Archive for the ‘Women/Gender’ Category

356. New Purses

As I’ve gotten older I’ve also gotten wider, or as the woman who measured me for a suit for my daughter’s recent wedding put it, I’ve become “a man with girth.”  And as a man with girth I live in constant fear of finding myself exposed in a manner plumbers are famous for.  This is especially a problem when I fill my pants pockets with my billfold, keys, glasses, phone, etc., and head out to work at the farm.

After long years of grappling with this situation I came to the conclusion that I need a bag of some sort to put things in instead of my pockets.  That way rather than stuffing my pockets (and inevitably forgetting something vital), I can just take the bag with me when I leave the house.

So last week my wife Lori and I looked for a sports bag; most, however, were large enough to hold a kayak.  We looked at school book bags and even lunch boxes but none of those fit the bill either.
Finally, though, we found a small, nondescript canvas bag that would allow me to carry my billfold, glasses, phone, a few tools and a water bottle when I was working at the farm.  But even though it was just what I needed, I was reluctant to actually get it — though it looked like a bag, it was technically a purse.  I was glad Lori was there – I would never have had the courage to buy it myself.  Even so, I was concerned about what the clerk would think of one woman buying two purses (Lori bought a new purse for herself, too) – would she guess one was for me?

And then I glanced at the adjacent aisle and saw a middle-aged man wearing women’s clothing and a wig, also buying a purse.  Not wanting to stare, I quickly looked away, but even my brief glimpse was jarring.  Who in his right mind would dress like that, especially in public?  I realized this was a transgender person in the process of transitioning from male to female.  But why did he have to do it in public?  I could see why women would not want him in their restroom.

But as I thought about it I realized how hard it would be to use a men’s room – under certain circumstances I could see someone being killed in that situation.  It occurred to me that no man would dress like that unless he felt he had no choice.  We’ve all heard about transgender people and how they feel their body doesn’t reflect their true gender.  Gender is fundamental to who we are – imagine if you had to live as the opposite sex.  What would it be like to have to do it for 40 or 50 years?

I suddenly felt guilty for feeling guilty about buying — for purely practical reasons – a little purse.  And while a man wearing women’s clothing would seem the epitome of a “sissy,” I realized that it would take more courage than most “real men” probably have to go out in public dressed like that.

So if you should ever happen to see what appears to be a man dressed as a woman quietly going about his/her business, try to show “her” some compassion – she must have an awfully tough row to hoe.  And before you laugh too much when you see me with a little canvas bag, just remember it sure beats seeing me walk around with my pants around my hips.

326. Freedom Of Choice

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s there was a lot of social turmoil. There were anti-war protests by college students, blacks were marching for civil rights and women were demanding access to careers outside the home. And though blacks still have a long way to go, the Vietnam War ended and the role of women in society changed dramatically. Where once their career options were largely limited to being a nurse, secretary or teacher, today women can pursue any career they want.

Among the traditionally male careers women have entered are some very dangerous ones, including soldier, firefighter and policeman. And in the decades since they first entered these professions, women have proven their worth.

Though they are supposed to be kept from combat, the ill-defined battle fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan placed a lot of women in harm’s way. 144 died – 20 of whom had children — and many more were injured. A quick look at law enforcement officers killed since 1960 reveals that about three dozen were women, including most recently, 29-year-old Omaha policewoman Kerrie Orozco who was shot by a wanted gang member on May 20th.

The media has been full of information about Ms. Orozco. The stepmother of two, Kerrie had given birth prematurely in February but had put off taking maternity leave until her baby was well enough to come home. This homecoming was supposed to happen the day after she was killed by a bullet that struck just above her protective vest.

It’s always tragic when someone dies in the line of duty, but when it’s a young mother who was active in her community it especially catches the public’s attention. As well it should – mothers are, well, mothers and have a special place in life and society.

If Kerrie Orozco had been forced to confront a violent gang member before her premature baby had even come home from the hospital the country – and large parts of the world – would be outraged. But from all accounts Orozco loved her work and wanted to go back to it as soon as she could. Being a policewoman was her choice; she knew the dangers and it was her decision to make this profession her line of work.

There was a time when the prospect of a young mother participating in anything as dangerous as arresting fugitives would have been unthinkable. And it’s hard to escape the instinctive feeling that mothers shouldn’t be in these situations.

But what should be done? Should our society reverse course and prevent women from serving in jobs that could endanger them? What about jobs with a dangerous working environment, including farm work? Or what about working in areas that are dangerous, even if their job itself isn’t?

And who exactly gets to decide which jobs women can and can’t have? Voters? Politicians? Men? Where is the line between what women can and can’t do drawn? These are questions women have been asking since at least the early 1800s and though it’s taken time to emerge, the answer has been that women – like men – are entitled to make their own decisions rather than have society decide for them.

Nothing in life is clear-cut – women have to weigh even more factors when choosing a career path than men do. Kerrie Orozco made the choice to serve her community knowing there were risks. And while it’s tragic that those risks claimed her life, it would have been tragic in another way had the freedom to make her own choices been denied her simply because she was a woman.