You’ve come a long way, Baby

I’m on a business trip right now. LONG days here at the sattelite office. Last night I was having a rather late dinner, relaxing in the hotel restaurant and enjoying my meal.

Yes, I was alone. I have read older books, references in outdated magazines to a stigma attached to a woman eating alone in a restaurant. Some women used to feel uncomfortable and pathetic to eat alone. Some restaurants would not welcome solitary females.

But I can find a lot of pleasure in a good meal eaten alone. Especially when the meal is really worth savoring, conversation is not missed because I can focus on how delicious the food is.

Last night i had a lovely soup and salad, with interesting textures and flavors. I was delighting in my meal. I took my hair down and rubbed my head a little.

“I like your hair down.” The man from a nearby table leaned away from his other companions to tell me this tidbit.

I smiled and said thanks. I was interested in my meal.

Later, he felt the need to call over to me again.

I answered, somewhat amused. Until he said, in reference to his companions, “These guys have no idea, but you and I know what’s going to happen later.”

I said, “Well, you’re going to think whatever is in your head, and I’m going to go to bed.”

“That’s what I mean,” he said with a leer.

When I used to explore the streets in Russia, I remember I had a rule of thumb. I was worried about the safety of walking around, an American in this foreign city. I took note and realized that there were three levels. When I walked in the company of a male, any male, I was invisible. I was safe and no one paid me any attention. If I walked in the company of one other female, I got a little attention. Lots of stares, a few loud comments.

But when I walked alone, it was as if I was the property of everyone. All the men would stare, and anyone that felt like saying anything to me just when right out and said it. “Devushka..Hey girl, where are you going?”

It’s true here in America too. One male person, no matter how physically insignificant or bland, stopped all potential harrassment. It was like it never even existed.

I started to call them magic amulets. If me and some girls were gonna go out somewhere, I would ask them “Should we invite a guy to be our amulet?”

It depended on how much hassle we were willing to put up with that evening.

So, I was remembering that with the guy in the restaurant. I hadn’t thought about my harrassment formula for a while.

But my god! This was the Four Seasons, not some back-alley Russian construction site. You would think that up-scale establishments would have a clientele with a greater degree of enlightenment.

The men at that table had been talking about how much money they made earlier. It was somewhere around the million-dollar-a-year mark. At least that is what they were telling each other.

In between my delicious bites, I wondered about having that much money. I wondered if they were enjoying their meals more than I did mine. Or if they enjoyed their lives more than I did mine.

I thought about what their wives might be like. As I unerstand, men who make scads of money usually have a stay-at-home wife. It’s an agreement, just like the old days: Man makes money, women gives man anything he wants.

That how it had to be, before. Before women had equal (or mostly equal) access to employment and could pay for their own homes and sustenance.

And restaurant meals.

But I can afford my own home, and I have a job that supports me. The job even sends me out on trips and picks up the tab at a nice restaurant for me.

But my troglodyte neighbor hadn’t seemed to move into the new feminist reality, a reality that says women belong to themselves. We now have made way for women to live with dignity, and not have to tolerate male rudeness and lewdness to make their way ahead.

Jackass millionaire man had said loudly to his buddies at the table: “Look at that! There is nothing more delightful than watching this young woman here butter her cracker and take a bite with absolute enjoyment.”

Perhaps he didn’t understand that the bite I took was for MY enjoyment, not his.

I had no need of him. He started out as amusing and moved to annoying.

Feminism had meant the whole world shifted. Women no longer find men necessary.

What does this mean? I remember my mother discussing the Equal Rights amendment when I was a teenager. It was up for vote in our state, whether we would ratify it or not.

She said one important argument against it was that it would give women the same wages as men and then women would no longer be interested in being good wives and mothers. THey would abandon their families.

I told her that the argument in favor of it was that it was fair and made sense.

“It’s very complicated, ” she replied.

As it happens, she may have been right. How has family fared since the advent of economic feminism? How are marriages and children doing?

We have a high divorce rate. Higher than the 60s. How are children? That’s tough to say, but it is true that there are a lot of single parent households.

What does this mean? Should we go Taliban and turn back the clock? I don’t think that two wrongs make a right, but we still have a problem here.

How do we keep a relationship intact when niether party needs the other? When they are equally able to survive without the other? It would seem that a lot more effort and desire to make it work is necessary.

That is a huge challenge to our moral character. What kind of determination and will can we bring to the table in a relationship? And also, no matter how much you try, there is always the factor of how much the other one is putting out.

Things are changing. According to Ronald B. Mincy, Columbia U professor of Social Work Policy, there are a couple areas to look at:

… There are three broad factors that are affecting marriage trends: the increasing independence of women and the deterioration in the economic status of men. Women are increasing in terms of their educational attainment. They’re increasing in terms of their occupational status and their earnings.

Men, on the other hand, are reducing their college graduation rates. They’re also reducing their earnings. The only men who’ve experienced increases in their earnings since the 1970s are basically men who have gone to graduate school. So you put together improving economic conditions for women, deteriorating economic conditions for men, and then the removal of this moral imperative for marriage, and I don’t think that we should be surprised that marriage rates are falling. …

So what is the imperative? One of my dearest friends said to me:
What about a public commitment of love to one another?

Hmm..In our cynical and self-reliant world, we want to bring up love?

Maybe all we need is love. Maybe that’s the whole point. If we take away the “have to” side of it, and focus on the “want to” we are left with love.

I think that may be one of the greatest legacies of feminism. We have yet to realize it. But we have made some progress.

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