Fenced In

AHF Recognizes Women’s History Month
During March, we will feature a series of blog posts focusing on Women’s History Month. Please join us in the discussion and comment with your own opinions and tales.

By Billie Jean Young, AHF board member

A woman is like a field of wild flowers growing inside of barbed wire.
Gated and locked in, flowers run wild,
grow in stature and seem to thrive.
Let the gate remind you, however:
Gates have gate keepers, seen and unseen protectors
of the status quo
who always exact a price above and beyond
what is called for.

When I look at the present-day exploitation of women in the culture, it is with dismay that I have to acknowledge that even with a women’s movement and 40 odd years of women’s activism, women seem to be relapsing. One painfully obvious way this shows up is in popular dress.

• Where is the freedom in women thinking they have to don stiletto heels in order to be sexy? High school (and junior high) girls in 4-inch stiletto heels are ruining their feet before they have quit growing even.
• What happened to make young women think that wearing their underwear in public is acceptable?
• Why do our children—even young girls—insist on wearing clothes so tight and revealing in public that they might as well be naked?
• Why do we allow our girl children to watch the movies that make them think being reduced to body parts is acceptable?

In the late 60s and early 70s, we took off the pointed-toe shoes that ruined our feet. We donned sensible shoes that allowed us to walk with confidence—not teetering and tottering as if we were on tom walkers, bent over to keep from falling—into the varied professions and fields theretofore held by men. We knew that there was a place for sexy, revealing clothes, and that they were not everyday wear. We learned to be concerned with what was inside our head, whether or not we could compete in universities and the marketplace, and we spent little time worrying about beauty shop appointments and money for outrageous hairdos and to buy phony nails that would keep us preoccupied and afraid to use our hands. We insisted that media people portray women in a more positive, realistic, equal light, including their relationships within the culture, and we protested women being used/portrayed as sexual objects.

A lot of women suffered for standing up for us, were ridiculed and taunted for their activism. Do we not owe them more than this? Geraldine Ferraro died this weekend. When the news people glibly mention today that she was the first woman to run for vice president, our young women and the youth culture have no idea what she endured, what ground she broke, how she was accepted—and not accepted—as a result.

Perhaps we seem tired and staid, even outdated, to the young and inexperienced. We may have even gone overboard in our attempts to right the wrongs. But was it all for this? Even though Abercrombie & Fitch has its defenders for marketing push-up bikini bras to girls as young as seven, there was at least an outcry from the public this weekend that forced them to change their marketing strategy. That outcry, speaking up, is heartening. Can we not get our young women and their mothers to meet us halfway, to somehow acknowledge that women’s recent history was not all for naught? We are, after all, the women who helped to open the doors for them.