Born Female

On this International Day of the Woman, it is often thought that the ‘global’ bit of the day pertains only to those overseas or at best, down south in some foreign speaking country. But this is a troublesome assumption. For we here in Canada, in North America for that matter, cannot yet - with good conscience - raise our own ‘all will be seen and treated equal’ flag. No. Not yet. We still have work to do here within our own shores, my friends.

So on this March 8th, the International Day of the Woman, I wish for all wives, mothers, daughters, grandmothers, aunts, the young girls born around us, those alive here in North America AND elsewhere in the world - to have equal opportunity for health, well being and the opportunity to take up as much space in this world as any man. That the two sexes would not only be viewed as equal but treated as such. This is my hope).

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The fight is not yet over.

When I hear of an American woman being put on academic probation because she had a man over to her room and was subsequently raped by this man, the fight - our fight - is not yet over.*

When I hear of up to 4,000 Aboriginal women having gone missing in Canada since the 1970’s, the fight is not yet over.***

When I hear of women - way too many women, I might add -  suffocating under the burden of aloneness and the seemingly inescapable loss of societal status that comes alongside child-rearing in this country, the fight is not yet over.  

When there is shame in parenting, the fight is not yet over.

When I’ve stood in line at the Food Fare - me, now aged 44, I might add -  and have been cat-called and oogled while buying groceries (by a man, early 50’s, two young kids in tow and a wedding ring in view on his proper finger), well then - then the fight is not yet over, is it?

It is not yet over. I wish it were.

_____

And here I must stop and confess that I do not much wish to do this; that I am indeed tired and understand that few care to keep contending. For I realize only now what the danger of being closer to equality than we ever have been in Canada brings: it brings with it a rather bland complacency. And that this perhaps in itself is more dangerous to a movement than any large inequality gap in the first place. It is, indeed, the ‘good enough’ game, that things - equality for women in Canada - has gotten “good enough” for us now be expected to stop, to stop complaining, that is. That we ought to be quiet now, thank you very much. Be grateful for what we’ve got, yes?  And I would. I would, trust me. Except there’s still a problem left, you see. The problem is that any workable and lingering inequality between the sexes, even in the smallest amount, negates the inherent equality of us all.

Let me say that again: any workable and lingering inequality between the sexes, even in the smallest amount, negates the inherent equality of us all.

Indeed, it negates what I have come to understand as the inherent and God-breathed value of each person to the other, regardless of gender or biology.

(For tell me what is a woman to think when paid .87 on every dollar earned by her equally qualified and educated male counterpart? What message does this send?)*****

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I do not have much in me with which to fight. I have opinions (be they what they may), bits and pieces of education and of course, the rather commonplace experience of being female in a generally still made-for-male world.  

But other than that, no. No I don’t have much. But there is one thing that I do have. One thing that carries me on. And it is this: I have the damnable stubborness of hope. A hope that knows things can and ought to be better. That indeed we were designed for better: that the term ‘wage gap’ will one day be obsolete. That we will live in a country where 1 in 4 Canadian women will no longer to live below the poverty line.***** That no one would even THINK to tell me - a full grown woman at the time, i might add  - in this new and better world of true equality - to go back to the office, to go back indoors, where I belonged.******

No, no one would tell me that.

And so on days like today - days when I’d rather curl up with a book, when my health feels slightly less than stellar and the fatigue has come to once visit again, well. Well then.

When family friends start to remark: why can’t you just play nice?

Well.

Well then I guess that I have to admit that I can’t. I won’t. Because you see, this fight - as close as we are, as far as we have already come - it  is not yet over. It is not yet over. Not for me, not for you.

I wish things were better. I wish that my son - my five-year-old son - had not already in his few years of being alive - somehow absorbed the idea that to be female is somehow to be less. That women are lesser. And “weak”. And not as important. And this, despite all my best efforts to the contrary.

Damn it, I wish that Skye from PAW Patrol did not have to wear pink and that she did not have to be the smallest pup.

I wish that my son’s “no guts no glory” adorned shirts were not only hanging in the boy’s section of the local supermarket but also in the girl’s. Or better yet, that the there was a kids’ clothing section. Period. No frills, no designation of the sexes and who ought to be wearing what, when! That both genders (no matter what the age) could choose clothes that remind them (and us adults) on a daily basis of what it is to simply be our bravest and strongest.

And not only to be pretty, adorable. Sweet. Silent.

I wish pharmaceutical testing included the full effects on women, and not just male patients, as if half the population of the world did not exist. As if our bodies were interchangeable with men’s and that the effects of differing hormone levels on medication and health in general were not an issue.*******

I wish that when I was still out in the work force - when I was not yet at home full-time to raise my son - when my first degree framed and hung on the wall at the time - that I had been paid equal to my similarly educated male co-worker. This, while I worked at a you guessed it - religious based non-profit.  

I wish that I didn’t like the institutionalized church mostly because of what it has done and continues to do to women.

I wish that to be seen as legitimate in such an institution I did not a) have to be married b) have to have a child. I wish they knew what to do with me when I was still single and  - save for not having a penis - equally qualified to lead as the males around me.

I wish it weren’t predominately mothers taking care of the oodles of kids in Sunday schools. I wish someone would think to give them a break.

I wish fostering other’s kids were not a way for women to gain legitimization, a space at the holy table - in many churches.

I wish that my manager at the time when I still worked at that religiously affiliated non-profit had not told me outright that they had decided to pay my co-worker more because “he would be able to wear a tie and connect better with local pastors”.  This, at a place where our practice everyday was to raise money to fund the equalization of women - of girls - overseas. And that when I brought up this discrepancy of ideology within the organization itself the man with whom I spoke did not see it as a problem.

But it’s easier to think that the issue is only overseas.

I hope. I promise you this; I stubbornly hope that my vagina will be one day held in equal esteem to that of anyone’s penis. In Canada. In 2019. In my lifetime. I hope.

But until then, I will fight. I will. I promise you this.

Happy International Day of the Woman. And may the contending for justice be ever with you.

________


*When I hear of a woman being put on university probation: the administrators did not report the incident to the police. Instead, she - the woman - was placed on a two-year academic probation, possibly for having a man in her room in the first place. The alleged assailant was not charged with a crime.** Source: The Washington Post, May 22, 2018

** Since this time, the school administrator at the centre of this controversy has since been fired. Source: The Washington Post, May 30, 2018

***missing and murdered Aboriginal women: although both parties admit that there IS a problem of missing and murdered Aboriginal women in this country, the RCMP and Indigenous women’s groups differ greatly on just how many women are indeed missing. Frankly, any number is atrocious. Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2019

****I think that these guys say it best so I’m just going to drop it in here (bold added for emphasis): Yet pay inequality between women and men is a persistent phenomenon. According to data from the Labour Force Survey, women in Canada aged 15 and older earned $0.87 for every dollar earned by men in 2017, as measured by average hourly wages. Source: The Gender Wage Gap and Equal Pay Day, 2018

*****for more fun-filled stats on what has been labeled ‘the feminization of poverty’, and why women in Canada disproportionately find themselves living in such conditions, see the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund pamphlet. An entertaining read! Guaranteed to get you lots of laughs at your next party!

******told to go back  indoors, where I belonged: that time when a man of middle-to-older age took it upon himself to reprimand me for daring to be outside, *gasp* painting the side of a cabin. What are you doing out here? You should be back in your office! he reprimanded. Painting the side of a cabin is man’s work!

(Note to reader: I happen to like painting).

*******despite other advances in equality, women remain stubbornly underrepresented in medical science, Source: George Washington University, March 3, 2014.

Yay us!

Seriously though, this is not acceptable. This, nearly two decades after a law mandating in inclusion of both sexes in biomedical research. We still have a long way to go, my friends. We still have a long way to go.


Weirdo.

I wish that I could be charming. But instead I am weird.*

I could say that it - this weirdness, that is - it is God’s fault. Yeah, I could. He, after all is responsible for the base outline of who I am, isn’t he?** That barely drawn, zygotic blueprint of me, first shoved and then developed in my mother’s womb so long ago. Yes, I could blame him. For him, he dang-nam-it HE is the one who on that auspicious day when I was theoretically and perhaps biblically “pieced together in my mother’s womb”, He  - he! - like I’d imagine a mad and holy Swedish Chef orshca borscha-ing*** away in the kitchen, decidedly thought, hmmm. Maybe this one should have a bit of this and a dash of that and hey guys! (As I envision him yelling to the workers way up there up in that somewhere-in-the-cloudy-heavens baby-making factory).

You! You there in the back! Yeah! Let’s put some zing into this one. Yeah, let’s just try. Play with her frontal lobe**** just a bit. Yeah, both sides. And oh, see all that stock introspection that has been lying around since the baby boomers came and went? Yeah, it’s making a mess. We just gotta use it. It’s going to expire soon anyway. Just throw it all in.

But Sir! (and here I picture all of those little angel-elves bleating meekly into the face of this all-powerful YAHWEH). What about - what about the space? (Horrors!) Putting in all that, eccentricity will - well will *shiver* destroy her ability to be charming! To be amiable, proper, able to *gasp* smile warmly at all cashiers and service clerks! Maybe even make little jokes, quips about the price of groceries….you know, the stuff people do!

And so God thought.

And God thought.

And then at last he spoke: do it anyway.


And so I was done.

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*on being weird: like most human creatures who have walked this earth, I have been called names. And some of these designations have been beneficial to my self-esteem and some not so much. There have been the usual (and might I add boring) cat-calls and then the rather commonplace b*tch! when I have refused to smile or laugh or engage in (usually) a male’s behaviour that I have found - for one reason or another, reprehensible. Yes, there have been many: you are prideful (true, I admit this now), you are not special (sort of true, sort of not - still hurtful to hear) and of course: you are stubborn (yes. Yes I am, thank you very much. I’m glad that you noticed).

But of all the words that have been thrown at me - and I dare say that there have been relatively few compared to many other people with whom I have spoken of this - the one that has stuck, the label that went the deepest - was being called ‘weird’. Weird. True, there are more dangerous words, ones that run the lines of being racist and sexist and all over damaging. But for me, it was simply being called odd.

It was, of course,  the way it was said.

It started happening around grade 4, although I suspect that the family member who decided to start naming me this must have thought it prior. And to be fair, I was weird. Well, creative. Thoughtful. Quiet. Reflective. (All the things this name-calling adult did not wish for me to be). And so, in their frustration at my ‘oddness’, I heard ‘you are so weird’ over and over. In and of itself, it is not such a bad thing - although I now find it amusing that such a tightly religious person would (out of all the words to pick to label me) choose to use this one, this one that derives it origins from the supernatural, the occult, and oh, those good ol’ witches of Macbeth!  Ha! No, this person probably didn’t know this when they began called me strange. They just knew that I was different than them. And artistic. And that - to them - was bothersome.

To clarify - in the end, I have made my peace. Both with the word and with this person.

**while I am using the pronoun ‘he’ in reference to God, I do not pretend to prescribe any gender to him. Or her. Or whatever. I am aware of his/her awesomeness that extends way beyond gender or little fleshy body bits and pieces. Thus, for the sake of ease of writing and due to familiarity for most readers, I will - for now -  continue to use the male pronoun when referring to The Almighty.

***no offense to the Swedish of course. Or fans of the Swedish Chef, for that matter. Borky bork bork!

****frontal lobe: responsible for things like emotional expression, problem solving, judgment…some scientists would call it the ‘control panel’ of our personalities, the area that designates what makes us, ‘us’, as well as our ability to communicate. Funny story though: years and years ago when I first starting getting aura migraines, I was immediately sent for an MRI of my brain, just to make sure all was okay-dokay in there. Turns out that I am fine. My brain is fine, and the reason for the migraines remains unknown (to this day). But they did discover something. They discovered that my right temporal lobe was (at the time) slightly atrophied. Shrunken. Ha. I love it. Guys, I am slightly brain-damaged. Ha, ha! I am not sure why, but I find this piece of information terribly funny. Perhaps it is that brain-damage talking. Or perhaps I am truly lacking in couth. And for that, I apologize. Sort of.