Friday, July 28, 2006


Packing the Supreme Court with Conservatives bids ill for the progress women have made in the last 100 years. Few women who have tasted independence would want to go back.

Even so, the social aspect of gender inequality still persists. Women dress in impossible costumes and killer footwear. Despite what one sees on the TV sitcoms, she is helpless to defend herself or run from danger.

She cannot open doors for herself; she cannot put on a coat or wrap and she needs to lean on something to stand or walk. She is an ornament, useless as a human, but beautifully robed like the most gracious flower and like the flower dependent on her youth and beauty for acceptance.

But now in the 21st century, many women have escaped those limits and confines. They wear the cloths and shoes of activity. They are beginning to see themselves as useful, self actualizing human beings.

A recent news item telling about Rosie’s Girls is both illuminating and enlightening – mostly from what the girls themselves experienced. For three weeks a class of 25 local middle school young women learned trades, gained leadership and collaborating skills.

Two of them, Brit and Anna were eager to be challenged at the Technology Center “without having to worry about boys being around – whether as distraction or competition”.

“I’m so glad there are no boys here!” said Anna. “It’s just that you can come here in sweat pants and a T-shirt and just be yourself. The camp is sponsored by the Northern New England Tradeswomen [NNET] and named for Rosie the Riveter – the famous symbol of working women from W W 2.

Britt said she got “a big kick out of wielding a blowtorch while Anna delighted in building furniture. Both reveled in the opportunity for challenge.

When girls are young they think they can do anything and then they get pulled into the tidal whirlpool of gender oriented customs. The camp helps them develop. It helps them to “know who they are and what they can do.”

This includes repairing bikes or cars, wiring, firefighting or welding. “There is an enormous amount of confidence you can develop when you walk into a room and know what a jigsaw is and how to use it”, explains Tiffany Bluemle, executive director of the NNET.

Along with the training sessions in carpentry and other trades, the girls talk with women in the work force, discuss social issues and engage in physical activities such as ropes courses and self defense classes.

Anna used to spend a lot of time worrying about expensive outfits or fixing her hair. “No more.” She vowed. “I’m going to lay off the outfits and the makeup. I’m going to be me. Life isn’t supposed to be something you’re worrying about. It’s something you’re supposed to live.”

Such a glorious sense of being and becoming -- but how quickly our society will move in to take her down. The very training and opportunities that boys have always been privileged to receive and benefit from are stifled for girls in the cruelest ways. They are still valued for their looks rather than their accomplishments.

And the Supremes are poised on the brink of taking women back to the 19th century unless a Democratic majority takes over Congress this year.
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