Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Is the Battle Really Won?

I stress it is not a Battle against the opposite gender, as some would like to believe.  It is a war on Sexism and Racism and all existing prejudice in the world.  An older white man I recently spoke with would have me believe there is no more work to be done, that only time is needed to see progress.  I see this as laziness, an easy laziness to slip into for either side, the victim or the unknowing antagonist.  I am not friends with anyone who is directly sexist.  No one I am close to would ever hit a woman or keep a woman against her will from succeeding or trying to succeed in this world, but I am sorry to say that doesn't mean everything is hunky-dory and we're all gonna be holding hands and singing Kumbaya in Corporate Boardrooms and other male-dominated fields any time soon.

The problem is partly that many women exist peacefully within their roles, so making up 51% of the population means less when many of those women don't feel like they are at a disadvantage.  No offense to anyone's life choices, but if I was choosing a traditional role and had gone to college to get my "Mrs." than it would be easy for me to say that we have progressed quite well into gender equality.  Women have the vote now.  We can drive too right?  Wow, well, we must be well on our way in that case.

It makes me feel good that women are making up more voters, but not all have forward-thinking ideas in mind.  Some would - in the words of an old mentor of mine - "put the women's movement back twenty years!!!"  The other day I was reading an article in a 2010 issue of "Black Enterprise" about minorities in the military and my eye was caught by a line that said minorities and women "tend not to choose" branches like Infantry that lead to more career-Soldiers.  I wanted to call the editor and the author and give them a stern, "Choose your words more carefully" lecture because the issue matters so much to me, not because I think they were trying to be misleading.  Women "tend not to" because they are not allowed to be in Infantry or Armor which makes up the majority of the highest ranking Generals.  And the fact that we haven't overcome this hurdle is reason enough to make me want to take a copy of the stupid law and nail it to the desk of the guy who told me that gender equality has been reached in his eyes.  He even went on to tell me that the government "shoves equal rights" down the throats of businesses today.  He went on to say the only way the poor man who owns a business can be successful with the government is to either register his company in his wife's name or go private.  Honestly, in a world where men still earn more for every dollar to the woman, and make up 89% of CEO's in the Fortune500, how can you believe that gender equality has been reached?  I strongly encourage men like this to seriously watch the youtube of Daniel Craig cross-dressing for women's interest across the world.  It's seriously a great introduction to the man who believes he's being discriminated against by laws intended to bridge a gap that continues to exist in spite of all the time it's had to shrink more drastically.  Here, I'll include the link, please, educate yourself:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aC8Ls-5nRxM

"So are we equals?  Until the answer is yes, we must never stop asking."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why Women's Issues are Important Today

Related issues bombard the news: issues of the LGBT and other minority communities all continue to be contentious political issues as politicians interested in appealing to the widest range of people try to delicately wade through this politically charged modern world.  This makes me optimistic for pressing for further sexual equality, but while we can imagine a world of racial equality, it is a world of gender equality and without restrictive gender roles that remains a mystery to us.

I tried to picture such a world, I couldn't help but imagine same-sex couples interspersed with heterosexual couples, the burden of traditional gender roles shattered.  Men and women in all variety of fashion and clothes, from dresses to suits to togas to nude maybe.  I sort of imagined an African woman reading from a Nook sitting on some steps while a woman of Asian descent spoke with wild hand gestures on her Blackberry.  An effeminate looking man in a suit swept the floor, and an Arabic man in jeans and a T-shirt painted a wild design on the public wall.  Meanwhile a Scandinavian woman in business garb held open the door for a man of uncertain background who had floor plans in both his arms.  I guess that's a bit too far-fetched and bizarre, but really what does a world of gender equality look like?

Indeed, a lot of people hold onto a traditional idea of gender roles. They believe that such roles exist to strengthen society, or that gender equality already exists.  Else they've been stung by reverse sexism. The problem with reverse sexism is that being resentful of it does nothing for either side. Perhaps affirmative action has gotten a bad rap, but the fact of the matter is that women are not equally represented today, and are even still repressed. It is just that sexism even when it doesn't overtly bear that title, still exists.

Women as existing persons are not a minority, they make up a little over half the population. Why aren't we in a larger percentage of leadership positions everywhere? There have been theories on the percentage to reach in order to no longer be seen as a minority, somewhere around 30% before one is seen as a worker before being a token.

The stunning question is what if not enough women want that sort of life?  How can women achieve these numbers?  Is it possible to achieve these numbers?  Many women choose to be stay-at-home moms, or else take lower paying jobs because they don't need to be the primary bread-winners.  I believe that in freedom of choice they should do this, but I also believe that freedom of choice implies I should not have to work twice as hard to earn half as much respect.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Woman President - Is the United States ready for a woman as the Commander in Chief?

On March 7, 2011 this is was the question that Eva Cepeda (spelling?) of El Salvador asked at the Q&A session of the 100 Women Initiative seminar, and while it has been reported that the question left the three women moderators speechless, the answers they give have not been put under a microscope.  This was the last question of the seminar and had the most telling reaction on top of answer.  The women responding questions were the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale, Assistant Secretary of Education Ann Stock and Clinton's chief of staff Cheryl Mills...

...And their answers were roundabout, wandering, but essentially, "Not quite." They seemed not to want to admit that the United States as a whole was not ready in 2008 to see a woman as president.  Today they could readdress the question and maybe reference the Straw Poll of Iowa, but up until then no woman has come as close as now Secretary Clinton.  Now some might say there hasn't been any woman qualified for the job, but I beg to differ.  What I see is an unwillingness to acknowledge an actual problem in our own backyard.  While women in Latin America have made those strides, and the very woman who asked this question referenced the President of Costa Rica, President Rousseff of Brasil, Chile, and the former President of Panama, the United States lags in this area.  I believe part of that is the strong identification America has with "Traditionalism." While traditional values have their place and their strength, there should be room for growth and especially the growth of the position and power of women in this country.

Additionally, because women enjoy actual representation in the United States and have actually been getting out to vote more than men, and since more are completing college presently than men, there's a tendency to pretend there is no problem.  Cheryl Mills ended her answer saying the Latin America is a model of the "opportunities that we have to do the same thing." As though we are perfectly capable but luck hasn't panned out for us yet.  I may believe that after 2012, but up until this election women have not had as great of chance.  In a struggling economy it is difficult to say where women's progress towards equality in fields of pay and work will go.  It has been the trend that when the Military downsizes, the restrictions imposed based on gender are heightened. That cannot happen this time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Benazir Bhutto

Experts on Middle Eastern studies would consider this a narrow entry, barely scratching the surface of the complex topic that is political history in Pakistan, but I must address part of the story of Benazir Bhutto.  Many countries in the world have had women PMs or Presidents or Chancellors, but not the United States.

Anyway, Benazir Bhutto has a convoluted and interesting history.  This woman was prime minister in Pakistan twice, and head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), besides holding other positions in government.  Her father, who founded the PPP, was a former prime minister in Pakistan but he was executed in 1979 after a military coup.

Thus she was outside of Pakistan when she became chairwoman of the PPP, and after returning to Pakistan won her first term as prime minister.  Now whether good or bad, she was removed on charges of corruption after serving only 20 months.  She was the prime minister again from 1993-1996 and was removed again on similar charges.  She was assassinated when she returned to Pakistan after a self-imposed exile to Dubai.  Her assassination was in the city of Rawalpindi in December 2007.  Her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, is the current President of Pakistan.

There are many women leaders in today's world, from the first woman Prime Minister of Australia Julia Gillard to the current Presidente of Brasil, Dilma Rousseff.  I hope I have shed some light on this one woman who, regardless of her performance, good or bad, reflected on the progress of women in their ability to hold positions of power in the modern world.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fired Up: The Lonely Soldier

The Lonely Soldier
In The Lonely Soldier, Benedict tells the stories of five women who fought in Iraq between 2003 and 2006.
This is a great novel, in addition to a book like this there is a need for another "War Novel," based on non fiction that demonstrates a single woman's perspective or continuous perspective of women in a unit that has seen combat.
The reason I was spurred into action was an article that popped up on Twitter from a magazine called On the Issues.  While I was a Cadet at West Point we had a Book Club for books on leadership in combat and under stress. While the books were those like "Black Hearts" or "War" by Sebastian Junger or "Matterhorn" none of them had a woman officer or NCO I could relate to. All of them made me feel frustrated and inadequate for being a woman and not being able to be the embodiment of what the Army considers the best of the best or the absolute: Infantry.

I own Lonely Soldiers and I asked the Commandant if we could read something like that in the book club as well and his response was politely that he didn't think that book or any other existing book written by a woman or featuring women fit the description he was looking for in a "leadership" book. He said they were too much like "memoirs."
Yes, I thought a war story told from the perspective of those in a unit was sort of like a memoir also... but now I want to know what book could be recommended and how can we get the whole Corps to read it, to understand that women leaders are an important part of today's Army?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

This One's For the... Women?

I'm feeling motivated.  From where, you might ask, is this new found inspiration of mine?  Well, the answer lies in a recent conversation with people who have a higher rank than I do.  This will have to be reported gingerly, as people who don't know they are being listened to say things they might not fully mean.  At any rate, I have gotten into the habit of explaining to people that the use of the term "women" has become taboo in the military in places it should not be taboo.  Also, the word "female" is overused and a very sterile term used when it is either unnecessary to identify gender or in order to avoid non-PC terms like "chick", "babe", "girls", or any number of unsavory and demeaning terms for "women."  It was explained to me like this:  when it is appropriate to differentiate by gender and you would have to use the term "male" than it is okay and encouraged to use the term "female," however when you would say "Soldier", "Officer", or "Men" than it is appropriate to use "women" or "ladies."  Besides the terms "male/female" are used outside of the military when you describe animals not people.  How many times have you referred to a group of guys or girls and said, "The males are going to the bachelor party while the females go to the bridal shower."  Um... probably never.

So I now educate small groups of people on this difference whenever an opportunity comes along, usually when having to wait an extraordinary time for something and someone says "female" unnecessarily.  I don't bring it up if there's a time crunch... but anyway someone above me overheard my spiel and he made a point to tease me about it. Which was funny the first couple of times... but after the third day began the same way I brought it up with him and asked politely if he found the concept really so amusing.  Considering he worked in the psychology dept. I was a bit surprised he was making so much fun when it really was an Army-wide habit that I was still guilty of from time to time in spite of self-correcting whenever possible.

I have been batting around "fem-servations" lately on the position of women in the world.  I want to see even more progress.  I can't let the lack of progress frustrate my performance... but I can certainly move towards the goal of forwarding women's interests either with this blog or with articles or some other outlet for this.  Or a combination of those things.  So with this blog, I address the "female" vs "ladies" question.  I've also neatly separated the unrelated and emotional preface from the actual 'meat' of this article.  And I hope this helps with future blogs as well.  This is one of a list of issues I plan on addressing this week.  So more to follow - and soon!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I Hate EZPass and other Truths

The reason I hate EZPass is that it would be so easy for me to put on my emergency lights and step out and pay the toll the lane over when I've been boxed by New Jersey's traffic into the EZ Pass lane.  Also when I tried to argue my first violation, their online system and answering machine wouldn't put me in connect with a real person... that is unless I was willing to sign up for their stupid system which would have cost me about 75% of the "ticket" and necessitated a week long wait or more.  Stupid really.  I could risk a traffic accident by crossing lanes of busy traffic in rush hour, or they could just have a real person available for these petty mistakes they call violations.

The next truth is pretty little rich boys are terrible people.  I was recently in a petty game of chicken with one.  We were having a brief summer romance without any real feeling, but honestly nobody was going to win that game.  He was so absolutely vapid I had to stop talking about intellectual topics, or politics, or religion in order to have a pleasant conversation.  This is the same boy who actually believed that the capability for sexy dancing was a redeeming quality, and not in the ironic sense.  The same boy who called my upbringing sheltered because my folks aren't the kind who jumpstart businesses into corporate success. Because my folks never owned a 50-ft boat, and my folks never took us on road trips in cars with TV Screens in the backs of the front seats.  So I guess being part of middle-class America makes me "sheltered."  What a shame, I really wish I could have the expanded outlook on life that this kid does.  This kid who can't even get his academic act together enough to get a free weekend during summer school.  Summer school is supposed to be a joke, I remember taking a class to get ahead in my double-major days.  He was at risk for failing in the summer.  And I'm sure he had some dumb excuse, perhaps it was the weather or his brother rebelling against his parents who sound like wonderful people (the kind who double-park their fancy cars, btw if you see such a car in Colorado or California maybe it's them and if you took a jalopy and took a side mirror off an asshole double-parker I'd be mighty grateful).  This is the same brilliant lad who decided to mess around with his math tutor his freshman year... and then epically failed math.  Yes, so maybe I lowered my standards because he was pretty.  But I really didn't think I'd be the one who lost this game of chicken.  Silly me, I truly overestimated the value of my wit and humor to this kid.  It's not really a loss, merely an annoyance.  This guy was honestly offended when I told him - as a joke - to work on his abs.  When I self-deprecatingly made fun of myself he didn't thank me or correct me, he only sulked a little more and frowned at his abs.  This 'golden' boy really defines narcissism.  You wouldn't be able to miss him even if you wanted to... but if you ever have a small doubt in your mind just look around the guy giving off the shallow vibe.  He'll have a strong jaw and blue eyes, but there will be next to no guy friends in sight.  There may be one slightly overweight guy who is hoping hopelessly to benefit from the castaways of his better-looking friend, but that will be all.  The rest will be girls and I guarantee you they are part of his imaginary harem.  Not that he is not capable of wrangling one made up of many a girl he's seduced with his charm... but it's just you would think no girl with half a brain could tolerate him longer than six months.