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Gender Bias

(Part 1 of "People 'Knew Their Place'")

Unfortunately, gender bias has been around since long before the founding of our great nation and, given the prevalence of modern gender bias issues, it looks like very little has changed in that regard. So much for our claims of having a "more civilized" society.

For instance, American school children are routinely taught about the courage and determination of America's Founding Fathers and the revolution against the oppression of the American colonies by Great Britain. But what about the Founding Mothers? Women of equally extraordinary courage and intelligence who also had a significant influence on the ideas and ideals of early American history, women like Abigail Adams and Mercy Warren. (If you just asked yourself, "who?", I think I've made my point.)

Despite fighting for the right to even have a voice in the election of the president (finally reluctantly granted in 1920 - after almost 150 years - via the 19th Amendment), and several generations of women who have served in our military forces with honor and distinction, women are still (more often than not) victims of gender bias and sexual harassment.

"You can roll that stone to the top of the hill, drag your ball and chain behind you. You can carry that weight with an iron will or let the pain remain behind you."

Sexual Harassment

How often have we read or heard about politicians at almost every level of the government whose prominence and/or political career was effectively ended by allegations and/or evidence of sexual harassment? To me, it seems to be a pretty clear indication that our political culture has not only authorized but emboldened many of these so-called "leaders" to disrespect the autonomy of women. This sort of conduct highlights their reality: the fact that they do not sincerely view women as their equals. Instead of treating women with dignity and respect, or as personal and intellectual equals, as far as they are concerned, women are to be objectified and devalued.

But the reverse (a woman sexually harassing a man) is also true, and an equal concern. Granted that such incidents are an "exception" rather than "the norm", but it does happen, and it should also not be tolerated.

"Carve away the stone, carve away the stone. Make a graven image with some features of your own."

Let me be clear on this: anyone who is accused of harassment deserves due process. Everyone in the workplace - regardless of that workplace - should be able to pursue their careers without fear of harassment. If an incident of harassment does take place, there should be an avenue for reporting it and quickly investigating whether the incident is verified or unsubstantial. This is similar to current monitoring and reporting methods of child abuse claims. If there is an indicated report (one that turns up potential evidence), steps must be quickly taken to protect the victim. If numerous non-indicated reports (ones that turn up no evidence) have been filed, this is a sign that a more thorough investigation is required.

Communication is critical. Sometimes these situations can be remedied by simply talking things over. It is important to ensure that people have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes without automatically losing their careers or facing public humiliation on the basis of a misunderstanding.

Childcare Concerns

One of the most difficult obstacles for parents, especially single parents, is navigating how their children are cared for while accommodating their work schedule. In addition to the cost of childcare being incredibly high, there is a great concern regarding the availability of quality care.

I propose the idea of a child-garden, a non-profit organization that provides childcare through volunteerism. This is an arrangement that could work especially well for lower-income families and/or those in which a parent (or parents) only work part-time or have a non-typical schedule. On an off-day, the parent could volunteer to help watch the other parents' children at the child garden while being able to bring their own kids along. This allows parents to spend time with their own children while also helping meet the care needs of other parents in their communities.

In this scenario, the non-profit will not be bound by nearly as many expensive requirements and regulations that current childcare facilities are bound by. Of course, traditional childcare options will still be available for those who prefer them.

"Chip away the stone, chip away the stone. Make the burden lighter if you must roll that rock alone."

Fixed Traditional Gender Roles

We all take on roles in our lives, whether at home or with friends and colleagues. The adoption of certain roles often makes working together more effective and no one can really argue that working together is not useful. Ultimately, together, we promote a healthy life for everyone, but fixed traditional gender roles often lead to discrimination and angst. While some of these roles have provided a sense of order and familiarity, many of them also come laden with a number of drawbacks that can (and have) perpetuated inequality, limited individual potential, and ultimately hinder social progress.

After all, women don't need extra muscle to perform a desk job, and even the military opened its doors to women during and after the Second World War. While the list of traditional gender roles sometimes varies across cultures, there are, nevertheless, persistent social expectations for how men and women should behave even though it's commonly known that our brains can adapt to almost anything (except the idea that there are more than two political parties).

"You can drive those wheels to the end of the road, you will still find the past behind you. Try to deny the weight of the load, try to put the sins of the past behind you."

Unfortunately, there are some people who are violently insistent that there are only two genders (based on their religious or scientific beliefs) and that the roles of each are firmly fixed and immutable. In most societies, there is an agreement that the traditional role of women is more nurturing while that of men is more dominant. There are, however, others who, while exploring their own social coping techniques, may believe that they don't fit into either of "those archaic stereotypes". And who can blame them? There are many global cultures who are now questioning whether biology is enough of a reason to insist on traditional gender roles.

But there is a more underlying and, quite frankly, Machiavellian aspect to the insistence of traditional gender roles in our culture; one that seeks to thrust an entire segment of our society into second-class citizenship, or worse. Not only are women, regardless of age, social position, or individual ability, being systematically stripped of their rights to have any voice in their own future, they are now also being stripped of their own bodily autonomy. But that's really a topic all on its own.

"Roll away the stone, roll away the stone. If you could just move yours, I could get working on my own."

What seems strange to me is that there are other women who are actively advocating for the repeal of those rights. Seriously, what gives? Personally, it would not surprise me that the life goal of these 'actively advocating' women was and is simply to be a trophy wife.


Committee to Elect Darren Hamilton
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