145 years ago today, in 1869, the first Women’s Suffrage law in the United Stated was granted in Wyoming Territory. It was the first step in full voting rights for women in America, which was written into the Constitution in 1920. Canada gave women the vote in 1919, and the United Kingdom trailed behind, declaring universal suffrage in 1928.
The right to vote is often joined at the hip with equality for women and it’s a good excuse to talk about equality. I’ve had my nose rubbed in it several different ways lately.
Woman should be equal, where they are equal: voting, the right to own property and assets. The right to free speech. Acknowledged intellectual equals of men.
But the social upheaval of the ‘60s and ‘70s, when women fought so hard and bitterly for social equality, was a militant time, when women need to fight for absolute equality in everything. Clothing, careers, pay, social conventions (a biggie), and much more.
There were a couple of things that happened around then that were significant.
In 1973, Roe vs Wade was decided, which gave a woman the right to choose.
Also in these two decades, the cost of living outstripped the average man’s income, making it imperative that most women work and bring in an income their entire lives. Before this time, a woman could chose to remain at home and take care of her family. Not long before that, all married women gave up their jobs and stayed at home. Period.
These days, women have legal equality, they’re still bumping their heads against the glass ceiling, and the average mother is living a life so hectic, it’s insane.
Even the not-so-average mother is finding out that having it all isn’t remotely fun. Amy Poehler, the comedienne, just released an autobiography, not long after having her first child. Huffington Post reported on her lack of sleep, and stupid work hours, including appearing on national TV only hours after giving birth.
Is this what equality got us? Is this really what the Suffragettes intended?
I have to wonder about that. I have to question whether “equality” the way the liberalists of the 60s and 70s intended is such a good thing for women.
Robert A. Heinlein, one of the classic SF grand masters, said this about equality:
Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up on the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.
He said that in 1973, and I think he has proved to be eerily prophetic. Equality is a disaster for women – at least, the version of equality women fought for so doggedly and now have, more or less.
The problem is that women are not equal to men. Not physically and not mentally. We think differently, we have different biological imperatives, and different priorities. How can we be absolutely equal to men? We’re simply not the same as men.
My version of equality is rather different. If I could reshape the world with a wave of my hand, it would look something like this:
- Women are legally equal to men, have the right to vote, to buy and sell property and are legal entities in their own right. They enjoy the same freedoms as any man…and the same legal responsibilities.
- Motherhood is considered a full time career and is a highly respected vocation.
- Home Economics is an advanced degree that sets a woman up to control her own home enterprise, including financial expertise, and a knowledge of home building and maintenance, advanced diet and nutrition, basic medical care and more. (The degree would not be used just to teach sewing and cooking in high school, as the current undergrad degree does).
- Women are free to choose careers other than marriage and motherhood and do not experience prejudice for so choosing.
- Women who choose to become CEO of the household and family are paid as much as any other CEO…and get the same assistance.
- The differences between men and women are acknowledged and celebrated…and not just in romance novels. Women are secure in their identity as accomplished, well-trained, and highly skilled leaders of their families and homes.
Can you image what such a world would be like? The enormous pressure most women feel to do it all, with a smile, and still look stunning every minute of the day would disappear.
We would all be able to do exactly what we wanted to do with our lives, and our choice would be acknowledged and considered valuable. We would be paid as well as men for a career that only women could do.
That would make life very interesting, wouldn’t it?