(Sexism) was a fact of life I simply had to accept. Men felt threatened and mistrustful of women who had good ideas, and one had to employ immense tact when dealing with directors and producers. – Olivia de Haviland, 100 year old actress
“What really burns me up,” Gertrude Legendre wrote in October 1941, “is the unbelievable lack of confidence in a woman’s ability. It positively enrages me. Men cannot bear to have their world encroached upon by more efficient women. They hate to give way [to women], they hate to admit they are good, they hate to give them the power. It fairly drives me nuts. Gee I would love to speak my mind on that subject every now and again.”
It’s difficult for me to imagine a world where women couldn’t open up a bank account without the permission of a male relative, or take out a loan without the countersignature of a male relative, where dress codes for ladies were blouses and skirts only, worn with sensible heels and no jewellery, where women couldn’t serve on jury duty and women being tried for crimes wouldn’t have a woman serving on their jury, where women who had passed the test to be lawyers could still be denied the right to represent their client, where birth control pills were illegal, where pregnant women would often loose their jobs because maternity leave hadn’t been created yet, where elite schools and universities were men only, where women couldn’t participate in the Boston Marathon, where women could only get so far and no further, and where women were expected to be less intelligent, less capable, and less important and often treated as such.
In a lot of ways, feminism has irreversibly changed our world. Some would say that it’s not for the better and they can easily come up with lists of things about what feminism has made worse; family usually tops the list. “Why, if it weren’t for feminism, divorce wouldn’t be so rampant and there would be fewer fatherless homes.” Is a lament I often hear; but one must give some credit to men who, now that there is far less societal pressure to be fathers, choose to do so anyway not because they’re supposed to or they have to, but they truly want to be fathers – and good ones, too. One would think it would make for a happier home and family.
I was reading a blog where the author was talking about how feminists wouldn’t like a particular interpretation of the Bible. It got me to thinking; it wasn’t so long ago that the verse would have had an entirely different interpretation Before Feminism. Feminism challenged old assumptions about Scriptures, in the process, it’s opponents created new interpretations to reinforce ancient ideas about the roles of men and women. I’ve lived my whole life in a world changed by Feminism, reading a Bible that might be the same as it was Before Feminism, but will never be understood the same way as it was Before Feminism.
I think half the reason why the internet sometimes gives feminism a bad reputation is because we have less access to the chorus of elderly women who remember what it was like to live in a time before feminism, what changes were going on when feminism began to challenge the status quo. Some are now at rest; others aren’t exactly tech savvy. It really is our loss if we don’t ask how things were like before feminism because once an entire generation dies; they take their memories with them unless they had written them down. I sure hope they do write them down; that they lessons they learned get passed down so we can learn from them ourselves and teach others; and hopefully avoid being doomed to repeat a history they worked so hard to change.