majority, one could ask whether all the attentiveness towards ideological divisions among women is an attempt to impede efforts to unite them.
There is a contradiction when it comes to the role of women in politics. On the one hand, the segregation of women's issues inherently marginalizes and trivializes the female experience. These are human issues that affect everyone. Dividing women from men creates the illusion that men aren't impacted by this "war on women." But, at the same time, women and men do have different psychologies, cultural expectations and roles in society. If there wasn't any special attention to issues that effect women, then I worry about a potential deterioration in the way women would be treated in not only legislation, but also the national budget. So the challenge is how to credit a very real divergence between the sexes in an honest and ultimately cohesive way.
During the pressure of an election year, we all become pawns for the media, politicians and corporations to manipulate, but the role of women is one that is drastically misrepresented. For one, women are pictured as swing voters when in actuality, they are not. Also, the majority of women do not vote exclusively on the basis of reproductive rights as is suggested in the media. By creating this story that women are flakey flip-floppers that care only about birth control and abortions, they oversimplify the conversation. Women are reduced to body parts that can't make up their minds about what is in their best interest.
There have been real social shifts in our economic, corporate and political sectors that have forced a lot of adjustments for everyone. The American family is directly impacted, and, as a result, a vast percentage is living a nightmare. Yet the root causes of these changes are not being actively addressed, because to address them is to accept accountability. The rhetoric becomes finger pointing on both sides, because if the conversation is about blame, it is not about finding solutions. The conflict is not that there isn't an alternative reality that is more sustainable, but who is going to profit from creating one.
For the first time in generations, we are facing the drastic possibility that our children are not expected to surpass us financially and may have a shorter life expectancy. If current trends continue, the future for the young will not be one of progress but of regression, and, regardless of political affiliation, I would think this reality is one that people can unite behind. As dire as all this may seem, we are also in a very revolutionary and powerful position to share information and organize through citizen-run initiatives that are promoted and developed through the Internet.
I was recently alerted to an effort spearheaded by Stacy Morrison at BlogHer, who has created a forum where women can band together and discover what it is that they do and don't want from the political process and how to achieve their goals. Morrison believes that by aggregating basic facts demonstrating the true position of women's influence in the political arena, people will begin to "express the complexity and develop outreach to Republicans and Democrats that illustrates the tapestry of the female experience." She continues: "This initiative is a bipartisan effort to discuss the challenges of being a modern American woman and acknowledge the powerhouse that we are; the influence that we are. Women must refuse being treated as window dressing and allowing politicians to dictate the conversation that isn't relevant to what women are actually experiencing."
The more alienated we feel from each other, the easier we are to manipulate and distract. There is a division between men from women and women from women that is provoked by the sensationalized stories we are being force-fed by those in power. Morrison says: "One of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century is that feminism was understood to be exclusionary. We want to be inclusive." Women have a unique perspective and distinct hurdles, but they cannot create real change alone. The Blogher initiative is attempting to connect both women and men to discuss the challenges they face in their families, in their everyday lives, and to take back the power by being in control of the conversation.
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