Sunday, 15 March 2015

Man I (don't) feel like a woman (with apologies to Shania Twain)

Shania Twain is one of Canada's famous exports to the broader culture of music. I am the furthest thing from a C & W fan, but I do find myself humming her music occasionally.

One of my favourites from among her repertoire of hits is Man, I Feel Like a Woman ( I find the title quite creative, and the tune is terrific.

Nevertheless, the lyrics in one sense are a bit disconcerting to me. Like so much modern music written or performed by women, it's focus is often related to men, what they think (or don't think), male-female relationships, etc.

[Shania performs in front of an all-male band of perfect young specimens in skin-tight shirts, one of whom licks his lips as she disrobes to further reveal her charms.]

Oh, oh, oh, go totally crazy-forget I'm a lady
Men's shirts-short skirts
Oh, oh, oh, really go wild-yeah, doin' it in style
Oh, oh, oh, get in the action-feel the attraction
Color my hair-do what I dare
Oh, oh, oh, I wanna be free-yeah, to feel the way I feel
Man! I feel like a woman!

Don't get me wrong. I am a typical male with a full appreciation for the fairer sex, etc., etc. I'm not saying that Shania's lyrics are weird in any way. I simply feel that too much of people's self-worth is tied up in what others think of them, and so, in looking for approval, may even cause them to act in ways that can pose certain risks. 

But beyond this, I also feel that in the deeply nuanced world of womankind, relationships and the pressures that come with them bring challenges that oblivious males can have little appreciation for.

I was reminded of this again in reading an article having to do with Quebec's in vitro fertilization laws (see The author makes what was for me a startling and revealing comment:

The decision when to have a child is very personal. It is also widely acknowledged that women today are under tremendous social pressures to “be responsible,” complete their education and establish financial and relationship stability prior to starting a family. Having a child later in life is not always a mere preference; often it is the result of how our current social structure limits the choices open to women. But by the time it is “socially responsible” to have a child, it may become biologically challenging. Our fertility declines and we are racing against our biological clocks. This is precisely when some need the assistance of IVF to conceive (emphasis added).

I can't help reflecting on an earlier era when social structures were much different. I am the oldest of six children. My parents married shortly after WW2, and I was born 9 1/2 months later. My three
oldest siblings arrived in quick order, every two years thereafter. When sibling number four arrived, Mom was 27 years old. A secretary in the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service during the war, she never worked outside the home again once she was married. Her story was far from atypical among us of the early Baby Boomer generation--in fact, it was more or less what people expected of new wives.

But now, if the author I quoted is to be believed, women have one more pressure heaped on them that affects the child-bearing question--what is considered to be the responsible thing to do, given the high importance for women of education, fulfilling jobs, financial security etc. Such matters never crossed my mother's mind. A typical comment from that era would be something like, "Well, if you waited 'til you could afford it to have children (or even, to get married) you'd never do it."

Now I'm not yearning for older, simpler, better times here. I'm only reflecting on how things change, and that changes bring new challenges and complications. As our culture and the worldview that comes with it evolves, issues have to be looked at from a different perspective.

Going back to my earlier posts, then, what do we have?
  1.  Perhaps the most troubling reality is that two-thirds of women who decide to have abortions (according to statistics from pro-choice sources) do so for people other than themselves; e.g., threatening and abusive boyfriends, uncooperative husbands, embarrassed families, hard-hearted employers, inflexible school administrators, moralistic churches, etc.
  2. Pregnant women in crisis often feel that their options are slim-to-none; e.g., no affordable day-care, insufficient means, no partner in their life, nowhere to live if family isn't cooperative, and so on. 
  3. Lack of resources available through government agencies or non-profits that might help women clarify their situation and consider options that they didn't even know existed.
  4. A feeling that adoption is a poor choice, either because they have done all this work and get nothing out of it, or that they have in some way failed by giving up the child. 
  5. Men who do not understand these pressures and do little to address them, either by being irresponsible and undisciplined in their relationships with women, or in ignoring a woman's reality when they are in a position to do something (e.g., politicians who don't create the necessary social policies).
  6. Media that sexualize women and male-female relationships in ways that creates unreasonable expectations and can lead to highly regrettable results, including crisis pregnancies.
  7. And now, social pressure that comes from the prevailing worldview that other things are more important, or that they are just as important, placing significant inner pressure on the woman.
Many non-profit societies that are part of what I have been calling the "life sub-culture" are in a position to address at least some of these issues for women in crisis. But unfortunately our public face is, rightly or wrongly, such a judgmental, moralistic one that we would not even be considered by the very people who could use our help. That is to say, we're lacking street cred.

Colleagues, it is time to become much more understanding and empathetic in our dealings with the modern woman, and far more sophisticated and strategic in posing solutions.

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