When Gloria Steinem appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press in September of 1972, she was posed a series of questions in response to her assessment that women are “undervalued, ridiculed, or ignored by a society which consciously and unconsciously assumes that the white male is the standard and the norm.” The host of that program, Lawrence E. Spivak, a 72 year old white male, directed to her the following: “Males are virtually controlled and dominated by women from birth to puberty and often beyond that; why haven’t you done a better job, if you’re as smart as you say you are? Hasn’t [the woman] the opportunity to brainwash the male during those early formative years? Why doesn’t she do it?”
Mr. Spivak was presenting the position that given the traditional role women have played in society as caretakers, mothers, and keepers of the home, they should have been teaching boys from a young age that women are just as capable, intelligent, and competent as men and since they have failed at achieving this end, they are, in fact, not as smart as they say they are. In turn, he was also maintaining that it is the woman’s fault if she is devalued in society since she has failed in “brainwashing” the boys.
That was back in 1972, but as I write this in 2017, women in the United States are still paid only 80% of what men are paid (and that number is even lower for women of color). Women’s reproductive rights are still constantly under attack in this country, especially at the state level. The number of incarcerated women in America has more than doubled in the last thirty years, principally affecting transgendered women and women of color. We are still the only developed nation without any federally mandated maternal leave. Sexual assault affects nearly 20-25% of women on college campuses. And in November, we elected a new President of the United States, a man who once said this about one of his female Republican rivals: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next President? I mean, she’s a woman and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
Yes, America, I ask you: Are we serious?
The month of March is Women’s History Month. Its inception dates back to 1911 when women were given an official day of recognition. Then, in 1980, women were granted a full week. Finally in 1987, it was decided that the achievements of women would be celebrated during the entire month of March — I find it ironic that this particular month was chosen to honor women when the word itself has been so synonymous with the fight for women’s rights; I wonder if the founders of Women’s History Month ever dared to imagine that they would still be marching for equality thirty years later.
This past January, the inimitable Angela Davis spoke at the Women’s March on Washington and offered this to the multitudinous crowd before her: “We represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism and hetero-patriarchy from rising again.”
She’s entirely and beautifully correct; they are dying cultures. The hetero-patriarchy of the last 300 years is dying before our very eyes and the reason it’s currently so gruesome is because men know it and it scares the shit out of them.
I am a man and I am white. But I’ve had, as a gay male, an interesting experience toeing the line of masculinity and femininity, an inside perspective from both the boys and the girls. As a man, I’ve been on the inner circle of male bonding, friendship, and trust. And as a gay man, I’ve often been allowed a deeper relationship to women than a straight male normally would. I’ve been permitted a slightly different lens with which to view the world around me, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: Women are better than men, and I can’t believe they still have to march.
Let me be perfectly clear; I love men — a lot. I want to spend my life with one, and I plan on doing so as soon as Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes split. Certainly men have achieved tremendous things and I don’t discount their many positive contributions to society, culture, and the betterment of the species. But if we’re all honest with ourselves (and by we, I mean men, because women already know this), women are the lifeblood of this entire web of dazzling chaos on which we walk every day. They are the great fighters, mothers, doers, communicators, feelers, and thinkers of this world, and their history is our history. We would have destroyed this place long ago if it weren’t for the resilience, spirit, and compassion of the Woman.
In that interview in 1972, Ms. Steinem calmly let her male host know that she didn’t agree with his assertion of female over male domination and offered this in response: “Be objective for a change and eliminate the sex and the race stereotypes.”
To achieve true equality among the genders will require a fair bit of objectivity. The men of the old order do not understand this concept because the power they have held over women for so long has warped any sensitivity or intellect they may have possessed at birth. Thankfully, that order will soon die out. But for the enlightened men of this country, we must admit that we have tried to steer this ship forever and as a result the world is falling to pieces. Don’t you think it’s time the women gave it a shot?
To the women in my life, I know that almost all of the good in me has come from you. As your ally, I will march alongside you anywhere and everywhere you must; but I sincerely hope that you don’t have to for much longer.