Friday, September 16, 2005

The Women's Movement: The Line between Justice and Revenge

I'll have to admit that, as a woman, I've lived all my adult life taking basic legal rights for granted. I can vote. I am in a job that was once considered a man's job, and it's been over a decade since anyone even commented on a woman being in my position. What did it take to get where we are today, where I can own property in my own name, hold a job outside the traditional women's ghetto, be admitted to institutions of higher education, vote, sign legal contracts, and all the other things our founding fathers took for granted as men? I have to read about that in the history books. The first stage was justice, legal recognition, full personhood. It was much needed.

But we're only human. "Righting the wrongs" tempts us to go one better and stoop to revenge. Have we gone there? I see T-shirts in the stores: "Girls are smarter than boys," reads a T-shirt in the girl's section. The boy's section has no "Boys are smarter than girls" shirt. My children watch reruns of Wonder Woman on DVD: "Men are violent, our peaceful paradise has no men". I watch movies with my children: "They're just men, that's how men are" (the movie Mulan had some parts that were so anti-male that they offended me). I hear female comedians, "I don't like to blame men for their inadequacies. It doesn't seem fair. After all, they can't help it" (in Garrison Keillor's Pretty Good Jokes audio collection). Let's face it, too often we've stooped to revenge. If it was really wrong when they did it to us, then it's also wrong when we do it to them. The examples I've drawn are all taken from the mainstream; denigrating men in public, whether in broadcast or in writing, has become acceptable. Is denigrating someone for their sex really acceptable to us? Is it truly justice that we're seeking?

I've often tried to pinpoint the dividing line between justice and revenge. It's no simple thing to do. I don't claim to have solved the problem. But I'm fairly sure of this: when we say or do things calculated to hurt someone we hardly know over a wrong that most of us can hardly remember, we're on the wrong side of the line.


Word by Word said...

This reminds me of a great quote from John Eldredge in his book Wild at Heart. He says, "Society at large can't make up its mind about men. Having spent the last thirty years redefining masculinity into something more sensistive, safe, manageable and, well, feminine, it now berates men for not being men".

Weekend Fisher said...

Gotta love that quote. And thanks for the link!

Take care & God bless