March 2, 2020-
Chris Matthews retired as host of the news show, “Hardball”, with this evening’s broadcast. He’s not someone I have watched very much, if at all. Talking over one’s guests isn’t something that would have gone over well, when I was growing up.
He comes to mind for a different reason, though. One of the things he is reported to have said this evening, is that he was sorry for constantly telling the women on his program that they were beautiful.
It took many years, but a former student of mine pointed out, a bit sarcastically, that this is not the first thing a woman, or a girl for that matter, wants to hear about herself, first. I began, at that point, to think more of the actual skills the person has, and of how to compliment those. Beauty is not a skill, so however attractive I might find someone, the sensible thing is to focus on what can keep her in the loop, can help her grow.
We might think, in this month that celebrates Women’s History, of just how far we have come, as a species, in the area of gender relations. My grandparents’ generation would have been mortified, had women gone out on the street in slacks, less-than-full length skirts or, God-forbid, shorts. Women rarely drove cars.
My parents’ generation saw women exercising more options, when it came to dress, and certainly most women drove cars. Working outside the home was one area on which progress was a bit lacking-other than teachers, secretaries, cashiers and nurses.
There was a lot of “break-out”, both socially and vocationally, with my generation. The Women’s Liberation Movement took me aback, when I got home from Vietnam, in 1971, though it might not have. Young Vietnamese girls were telling us that they heard “Mi “(American) girls were thinking more for themselves, and therefore they, the Vietnamese, expected to do the same. There was an incident where a girl told me I was not her type. The other guys at the table about fell out of their seats. I left her alone; then again, I did that routinely in the States, so it was nothing new, for me. For a girl in southeast Asia, though, it was a big step forward.
When women started opening doors for men, letting us board buses first and talking fiercely about not wanting to be on a pedestal, it began to sink in that this Movement was resulting in lasting change, however maudlin it appeared. It was the beginning of the end for “Prince Charming”, who actually ended up being a villain in one of the more contemporary Disney films.
That has suited me just fine. I was married to a woman who eclipsed me, intellectually, and, since her passing, have preferred the company of women friends who have clear goals, and make no excuses for their dreams and their drive-in fact, who make no excuses for anything in their lives.
While there is much to be done, as yet, I would answer the question, “How far have we come, in the area of gender relations?”, by saying how proud I am to be in the company of so many who are sure of themselves and can be persistent, with no fear of being pushed back into the corner.