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September 28, 2022

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

“The tribe is like an eagle

and the eagle will only fly true and high

when the wings are equal.”

—South American Indian Proverb

In 1973, the U.S. Congress designated Aug. 26 as “Women’s Equality Day.” The date was selected to commemorate the 1920 certification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

I was listening to the TED Talk addressing “Male Privileges” of unearned advantages that men take for granted. One of the hosts, Victor Lee Lewis, gave his personal account on the privilege of being a male.

“I am a man, I am tall, and I have a deep commanding voice. These are all unearned advantages. In groups or committees, I will often volunteer to be the one who processes and hears complaints. If I was a woman volunteering for this position, there would be nearly 80% more complaints, creating more emotional labor for the woman in this role and the group as a whole. When they see me, people weigh and discern more consciously before bringing a complaint to be heard.” 

There are myriad examples of male privileges that come simply from being born a male. I don’t have to scout the environment before I get out of the car to see if I will be safe. I can go to work without trepidation of being sexually harassed and accosted. I can alone walk in my neighborhood, hike state parks, and travel abroad without the fear that I will be assaulted, raped or possibly be killed. Of course, there are exceptions. For men, they are more an anomaly than the norm.

As we commemorate the “Women’s Equality Day” today, I am mindful of women’s global struggle for dignity, equality and rights. We see in the news the outright oppression of women in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to name a few. Here in America, women are having to fight, yet again, to have control of their own bodies. Deepak Chopra recently stated, “The time has come to think about not just women’s rights but women’s power.”

In my perspective, I believe patriarchal societies have run their course as a model for power. Endless wars and civil conflicts that foster the arms race, with their insane buildup of nuclear weaponry—not to mention the greed fueling the raping of the environment—are symptoms of masculine aggression reaching its pinnacle of atrocities in a dead end, both literally and figuratively.

However, the case for prehistoric matriarchal societies as inspiration for today’s modern world is less useful if a matriarchy is defined narrowly as simply the opposite of patriarchy, as a society “ruled” by women instead of men.

These “matriarchies” were not crude reversals of patriarchal power, but models of peace, plenty, harmony with nature, and, significantly, gender egalitarianism. We secure our successes through cooperation. Survival depends on cooperation much more than aggressive behavior.

Darwin shared that observation but the whole survival of the fittest got co-opted by dysfunctional aspects of our nature to justify power over. I can’t believe if a woman was a president today in Russia, she would have nakedly invaded Ukraine with brutal force killing innocent lives in order to achieve her goal to expand the Russian empire. I can’t believe a woman who experienced firsthand seeing the miracle of life growing in her womb for nine months, nursing for several years, and the time, energy and resource it took to raise a child into adulthood, would send young men and women to be slaughtered in a senseless war.

Instead, women continue to find inspiration in, and continue to embrace, maternal values such as care-taking and nurturing negotiation-oriented communities, with equality for women and men alike. I believe our world would be a lot better place if power was shared equally with women. May the 21st century be the century of women coming into their power, and as equal partners with men, lead us out of our current mess.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek,

there is no longer slave or free,

there is no longer male and female;

for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

—Galatians 3:28

Rev. John Juno Song is the pastor of Watsonville First United Methodist Church. For information, visit watsonville1stumc.org, call 724-4434 or email [email protected] His views are his own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.

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