Women in modern society are taught to be submissive. Now, I don’t mean to say that we are obedient or passive, but instead that we are, more often than not, willing to prioritize others over ourselves. Ms. O’Connell spoke to the historical roots of such tendencies—post Revolutionary War, women were considered the “keepers of the nation’s conscience.” We have always been encouraged to act like caretakers and minimize or internalize our own struggles. This notion of thinking of other people, other generations, and caring for them is not inherently troublesome, but when it’s in competition with valuing our own existence the theme becomes more alarming. Phyllis Schlafly believed that “real achievement” can only come from being a mother, from being utterly devoted to raising a child. When a culture exudes this idea that “A woman is nobody. A wife is everything,” it becomes apparent that women must be considerate of others and favor her husband and children in order to feel satisfied with life. Gloria Steinem, however, writes that women “are expected to be, rather than achieve, to function biologically rather than learn.” In her opinion, giving birth isn’t empowering: intelligence and success as an individual, on the other hand, is liberating. Equal rights for women begins within our preexisting tendency for deference, and it must also overcome our universal fear of change.
Some people like Schlafly are adamant that equal rights for women shouldn’t even have a beginning though. There is an impression that women are currently on a pedestal, like a god to be worshipped and served, but how does this align with the fact that our society as a whole does not always take issue with crude sexualization and belittling of women. Similar to the conclusion I drew last week, I again see themes in the reading that support the concept of favoring mothers’ wombs over the mothers themselves. Schlafly states multiple times that “American women do not want to be liberated from husbands and children” seeing as there is not a “more satisfying…career for a woman than marriage and motherhood.” This position of dependence should not be seen as an advantage, but a hindrance to our sense of self-defined worth. Even in the New York Times article about reasons why women voted for Trump, a few of them mentioned their concerns for male relatives in the military. It can be argued that these women have the good intentions, but what about the manner in which Trump regards—or should I say rates—women? Everyday society reinforces the notion that women are first and foremost nurturers even though men can be just as receptive and thoughtful. Equality must stem from women understanding that they can, and should, have individual significance. Then we can hope to change our society to see that equal doesn’t mean anti-family, but rather supports a new, inclusive, and united family dynamic.