a world of women

I was raised in a family of women - father died at 45, most uncles died 
young - two sisters, no brother - one male cousin, lots of aunts. My 
peer group were boys; in fact I can't remember any non-family childhood 
friends who weren't male.

Before my mother moved me into military boarding school at age 11 it was 
clear that in the school world female students were better at almost 
everything (except throwing a ball) than males of the same age. The boys 
were oblivious to an obvious fact: girls weren't inferior beings. Our 
delusions were examples of the need for blindlessness.

My mother was successfully self-employed, and not home much. My oldest 
sister and I were very close and she was my personal "head start" 
program. She had me reading the newspaper on my fourth birthday.

My earliest memory of widespread wrongheadedness in our culture had to 
do with my peers' attitude towards girls and women. Most boys (and the 
men I occasionally encountered) were blatant male chauvinist pigs. This 
has changed a little, but the effects continue to poison society. "Women 
drivers" always evoked male laughter; older men agreed that the downfall 
of society occurred around 1920 when women were enfranchised. The 
concept of women in positions of authority, with the curious exception 
of school teachers, was unthinkable and any suggestion of military 
service, except as nurses, never surfaced.

Abortions were illegal but countenanced so long as they were dangerous. 
The stigma on male homosexuality was largely based on the concept that 
these were men who were traitors to their gender. It was almost 
universally accepted that women could not be composers, chess masters, 
or chefs. Any evidence to the contrary was ignored or branded a lie.

I lived around females who were, if anything, more intelligent and 
admirable than the males I met. These experiences started me on my 
cultural anthropology path, which uncovered examples ending in my 
awareness of what it means to be blindless.

As in many areas I explore, the culture of women cannot be "joined" by 
an outsider, transsexuals aside. Acceptance of men in women's world is 
rare but we are welcome to share their awareness of the misanthropy 
rampant in mainstream culture.

I don't presume to speak for women, particularly since so many of them 
have done so eloquently. I speak to what constitutes the gender 
equivalent of what I call blindlessness. Despite all the vive la 
difference items which enable us to divide what is essentially 
indivisible, we can adjust attitudes so that even if we don't subscribe 
to tenets of womanhood, we bring respect. Whatever the swings of fashion 
(not in the sense of attire) bring to their culture that may be 
different from ours, they're entitled.

Membership in groups often requires initiation rituals as well as 
qualification. Some of these entrance requirements are disappearing 
through legislation, others through acknowledgement of absurdity. An 
example of the former is the acceptance of women into public service 
organizations like police and fire departments; the latter by the 
increase in female jockeys.

Just as you might be proud if a member of your club wins some award, so 
women might exult in a governorship and soon a presidency. Just as all 
groups have their secret handshakes and initiation rites, so do women. 
Just as many groups are vilified by those who exclude them, this group 
has suffered great injustice.

In this area the prospects for continuing change are bright to me 
because of my long observation of epochal changes. In the last sixty 
years' study of this matter, I have observed astounding turnarounds: 
when I entered MIT, a nominally coed school, there were two female 
students in a class of almost two thousand, the current entering classes 
are more than one-third women; the number of mayors, governors, and 
congresspersons (how's that for PC?) is still tokenistic, but the 
individuals who get to that level have mostly avoided the appearance of 
ruthless greed so common in politics; recruiting ads on TV dutifully 
show women in what are essentially combat roles. 

I have more daughters than sons so I want to make sure that all of you 
straighten out your act in relating to women. I'm sure there's still a 
"glass ceiling" but from where it was to where it is has proven 
exhilarating to one promoting blindlessness.