When I was about 12, I became acutely aware of the perceived roles of men and women. I started asking lots of questions such as “Why are there no female priests? How come the stories in church seem to have mostly male main characters? Why are the politicians in Washington always a bunch of old men? Why is my doctor never a woman? How come mom works AND does the housework, but I never see dad cleaning the toilet.” This was the 1980’s. My elders thought we were so progressive back then, but how come I could still see these obvious differences and discriminations?
Now I am 44. Things are better. But still not equal. When I was 32 and gave birth to my daughter, I still heard people using the antiquated phrases, “Born out of wedlock” or “unwed mother” to describe my daughter and myself. I was a highly educated, professional woman and decided to keep my pregnancy with my daughter’s father. But he wanted the baby’s last name to be his, and he threatened to leave right after I gave birth if I didn’t forsake my last name on the birth certificate as it is “traditional” for the child to have the father’s last name. I began to know my ultimate strength as a woman that day when I managed to slip my last name along with his on her birth certificate when he momentarily looked away. I ended up having the strength to kick him out of my house when she was still an infant with terrible colic. I had a fabulous career that I loved, friends and family that supported me, and a great income. I knew that even though I was not married, I would never be alone. Now my daughter is 12 and she is noticing the ways of the world. I try to point out prejudices and barriers that still exist for women, and I hope that she will one day find her strength as a female In this society that still does not view the sexes as equally capable of self-defined success.