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Dreams and Political Will

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who read the Sunday comics, and laughed at Dick Tracy's two-way video communicator watch. Heck, he got better reception than the TV, and never needed to whack the thing to clear up the picture. It was quite obviously fantasy.

On the other hand, she lived in the aftermath of a very robust civil rights movement. She knew that women weren't making as much money as men yet--but that was changing, and certainly by the time she was grown up, or at least by the time her daughters might be looking for jobs, we'd have had a female President and roughly half of the CEOs in the country would be women.

Fast-forward to the present.

Last year, I got a Skype-tour of my daughter's dorm room. I chat with people on the other side of the world almost daily and have collaborated on stories with people I've never met in person. The only thing that has kept us from video-conferencing on cell phones is that we (or at least I) have, when I've had it for technology, spent my money on a working computer rather than an up-to-date fancy cell phones.

But we have the technology!

On the other hand, equal pay for equal work is still a dream. Equal _recognition_ for equal work is also just a daydream--during #feministsf chat today on Twitter, we were given a link to yet another study showing that speculative fiction by women get fewer reviews than fiction by men.

Why do I still live in a world where women always, always face challenges that men don't?

I heard an interview on NPR, a man who looked into what we--the human race--is capable of doing. He came to the conclusion that most of the things that were just dreams when I was a little girl are possible today. Why aren't they real?

All we need to make these dreams reality, he said, is money and political will.

Of course, he was talking about scientific progress. But how much of our social progress is fostered--or hindered--by money and political will?

After all, geek-toys were, when I was young, guy-toys. It wasn't Brenda Starr who had the wrist-communicator, after all.

Is it really a coincidence that the techie dreams became real, and equality for women didn't?


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 12th, 2012 07:29 am (UTC)
Answer: We stop allowing men to outsource all the caring duties to us for free.
Mar. 12th, 2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of highly-skilled jobs out there that are underpaid or not paid at all because they're "only" caring for our next generation of grownups.

It's not the only area where we seriously undervalue skilled work (economically, anyway), but it is an important one.
Mar. 12th, 2012 11:47 am (UTC)
I think we are making progress.

It sure isn't as fast as I'd like, though.

One thing I seem to recall about speculative fiction is that it used to (perhaps still does) assume very little social change. Remember the Jetsons? They still had Jane doing the vaccuuming, while George got in a car-equivalent and went to a job-equivalent. I remember watching it when I was a kid and thinking it was just like the Flintstones; only the props, sets, and costumes were different. Books were a little better--but only a little, generally. A lot of Heinlein's work, for example, assumed that, while women might have jobs and degrees, the organization of domestic chores would remain pretty much the same--and he was one of the better ones, IIRC, because at least his work did assume that women would be engineers and scientists and so on.

I wonder if stories of that sort were paving the way for the sparks of the technological changes, and whether the difficulty we seemed (looking back on it) to be having re-imagining women's place in relationships and society has something to do with the difficulty we have having getting to full equality now.

Now there are great writers re-imagining society--Sherri S. Tepper pops to mind--and they've been doing it a while, so maybe I'm talking through my hat. But I wonder.

And I have to say, I'm really happy for all the progress we've been making in gay rights and I don't grudge a bit of it. But it would be nice to see it echoed in women's rights.
Mar. 12th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
Women made a lot of progress before gays even got started. I wonder if it's hard to change society on more than one front at once. I also wonder if it's not just that "gay" is short that led to the word for male homosexuals being used as the umbrella term by most people not part of the QUILTBAG community.

I wonder how much, to change society, you need to catch the attention of lots of young people. How many YA authors are reimagining society?
Mar. 12th, 2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, we did. For that matter the argument can be made that we started from a better place; we might have been seen as hysterical and incompetent, but at least we weren't seen as unnatural (mostly).

But still I see so much change in attitudes on that front (with, obviously, far to go yet) and without wanting to detract from any other struggle for fairness, I wonder, why not us too? It reminds me somewhat of the campaigns to get people of color and women the vote--eventually women's voting rights got set aside and men of color got (if in some places only nominally) the vote fifty years or more before women did, which lead to some understandable bitterness.

No, I don't think it's just the relative shortness of "gay" that is why it's used as a shorthand for both genders either.

YA fiction... interesting. Maybe I should check out some more of that. I know there's some good stuff out there but I hadn't thought of it in terms of re-imagining a fairer society.
Mar. 13th, 2012 12:48 am (UTC)
I do see a lot of changes from when I was a kid to now, but many of those (like the advances for queerfolk) weren't even on my radar at the time, while women's equality was actively advancing at the time, and then stalled.

I am personally vested in both fights for equality, of course. I don't want to see one advance at the expense of the other!

This topic connects in so many obvious and not-obvious ways to many things I care about!
Mar. 13th, 2012 01:19 pm (UTC)
It reminds me somewhat of the campaigns to get people of color and women the vote--eventually women's voting rights got set aside and men of color got (if in some places only nominally) the vote fifty years or more before women did, which lead to some understandable bitterness.

I know! And think of the women of color who had to fight with the first-wave feminists trying to exile them from the vote!

Also, keep in mind the gay rights movement was spurred damn hard by the AIDS crisis in the 80s. When you've got an illness known as "the gay cancer" people unifying to fight is pretty much a given.

Mar. 13th, 2012 03:33 pm (UTC)
Huh? If there was any "white women only" campaign for women's suffrage after black men got the vote, I am unaware of it.

I thought I had researched this era reasonably well. But I am willing to learn.
Mar. 13th, 2012 04:59 pm (UTC)
It wasn't a "white women only," but racism had some pretty nasty splashover during the women's suffrage movement. Ida B. Wells, for instance, took Frances E. Willard on due to such sentiments as, "It is not fair that a plantation Negro who can neither read or write should be entrusted with the ballot."

Elizabeth Cady Stanton also used racist rhetoric in her discussion of the women's vote.

And then you've got this. It seems there was quite a bit of rage that black men got the vote before white women.

...it's actually kinda interesting, seeing the same sort of schisms and tension between queer and trans activists today.

Note that I am NOT that well-read about this era, so feel free to correct me on this.

Mar. 13th, 2012 05:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, that is the understandable bitterness I was talking about.

Many of the leaders of the suffragist movement had been faithful supporters of abolition for many years. They thought (quite reasonably in my opinion) that abolitionists should similarly support them, and that blacks and women should obtain the right to vote at the same time.

When bills were drafted to give blacks the right to vote, however, women were excluded. Abolitionists made no moves to support women's suffrage in any other way either (that I know of.) As a direct result, black men got the right to vote fifty years before women did. Most of the women who were betrayed grew old and died without ever seeing women get the vote.

This led to predictable bad feeling. The racism in question is deplorable, and has since been laid aside, but nobody is at her most reasonable when she has been so decidedly stabbed in the back with such devastating results.

There was, however, no push I am aware of to gain only white women the vote.
Mar. 13th, 2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
There was, however, no push I am aware of to gain only white women the vote.

Oh no, that I agree with. The thing is, BLACK WOMEN were stabbed in the back too. That white women, while fighting for the right to vote, splashed it on black women who were probably equally stricken is completely deplorable to me. The black women had to deal with the racism in their own groups, while at the same time fighting for the right to vote. That's what I meant to say, not that the racism manifested in ways that only white women should get the vote.


Mar. 13th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC)
Indeed they were; stabbed in the back twice over. By their fellow women's racist statements, and by their fellow blacks' refusal to work with them to obtain their right to vote.

That sucks big time, I absolutely agree.
Mar. 13th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC)
Fifty years is a very long time!
Mar. 13th, 2012 07:05 pm (UTC)
It wasn't until I sat down and subtracted the years of the beginning of the movement(s) and the respective amendments from each other that I realized that women fought for generations to get the right to vote, and many of the ones who began the fight must have grown old and died without seeing the end of it. It made me want to weep.

And to damn well vote if I have to drag myself to the polls on my hands and knees.
Mar. 14th, 2012 12:44 am (UTC)
I knew many of them died before the right to vote was achieved.

I agree that the best way to honor them is to vote!
Mar. 12th, 2012 01:04 pm (UTC)
Because it's easier to change our toys than it is to change our minds?

Mar. 12th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
LOL! That response would even fit in a tweet.


I think it's also pretty accurate.
Mar. 13th, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
I've really enjoyed some of your recent posts, btw, and just not had time and energy to comment.
Mar. 13th, 2012 01:14 pm (UTC)
No problem! From what we've seen, you certainly have had enough on your plate!

Mar. 12th, 2012 02:16 pm (UTC)
It is a fact that we humans evolve faster technologically than we do sociologically. Our brains can't keep up with our own brains! But progress has been made, and will continue even though it seems the men are still running things. The difference is, each generation is being raised by more equality-minded women than they had been raised with. Each generation gives us more men who WANT equality for women. All? No, but more and more. And, let's face it, while they're "in charge" we need them on our side. The idiots making problems for us right now are those generally born in that era wherein MAN was GOD and women (whether wives or mothers) were there to serve them. That breed can't last forever, but the female half of the human race isn't going anywhere. :)
Mar. 12th, 2012 06:57 pm (UTC)
I know what you mean. I know that I am more hesitant with men who are a certain amount older than me to hold a door for them--at a certain generation, they interpret it as meaning I think they are infirm! For most men younger than me, the same rule as for another woman applies--whoever gets there first or whoever is less burdened holds the door as a courtesy human-to-human.
Mar. 12th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
I worry that the pendulum is swinging the wrong way already. Social regressives seem more prominent and vocal than they did twenty years ago. Maybe I'm wrong -- no doubt I have rose-colored memories of the '90s. Or maybe social conservatism is enjoying a temporary resurgence with the general rightward shift of American attitudes after 9/11, and will subside as religious extremists continue to overreach themselves and alienate the wider population. The war on birth control, in particular, seems bound to disabuse many of the saner religious types.

Despite those possibilities, I can't shake this paranoia that we're losing hard-fought ground to the Bronze Age social systems we had only begun to leave behind. The next twenty or thirty years will see significant social change parallel to massive reorganization of the Western economic system. Profitable male-dominated industries, like manufacturing and construction, will continue to decline. It's anyone's guess how that will affect relative social and economic power in the future.
Mar. 12th, 2012 06:52 pm (UTC)
I worry too. One of my friends predicted (accurately) that the election of George W would give social conservatives a lot more courage to speak out more loudly and more stridently, and that they would be much more pushy in demanding demand that others should live according to their (conservative) beliefs rather than their own beliefs.

It started before 911, though the process was accelerated and emphasized by 911.

There's always some pendulum effect, though the middle ground shifts, and sometimes shifts dramatically. The conservatives have been working hard to shift it in their direction, complaining about "left wing media" for anything that isn't far-right, and the like.

The forces behind this push to keep Americans afraid of change and afraid of (fill in the blank) have a lot of money to spend on public relations and spin campaigns. So I think there's reason to be concerned about this issue.
Mar. 12th, 2012 07:51 pm (UTC)
Societal change takes much longer. True equality way you are talking is for ever away. As long as society still gets messages from the media they way they do, think about how we are portrayed.

As long as people are free to think for them selves we will see ALL the -isms. how about this one, according to an article I read 29% of mississipians surveyed think inter-racial marriage should not be legal.

Mar. 12th, 2012 11:36 pm (UTC)
You need more than freedom to think. You need freedom to talk, to meet people different than yourself, to learn.

Hearing my daughter's reactions to going to a University full of people who have not been exposed to either the diversity she grew up with at home or the diversity she grew up with in Milwaukee's public schools (both more diverse than her new school, though quite different subsets of humanity from each other) has reminded me how important that exposure is.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )


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