Women are mistreated, always mistreated. We have drawn attention to this locally; and Anita Hill, who testified at the Clarence Thomas hearing that he sexually harassed her, recently published a book, “Believing,” which details the ongoing abuse of women in our country. As she supports him so strongly, it must stop, it must end.
Violence against women takes two forms: verbal and physical. Verbal abuse ranges from jokes and inappropriate remarks about women’s appearance and sexuality to angry demands that they shut up and stay in their place. This mainly happens at home and at work. A friend told me one day, while she was crying, that she had been verbally assaulted by her husband. I don’t know if she told anyone else because women were encouraged to accept it, to drop it because, well that’s how men are, and no one doesn’t really care. This abuse is much more frequent than we think.
In the workplace, verbal abuse and sexual harassment is also more common than we have admitted and was not considered serious, such as in “After all, how is a joke or a sexy remark or a remark? can it hurt? So male colleagues and supervisors armed with male privilege insult women about their appearance, sexuality and inferiority. This happens mostly among privileged bosses and in professions traditionally dominated by men. After all, women are weak, the weaker sex, so how can they do the work of men, real men? Thus, women are degraded, proposed and ridiculed as the equals of men.
Of course, the worst form of abuse against women is physical. Women are beaten, beaten, assaulted and raped. It can happen again and again. Yet too often they are trapped in a situation of domestic violence from which they cannot escape, as they and their children have no income and no safe place to go. And too often they are told to just shut up, to accept that, they are even told that it is normal between men and women, husbands and wives. These abused women have to have a way out, and we have to provide it.
Behind these horrific forms of abuse lies an even greater abuse: women are seen as inferior, unequal to men. Most civilizations and nations, including our own, have been patriarchal, celebrating the superiority of men over women, a point of view supported by tradition and, too often, religions. For example, in the Bible, written over the centuries, the heroes are men: Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul. Women like Bathsheba and Sarah existed primarily to be coveted and have children. They could neither rule nor reign. In the Song of Songs, when a woman leaves her house to look for her lover in the city, she is beaten by the caretakers so as not to stay in her place. Now groups like the Taliban are keeping women in their place. And, of course, God is always called “he”.
When I was in high school in Detroit, girls only had one sport to play – field hockey, while boys had swimming, track and field, baseball, basketball, and football. For many years, girls were considered simply cheerleaders, on the sidelines. Fortunately, since 1972, when Title IX became federal law, that has changed. When I was a student at the University of Michigan in the late 1950s I knew women who could have been successful doctors, lawyers and CEOs, but due to the cultural expectations of the time, their destiny was to find a husband, get married, raise a family and be a housewife. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.
We are proud of our Declaration of Independence which states that “all men are created equal”. But for years and years and years, this only applied to men and excluded women who, for example, did not get the right to vote until 1920. It was a turning point, which excluded women. black women, who had to wait decades longer to be able to vote freely. Yes, we have made progress on women’s equality, but we never had a woman as president, although we finally have a woman as vice-president.
In 1915, the famous author and women’s rights activist, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, published a novel “Herland” where women are the leaders and create “a human utopia”. Let us work to create such a utopia by ending the abuse of women.
Jack Hernandez is the retired director of the Norman Levan Center of the Humanities at Bakersfield College.