Monday, October 1, 2012

Gender Equity

Singing People by Debra Frasier
from On the Day You Were Born

Excerpt from new post on Kitti's Book List

Rainer Maria Rilke: pp 77 - 78 . . . someday there will be girls and women whose name will no longer mean the mere opposite of the male, but something in itself, something that makes one think not of any complement and limit, but only of life and reality: the female human being. ~ 1904, from his Letters to a Young Poet

Carole Maso: p 37 . . . All the personal pronouns -- j/e, m/o, m/a, m/es -- are split to emphasize the disintegration of the self that occurs every time women speak male language. ~ 1993, from her novel AVA

I wonder if Rilke would be disappointed to see what a lengthy and hard - fought transformation it has become? I appreciate Maso's description of the so often unacknowledged and wearying disintegration. First comes the exclusive language; then comes the taxing enterprise of pulling yourself back together again, putting yourself into the picture, the self - integration that is not a given. Like hearing "father" and thinking "and mother." Or "brother" and "sister too." "Men" -- "and women." "Mankind" -- "oh yeah, that means me."

I think the beautiful song "Let There Be Peace On Earth," (sung here by Gladys Knight in 2008 at the National Memorial Day Concert, Washington, D.C.) is a perfect example of what Maso is talking about here. I've loved this song since Junior High when we sang it in Girls' Chorus (emphasis added for irony!), but it requires some mental gymnastics to repair the damage done by the gender exclusivity of that key phrase:

"With God as our Father, brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony."

These words are chosen as a fitting observance of a National event, yet by their very nature, they omit half the people in our country. Okay, I can fix that in my head; but should I have too? I can try to believe that "when you say "men" you mean "women" too; that doesn't always work. But one thing I know for sure, without Gender Equity, there is never going to be Peace on Earth.

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