I remember when I was younger, I often thought about how cool it would be to have more women as bosses, as leaders of countries, just generally being strong and being able to think and say what they want to. And it is like that, in a lot of ways. But sometimes I’ve noticed how much it’s been a case of “the more things change, the more things sound the same”.
It wasn’t really a revelation, but I was reminded of this a few times earlier this week during conversations with other people, observations and thoughts in the few private moments I had this week. And all the subjects seemed to be related to either women in power or women trying to use the power they thought society had given them with open arms.
On Wednesday, I was watching Oprah’s interview with Madonna, who was defending her situation with taking David Banda out of Malawi. I watched about 6 minutes of it at work, decided I’d heard more than enough, and then left.
Later, when I went to the gym and had to kill some time, I hung out in the changeroom and decided to watch some more Oprah. When I switched on the TV, I noticed the Dixie Chicks were on, talking about their new documentary, Shut Up and Sing. Essentially the movie documents the band, from the height of their success, to the flak they took from people following lead singer Natalie Maines’ comment during a concert in 2003 about being ashamed of George W. Bush for going to war in Iraq.
At one point, they were discussing the backlash they’d received from former “fans” and people angry at their stance on the war on terror, and Maines recalled people calling her and her bandmates sluts. This, all because they disagreed with the actions of their government. Let’s see, is there a definition of the word, slut?
Here’s what Merriam-Webster says:
The definitions of this word are problematic and subjective as it is. But to refer to a woman as a slut because she’s trying to exercise her country’s freedom of speech to voice a personal belief – no matter what other people think of it – is ludicrous, extremely childish and sad, knowing this was said by grown adults. And I wouldn’t be surprised if, among those adults flinging insults, some of them were women.
Above all, it’s pitiful, given what century and year this is, and angering, knowing this cop-out response has been used in the past, probably in similar circumstances. The one-liner used to explain the film – “Freedom of speech is fine as long as you don’t do it in public” – sums up how far people in societies still have to go. Great in theory, but in practice? Forget it. And if you’re a woman, it seems like it’s just as bad as if a man had said it, if not worse.
A little later that week, a friend of mine at work mentioned that a couple of our co-workers were discussing which Democrat would have a better shot at landing the U.S. presidency in 2008, if given the chance: Illinois senator Barack Obama – the “man to watch” since his new book, The Audacity to Hope was released – or Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Well, in putting my two cents in, I gave it a couple seconds of thought and offered my knee-jerkish response. Given that Rodham Clinton had already been in the White House – albeit as First Lady – I told my friend that my money would be for the underdog Obama, but that in reality that Rodham Clinton would probably get it, given the political machine that’s already up trying to pave her way back to Washington. Why not just say Rodham Clinton? The U.S. has never, ever had a woman president, oro come close. But then again, they’ve never had a black one, either. My personal opinion on this is torn, because if I were American, I’d not just be an American. I’d be an African-American woman. And what would I pledge loyalty to first: my womanhood or my blackness?
Thinking about it later, it reminded me of a conversation I had months ago with a friend of mine, whose mother has this weird opinion on women in power. Call it, again, a case of, good in theory, crappy in practice. My friend’s mom seems to think the idea of a woman in power is great, it’s about time, blah blah blah. But when a woman – Michelle Bachelet – took power in her native country of Chile for the first time in history, and my friend asked her mom what she thought, she immediately called her (Bachelet) an idiot. And from what my friend said when I asked her, it didn’t seem as if it was in response to the woman’s policies or her plans on she plans on doing now that she’s in office. She apparently had said something similar about U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
Now, I’m no fan of Ms. Rice’s policies or political beliefs as part of the Bush administration. But as a fellow woman, would I demonize her or call her an idiot, based on gender? Would I hold the same beliefs if Condoleezza were Connor instead? Hmm, not sure.
Why is it that – and this is not the case everytime – whenever there’s a woman in power, and they act the way a man might, that some people – some of those people being women among them – immediately call her names … idiot … slut … whatever? Is it because of what she does or believes? Is it because she’s a woman and people don’t think she deserves to be there?
Things are getting better. There are women in political office in different stages of government all over the globe. Women are part of various organizations, and make sure their voices are heard in a variety of venues. But are we at the point where we can be critical of individuals because of what they have to say, and NOT bring their gender into it? I think we’re still a bit off, even in this day and age. But that’s only one woman’s opinion.