A call to war, a battle cry, a rally of the forces! Unless you have avoided the news media entirely over the past few weeks, you must have heard the phrase, “War on Women.” Is there a war? Most definitely, but as with most wars, those who call for war instead of diplomacy are as much to blame for the eventual collateral damage as those who drop the first proverbial bomb and ignite the fire.
As with every war, there are quieter, more dangerous forces working just under the radar. These covert warriors often go undetected and therefore unstopped. Even when their warfare is known to the public, they are often discounted as being of little consequence or threat.
As someone who grew up in a very paternalistic society, I recall being repeatedly instructed, “While men may look like they control the world, it is the women who you need to look out for; they have the real power.”
I left my conservative, male dominated society and studied at an all-female college. At school, the lessons of my youth were reconfirmed. Women had voices, they had strength, and they had power. They could be viciously truthful, unbending in their beliefs and forceful in their causes. Women, who would shelter you from a storm or come to your aid, could also tear you to shreds if they felt you were unjust, or worse, lacking a cause. Vocal women are not rare at an all-female college, but direct attack will most often be parried with more direct attack. When verbally attacked by men or women, women will defend themselves, not always to their credit, but often with results. “She was like an angry mother bear,” is a metaphor which applies not just to women with their biological children, but also with their ideological children.
As with any war, covert operations exist in the War on Women. It would not be covert, however, if the secret warrior didn’t blend in with the crowd. Choosing a man to covertly attack women would be foolish. Just as foolish, would be to utilize the same attack tactics. Direct, open attack would only strengthen a woman’s determination, not weaken it. Women, regardless of what some might infer, are not stupid or weak. By “some”, I do not mean “men”. Sadly women have a terrible tendency of treating other women, who hold differing beliefs and lifestyles from their own, as being stupid or weak.
The news this week has provided two examples of this type of war on women. The first tactic has left the covert battlefield behind and like the covert military actions of the Cold War, is now under public scrutiny. Oddly, the revelation of a longstanding covert war between two groups of women in New York has come to light because President Obama chose to speak at Barnard College’s commencement rather than at Columbia University’s. Barnard is the all-female sister school of the co-ed Columbia University. While Columbia men have made some appalling statements in regards to the women of Barnard, the women of Columbia have been just as applauding in their commentary. Hostilities between these neighbors are not new, the rhetoric and attacks did not begin recently. The only recent development is that these attacks have come to the attention of a larger public.
The second attack on women is much more subtle. It is acting on the perceived idea that women are shallow and easily manipulated. It is the idea that a woman who stays at home with her children is somehow less intelligent, less informed and less interested in social causes than a career woman. Now, I have been a career woman, a super-mom, and a mom whose children are her career. Never, during any of my stages of life, has my interest in social and political welfare been as keen as it has been since I became a stay-at-home mom. Every day, the time invested in my children reminds me of how important it is for me to work for their future. I do not believe I am a rare woman today, and contrary to myth, I think women of the past were not so different either.
I acknowledge that women come in all kinds of packages, with different education levels and with different beliefs. With such diversity, it is easy for women to get frustrated with other women. While women can be harsh when frustrated, on some level they recognize that they are on the same team; a team where the players acknowledge their dislike for each other or for each other’s ideas, but where they often come to each other’s defense when under attack.
When politicians act upon the perception that women only care about how much it costs to fill up their SUVs gas tank, they are being repugnant. When women defend this action, promote this perception and infer that somehow homemakers are just not concerned with social issues, it is more than repugnant. Today, it was two Republican women on ABC’s This Week’s – Roundtable, who made this type of subtle attack on women. You will have to watch the video link, rather than read the article to hear it. I commend ABC for editing out the reference to women voting rather than general public voting on this topic. While today it was Republican women attacking, it reminded me of an interview* that I watched also on ABC, many years ago, when a prominent woman shocked the host with an attack on moms who left the workforce when they had children, and accused the women of being in some way a detriment to their children’s growth. Sadly the Covert War on Women is bi-partisan.
The phrase, “Look out, woman on a quest,” does not only refer to women looking for the perfect guy, sexy shoes or a great pre-school. Women of all walks of life organize quests, lead quests and journey on quests. The main difference between women on quests and men is that they declare less often to the world what their social quests are. This makes them excellent operatives in a covert war. When these operatives are respectful, women feel enlightened and informed, but when these operatives attack with subtle demeaning stereotypes, self-esteem dwindles. Regardless if one believes they are justified in their quest or cause; women should not be waging war on each other.
Oh, and men shouldn’t attack us either, because it isn’t nice, and if we actually do hold the real power, it benefits them to be nice to us…..
* I included a “Mommy War” debate, but am still looking for the episode where the prominent woman made the appalling accusation that educated women choosing to stay home with their children, were in fact harming them, especially harming the female children. I had only been a stay-at-home mom for about a year and was infuriated by the statement. Sadly, while I remember the interview clearly, I cannot as of yet find a link. I will update this article if I eventually find it.