Rants from an Underdog

Deborah San Angelo, Staff Writer

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Any period will do: Ancient Rome, Victorian England, the American 60s; revolutions aren’t in short supply. But when it comes to the feminist revolution, the struggle is permanent.

It’s annoying how gender inequality continues to rear its ugly head. We flush and flush, but it won’t stay down. Endlessly examining and addressing its various forms isn’t enough. The enigma has a life of its own.

It feels like a tired subject that no one wants to hear about or talk about. It is tiring indeed to push this rock uphill. But I get even more tired of obvious inequity staring me in the face.

Things take time, I know and it’s definitely getting better. But revolutions are supposed to fulfill promises. Women have fought again and again for their causes, only to receive partial improvements, as if being patronized. The revolution continues from generation to generation.

As a minority group, women deserve a parade and their own flag. The flag could be configured with textile patterns representing clothes women have sewn and washed throughout history.

Domestic work has always been the intrinsic destiny of women. It’s hard work and necessary, but not really valued. The wages in the domestic field have recently taken a dive.

The income gap between the two genders keeps hanging on in every profession, validating the perception that work done by a woman is less excellent than that of men. How does this stereotypical notion persist, despite our better judgment? Is someone carefully balancing  payroll records to insure women are paid significantly less for the same work as their male counterparts? Or are both sexes agreeing to keep the chronic structure in place? Are we afraid of losing distinction between the sexes and we’ll all be wearing the same velour Starfleet uniforms?

While it’s true that women are still under-represented across all fields, many of the reasons for it no longer exist, except in people’s minds, the minds of both men and women. The reasons aren’t rational but very ingrained. Females now have access to all careers. But compared to men, how many women rise to the top of their profession? The perception of females being inferior to males continues to be subtly and sometimes not so subtly present .

In many countries, women can’t speak or act in their own behalf and must be monitored like cultural prisoners. Recently, the Saudi Arabian government decided to permit female students to take physical education classes. Although this is a huge step for them. the students must wear their hijabs,  (traditional head-coverings) while engaged in sports and exercise. This includes the swimming and diving classes. A swim cap might be a more practical headdress.

Oppression and inequality of the sexes has nothing to do with logic or practicality. It’s about comfort zones and we’re used to putting females in second place, a less-than place that reflects the creation story of her being made from the rib of a man. To this day, whether consciously or unconsciously, the female of the species is seen as dependent and innately inferior.

Females in the modern Western world don’t have constraints or restrictions in pursuing their educational goals and they now outnumber male graduates. So how is it that women, in all careers, are still under-represented? Are there specific equipmental deficiencies or are they just generally unsuitable for the workforce? Do they have too many housework and/or child-care responsibilities?

Confidence and self-esteem are key ingredients for success in any field. Women have always had a tough road to tread on but without confidence, it’s a dead-end street. Many women don’t naturally develop sufficient confidence to tackle challenges unless they’ve benefitted from strong mentoring during childhood. And even then, it’s a tough road to the top.

Not long ago, the classical music community exposed its gender-specific policy of orchestral leadership.  There is a shortage of female conductors and out of the small group, none of them are flourishing. Women have yet to attain the power, prestige and pay scale of male baton-wielding superstars in prominent orchestras. Female composers face similar constraints. Classical radio stations typically host all-day programs that recognize women musicians. Something’s wrong for that to even be necessary.

Women have been involved with jazz since its inception, but their achievements are not well known. During World War II, when many male jazz musicians had been drafted into the military, women actually got hired to play in bands. But because they were women, they were held to the era’s rigid style of glamour and often faced harsh criticism and sexual harassment from their band mates.

Female musicians of all genres are still expected to project style and sexual mystic, while the pure skill and musicianship of a male is enough to stand on its own. For a women to be embraced by the music establishment, she must first and foremost be attractive to get her foot in the door. And for her to be taken as “one of the guys”, her talent must be  strong enough to blow them away. Otherwise, she’s a glorified dancing girl.

How much music would we have missed out on if males were held to the same standards? How much music have we missed because women have been?

Despite awareness and discrimination laws, in an age when so many gender barriers have been broken, why is it that women have so much difficulty reaching the top of their professions? What needs to change in order for that to happen?

Women are not used and abused, they’re underused. And under-rewarded. It’s not only unfair, it’s wasteful and inefficient to not utilize all our resources. We all lose because of it.

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