Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Tighsolas Perspective on International Women's Day 2011..

March 8, 2011 is International Women's Day. More than that, it's the centenary of the first International Women's Day in 1911, plunk in the middle of the "Tighsolas Era."
If I say so myself, my Tighsolas letters ( and this Flo in the City website, are a wonderful tool to use in classrooms commemorate the event - and to reflect on the last 100 years with respect to women and their achievements.

You know, I read many books on the Edwardian Era, for background, and back then, well, the world was very different.
Most of the wealth in England, the US and even Canada was in the hands of a small percentage of people. (Wait, that's the same as now.)
Indeed! Over the decades of the 20th century we became more a meritocracy. There was more social mobility.

No, not really. There was a bit of social mobility in the 1900-1910 and not that much more in even the 1960's, according to The Edwardians by Paul Thompson. And even less now!
According to studies lately completely, it is becoming harder and harder to rise up from the social class your were born into.

Well, thanks to consumerism, the middle class did grow in size the 20th century, but the improvement in women's lives, I think, were due to control over their reproduction, and not due to any change in attitudes about femininity. (Hey, the same lame old beliefs about 'women's proper place' swirl around today as they did 100 years ago.)

As The Edwardians points out, the poor in 1900-1910 had one major problem: too many babies. A family was at its financial healthiest when the parents (who both worked) were young and strong and the family small -and then it went downhill from them, and then up a bit when the kids could earn money for the family and down down down when the kids left home to marry. What was the typical reward for the working classes after a long life working and raising a big family: THE POOR HOUSE.

It's a myth that families took care of their elderly back then: they couldn't afford to. Too MANY BABIES.

So it's extremely disconcerting to see how certain right wing policy makers are determined to turn back the clock on women's reproductive rights... in the US, at least. The New York Times recently called it The War on Women, in an editorial. (And where the US goes, can Canada and its Conservative agenda be far behind?) It's as if everyone hankers for the seeming simplicity of the Edwardian era and its stunning social inequality and self-serving goddess/whore misogyny - and its deep dark secrets.

(I've been wondering why it was taboo back then to mention pregnancy. I think perhaps it was because no one wanted to jinx things, or perhaps people were plain prudish. But now I wonder if it was to protect the family from scandal. If a daughter got pregnant, the mother could always take it on as her own if pregnancies were hidden until the birth..)

All kinds of funding cuts for reproductive rights and maternal and family health are in the air in the US.

And there's a war on legal abortion. Anti-abortion legislation is really about punishing the poor, as wealthier women, including the wives and daughters, and yes, mistresses of many of these legislators, will always get their safe abortions, through connections or by just getting on an airplane.

(As another editorialist in the same issue of the New York Times pointed out, anti-choice people want babies to be born but they don't want to spend a cent making sure these same babies are born healthy or fed properly once born so that they can concentrate in school. Seems to me as if society's elite is trying to create a serf or soldier class of citizen... But that's just my opinion.

I guess they'll start having to build Poor Houses..