Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas present to young conservatives

This article is my 2014 Christmas present to young conservative voters.

A conservative youngster recently commented to me that "maybe more women should get involved in politics," and I agree.

However, the context implied that women were to blame for their unequal treatment before law:
In this view, it was women's own fault for not participating in government, for not working on equal jobs, for not being elected to political offices, for not standing up for women's rights. They were to blame, in effect, for not having equal pay, equal respect, and equal political representation and so on.

That is where we disagreed.

I know: If you are a conservative you may not accept what follows just because I say it is so, but if you will allow me to, I would like to share some stories about my mother, my Great aunt Ruth, my grandmother Dorothy Pearce and my great grandmother, Elizabeth Cairns/Aldridge. Their stories may shed some light on the situation.

American women were granted the right to vote only in 1920. Lest that seem like a long time ago to you, let me hasten to add that, seven years later, my mother was born, in 1927.

Most women, including my mother, were not even allowed to drive a car, let alone campaign for political offices. My mother learned to drive after I graduated from high school.

The culture of the time believed that a "woman's place is in the home," not in the work force. Women had not need to drive, and when they did begin to drive, there was a rash of women's driving jokes that went on for decades.

World War II had depleted the availability of workers for a time, and women were reluctantly accepted into the work force, at reduced salaries compared to men, and they were typically supervised by men. My great grandfather went deaf supervising women crews of riveters, building ships for World War II.

But then the war was over and the men came home from the battlefields looking for jobs. Women were once again relegated to the important work of bearing and rearing children, cooking for their husbands and providing sex.

By law, my grandmother Dorothy Pearce could not even vote as a young woman, let alone run for a public office. When her husband dumped her, she became very poor, making a living by making the beds of physicians and washing their dishes.

The real job of a woman in those days was to look beautiful and sexually appealing while changing dirty diapers, and to be good in bed while abstaining from sex outside of marriage. Women who were not "attached" to a man were viewed with suspicion or even scorn: They were the butt of old maid stories. I remember no similar jokes about old unmarried men.

The power of language
Even the American English language of my youth reflected the anti-woman bias.

We had workingmen  not working people. We had mailmen not mail carriers, firemen not fire fighters: and garbage men (no garbage women) etc.

It was not until the 1980s that my state (Oregon at the time) began requiring teachers to take classes on equal rights, and on changing the language of oppression, and this was when I first learned that the English language itself was used as a tool to keep women in their place, which is to say, in the home off the labor market, and away from all sources of income and power.

One should also keep in mind that dictionaries were normally written by men, not women, and in those days dictionaries were often considered "prescriptive" rather than "descriptive."

For centuries, male dominated language had helped block women from positions of prestige and authority, as well as from paid jobs. For example, in my younger days, almost all doctors were men. Women normally could become nurses, but not doctors. Even the gynecologists were male.

My great aunt Ruth
For cultural reasons, women turned over the family finances to men:  When my great aunt Ruth died, for example, she left her house to my father, not to my mother, even though Ruth was from my mother's side of the family, and this was as late as the nineteen-seventies!  When I questioned my mother about the reasons for this, she replied, "That's the way it was done back then."


Jackson disappears

Now let's jump in an imaginary time machine and fly backward a few more decades, back to a time well before the turn of the century: Meet Elizabeth Cairns (Aldridge) -- my great grandmother.

My mom passed this story on to me and the details -- as best as I can recall -- are as follows:

Elizabeth's first husband, whose last name was Jackson, was a businessman who was financing the building of a hotel in Astoria, Oregon. Traveling by ship from San Diego to Astoria,  he disappeared at sea. He was on the ship when it debarked but when it arrived in Astoria, he had gone missing and was never seen again: He was presumed dead.

Before Jackson's demise, Elizabeth had been fairly well off financially; they had owned (or more accurately, Elizabeth's husband had owned) a big home in San Diego, and a beach house as well, for Jackson was a builder of hotels. After Jackson disappeared, however, the banks would not even deal with Elizabeth:  The banks dealt with men, with the attorneys, not with wives. Before it was over, almost all of her money ended up in the pockets of lawyers. As stated elsewhere, business was typically handled by men and for men.

Furthermore, few jobs existed for women, and the jobs that were available were low-status gigs offering poor pay. Elizabeth lost the bigger house and moved into the beach house. Her best option was to find another man to maintain her, and so she married my great grandfather, Thomas John Aldridge, at about the turn of the century. It was an unhappy marriage: Elizabeth was often heard to say, "I should never have married an Englishman." (She was Scottish.)


Even God Himself was against women, or so it seemed

All of our institutions were stacked against women: Religion too, played a major role in keeping women in their place. Churches taught that women were responsible for all the sin and misery in the world, because it was Eve that was tempted, rather than Adam. And so on and so forth. Even today, many religiously traditional women will not vote for a woman: A woman in authority was believed to be "usurping the authority of the man," and man was considered to be "the head of the woman" and never the other way around.

Women who attempted to have a say in things were belittled as mouthy or "brazen," and so on. Men were allowed to batter such women to keep them in their place: In fact, it was the husband's responsibility to control his wife. Police often would not stop a man from "disciplining" his wife physically.

Well, this is but a start of explaining how things were. Men had always gotten their way. Male dominance had been fully institutionalized. Not so long ago, a man's wife and children were his property, as were his slaves.

Had it not been for some radical, subversive politicians and thousands of liberal voters, your mother, your sister, or you (if you are a woman), would never have had the right to vote, let alone to express her political views in public. The male head of the family spoke for their households. It was a republican  form of culture, with families normally represented by men, not by women.

Elizabeth's best option, perhaps her only option at the turn of the century, was to find another man to maintain her, and so, as I said before, she married my great grandfather, Thomas John Aldridge. Although the marriage was a poor fit, being in a bad marriage was better than being out on the street in the cold.

Thus, my young conservative friends, I rest my case: Yes, women are becoming more involved in politics in recent years, but they have a long way to go. To rise to the top in businesses, women often are required to outperform men and to accept lower pay.

To suggest that women of the past were dis-empowered by their own choice is to ignore the realities on the ground, and to shun the history of women's rights and the power of a male dominated culture to keep them in their place. When the full impact of this dawns on you, I hope that you will consider a realignment of your political alliances.

Thanks for reading this: Merry Christmas to all, and to all, equal rights.

If you liked this post, please comment and share. Thanks.



#politics #womensrights #conservativepolitics #conservativevsliberal #libertyandjusticeforall #liberalpolitics #christmaspresent #youngconservatives

 

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