I can clearly remember the first time I wore pants – as in long pants, not jeans. I was young (less than eight, as it was when I was still living in the UK). In my memory the pants were plaid, but I may be confusing them with the childhood comic strip Rupert Bear! Although you would think it practical and normal to dress a child in long pants in the cold, grey winter, it was not common. It was strange enough that one of the older church members started to call me ‘Mrs. Jones’ little boy’.
By the time I was a teenager bell-bottom pants and jeans were the rage, and girls wearing pants was no longer remarkable (except of course to church or school). When I migrated to the USA as an adult and discovered that nurses could wear nursing ‘pants suits’ to work, that was it for me! Of course, back in the 70’s nurses’ outfits were uniformly white, which is a color I rarely wear by choice any more. Nowadays it is a rarity to see a nurse in white!
But I have lived most of my working life not wearing skirts or dresses. Free to choose, I prefer the practicality. Whenever I see women of the world who have to make choices in clothes based on their culture, religion or society, I am thankful that I have the right to choose and that I was born in a time when I was not constrained by petticoats, girdles or other breath-restricting devices.
It was thanks to the activism of women that we can do more than choose what we wear, what work we do, and that we get a voice at the table. I was watching a documentary recently on the Pankhurst sisters, English women who were willing to go on hunger strikes and chain themselves to the gates of parliament to bring attention to the fight for women to vote over a hundred years ago. Another story of a more recent struggle told of the fight of flight attendants to be respected and treated as more than sex objects. There was a time when the ‘air hostesses’ were weighed before they got on a flight; could not be married or engaged or have any children; and were too old at 32. It was in the 60s that they started fighting back against the sexism and discrimination. In their protests they took a line from the famous commercial: ‘I’m Linda, Fly me’, carrying placards that declared: ‘Go Fly yourself!’
As in all reports of discrimination and bigotry, it seems bizarre that even today we have a world were many are still fighting for an equal seat at the table, an equal opportunity to pursue life and happiness. In Florida we are watching the clock turn steadily backwards as teachers and businesses are being told that they must not even touch on subjects such as gender identity and the history of racism in this country.
Recently I watched one of the episodes of Shakespeare uncovered, a series which delves into versions of Shakespeare’s plays, and gives insight into the stories and times of which he wrote. I have to first confess to only a superficial knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, having not had more than 3 school years of English Literature. I found his writing difficult to read with its old-fashioned vocabulary and formal flourishes. But the performance of it brings the language to life, and the context (with the narrator’s help) made it more relatable. The episode on the Merchant of Venice made Shylock the Jew a real person, and made the audience feel the discrimination and dehumanizing treatment of the Jews at the time. In our own lifetime we have the Holocaust as one of the more recent examples of more than just discrimination, of actual genocide.
It is instructive to see how Germany came to terms with that period of its history. After World War II, after the Nazis were defeated, the country declared ‘Never again’ turning the sites of the atrocities into museums, to acknowledge the crimes and vow to learn from the past. We all know that we cannot hope to change behavior without confronting it. Denial of a problem has never led to healing. And yet Florida (and many other states) is very comfortable putting blinkers on and declaring ‘nothing to see here’, let us all pretend that there is nothing to fix.
Each time recently that I have observed the willingness of people to believe misinformation over facts; or where we seem to be devolving into a world where only one group of people are ‘normal’, I keep hoping that the majority of people recognize how dangerous this is and will pull us back to a world of equal rights and justice. I know that there are plenty of decent people of all colors and hues who live in diverse communities and celebrate the right of all people to be free to choose who to love, what to wear, and where to live. I have to believe that the inherent goodness of people will overcome the bigoted minority who want to live in a white-washed world where women do as they are told and have babies all day long. But it appears we still have to fight for these rights.
This Friday morning I remember the words of Martin Niemoller who famously wrote the poem ‘First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a Socialist….’ and ends ‘…and there was no one left to speak for me’. When we think the fight is not ours, we miss the fact that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’ (Martin Luther King Jr.). Let us see each man’s fight as our own in our search for a more perfect world.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!