Tuesday 8 March 2016

It's International Women's Day & I'm A Women's Libber!

International Women's Day is the perfect time to look back on our gains and losses in the last few generations.

I'm amazed when someone tells me they've never been one of those Women's Libbers.  Are they telling me they believe women should be chattels, unable to vote and their property passing to their husband on their marriage? Are they saying they don't believe in equal pay for equal work, equal education and equal opportunity in employment?  Are they saying they don't care about violence toward women?

It's easy in 2016 to forget the path cleared by the courageous women who went before us; the novelists who brought the plight of women to the general consciousness, the suffragettes who endured scorn and imprisonment to gain the right to vote and to forget the tireless lobbyists for women's rights.

I was reading Marilyn French's last novel written before her 2009 death, The Love Children. Amid the nostalgia of my era of coming of age, is the realities of North American society in the 60's. I was struck by the things we didn't know were wrong with our place in our society at the time.

You can thank the Women's Liberation Movement for coining the term sexual abuse. It didn't even exist before then. Although all the women from my generation have our stories, at the time we didn't really know how wrong it was. An example is a friend of mine who tells of being a young woman in her first office job at a manufacturing plant.  Her boss would sit behind his desk fondling himself while looking at her through the window into her office. Did she take a complaint to management? Of course not. When she was forced to go on the factory floor, she endured men saying the slogan from a fast food restaurant, Hot & Juicy, as a play on her name. Did she put in a complaint to their superiors? Of course not. We didn't even know we could complain.

We were so used to cat calls walking by construction sites and holding our books in front of our chests so the boys wouldn't make rude jokes in the high school hallways, that this didn't seem all that bad. We wrestled with groping boys on dates and tried to give creepy uncles a wide berth at family gatherings. We didn't even tell our parents any of that happening. It was somehow shameful and we felt we brought it upon ourselves in some way we couldn't understand.

It took women to start talking loud and long and often for mainstream media to focus on women's issues. It took marches and slogans and placards and, yes even an attempt to burns bras at a beauty pageant, to begin to make changes.

We could now openly talk about how uncomfortable men made us feel. In fact, we were afraid of men. Not monsters of men, just ordinary fathers, brothers, husbands, sons.  No one told them their actions were hurting us. It was all in good fun, right? It was a compliment to a girl to whistle at her or pinch her bottom, wasn't it?

No, it wasn't fun or a compliment. We were afraid you would force yourselves on us sexually. We were afraid you would beat us. We were afraid you would leave us with children and no one would make you pay support. We would have to manage on our own, undereducated, at low paying jobs.

You were our doctors, ministers and teachers and yet, at some level, we were afraid of you.

By the time I was raising my daughters, we talked about these things. I could tell them they were equal to any man and must never allow themselves to be abused in any way. I could encourage them to enter any field of employment they chose.

But with all the gains, there is a very long way for the Women's Liberation Movement to go. In Canada, according to Statistics Canada, women earn 72 cents for every dollar men earn for comparable work. Higher levels of education for women has not closed the gap. A traditionally male occupation of truck driver pays an average of $45,000/yr. Early Childhood Education, traditionally a female occupation requires a college degree and earns $25,000.  Women put in 3 to 6 hours daily of unpaid work in the home compared to men's 30 mins. to 2 hrs. of unpaid work. This has to affect job performance between the sexes.

Violence toward women is increasing and will continue to do so until the courts hand down stiffer penalties for these crimes and our attitude toward them encourages change in how we raise our boys.

I am a Women's Libber! I'm proud of it. It doesn't mean I don't like good men. I love them! Without good men, we women could not have achieved any basic, human rights. After all, it was and remains, men who hold the balance of power in the world. Good men listened to what we had to say and passed legislation and laws that empower women. Good men passed good values on to their sons, students, and employees. Good men enforce our rights.

As women of 2016, let's be proud of being part of a movement that extends around the world; free and equal in every way. Let's raise a cheer for the good men who will carry the banner alongside us!

My granddaughters are counting on all of us!

Sunday 6 March 2016

This Is Awkward

It's hard to know where to begin when I haven't done a post in over a month. A simple thank you to those of you who sent messages asking if all was well with me seems like a good start.

I'm fine. It's been a busy time for me the past few months and each day I thought I would write about what I was doing. It just never happened.

It all began after Christmas. I was turning sixty-four, winding down my home decorating business and wondering, "Where do I go from here?".  An answer didn't pop into my mind so I decided to open the door, figuratively, and see who or what walked in. I know the universe abhors a vacuum and something was bound to present itself.

Well, kids walked in. Lots and lots of kids filled the void.

One day a week I was minding one and two-year-old girls for a young mom, newly returned to work, who's regular sitter couldn't take them that day for a while. It's been many a decade  year since I've had to chase around, feed, bath, diaper and entertain toddlers for a 12 hr. day. I have tiny grandkids but their parents do all that stuff. I just do the fun Grandma things and pass them back when the stinky part happens. It took me quite a while to get back in the swing of it!

You can't really write a post about the girls picking the flowers off the geraniums and teaching them that the flowers and herbs in the house have to be treated nicely.

They're getting pretty good with leaving them alone as long as I let them do the watering. We put one of the broken blossoms in a jar of water and they saw new roots form. We planted it and they were excited that they would soon have a whole new geranium to take home with them.

Well, they will have if I can ever get the youngest girl to stop pulling the plant out of the soil to see how the roots are doing!

My 15-year-old grandson has been coming here to stay for 4 or 5 days at a time. Outside of the usual mounds of food to cook and dishes to wash that come along with teenage boys, he is a little more work in that he has to be under constant supervision. 

He has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and it gives him a wide range of problems from learning difficulties to impulse control issues to the poor self-image that comes along with living with disabilites. He panics if he thinks he is alone.

When his younger sister, suffering from FAS as well, became very difficult to handle, and with six kids in the family, my daughter and son in law were happy to have my grandson spend some time with me. I can keep things quiet here and he loves having my undivided attention, not to mention being able to order up whatever he wants to eat. I come from a big family myself and know that never, ever happens in a big family. He isn't disturbed by his sister's outbursts here. All is calm. In fact, last time he stayed here I heard him tell his sister he might bring her along next time and she could get calm, too. Ekes! What have I got myself into!

The good news is, the school had been discussing having to let him go before graduating because of his unruly behaviour. I use the term graduate loosely of course. Since he has been coming here, he has turned that around. His special ed. teacher is thrilled with the progress and feels he will make it through. It's not that I'm doing anything wonderful, it's just that I have the place and time to be of assistance to my daughter and her family.

In the middle of all this, daughter #2 was having child care issues of her own. She has a daughter in kindergarten and a one-year-old boy. When she returned to the workforce, she hired a nanny and thought all would be well. She lives in a large city and there is a shortage of daycare spaces. That also means nannies are in high demand. As soon as she got one worked in, the nanny would quit for a better paying job. Even shelling out most of her paycheck for babysitting wasn't holding them. She lives an hour away from me and did her best to not call me in, except as a pinch hitter, so when she called I knew she really needed it.

At one point, I felt I was juggling an awful lot of balls and trying to keep them all in the air! One week the girls I mind had to come an extra day in the week. The next day my grandson arrived. He stayed for four days. Daughter #2 called to see if I could go mind her son for two days. I couldn't do the first one because I already was babysitting but I could leave the house at 6:30 in the morning to do the second day. Have I ever mentioned that I am not a morning person?

The good news is, things have settled down for me. Daycare spaces have opened up and I'm not pinch hitting anymore. My grandson will continue to come for respite care and I'm getting quite good at chasing toddlers around again.

Spring is coming and I'm catching my second wind!

The ice went out of the river. I breathed a sigh of relief as I stood and watched it crack and groan and race away carrying all kinds of debris with it. ~

We made it through the winter!  We stuck together and helped each other and everything turned out fine. I even got a little more physically fit from the toddler workout sessions!

Although .... I may be a little more careful next time I say I'm going to throw the doors open and see what comes in. Maybe I'll install a peephole and take a look at what I'm getting into first!