Saturday, January 23, 2010

Are women really the fairer sex? You decide.

I'm surrounded. By females. This isn't  completely by design, as I have two daughters, but on the voluntary side, I've worked in the retail fashion industry for 19 years, which is heavily inhabited by women (see The Devil Wears Prada.). With this type of long-term cred, I feel I'm qualified to offer some observations about the gender which supposedly sprung forth from Adam's rib.

I read an article this morning in The Seattle Times, illustrating the contributions made during World War II by the Women Airforce Service Pilots, or "WASPs." A lot of these women are now deceased or in their 80s or 90s, but they're finally being recognized with the Congressional Gold Medal. This award encompasses Congress' "highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions." Previous recipients include Dr. Jonas Salk, the Navajo Marine Corps Radio Operators, or "Code Talkers," and the poet, Robert Frost.

These women pilots were forbidden from engaging in combat operations, but they did just about everything else—they ferried planes across the country, hauled targets for shooting practice and trained scores of male combat aviators. They encountered intense prejudice from the male military establishment, and were paid a fraction of what the guys received. In addition, the WASPs were actually  denied veteran status until 1977.

I'm going to insist that my daughters read this piece. Today's girls still don't experience a completely level playing field visa vie our society's deference to male leadership, but things have improved substantially. My mom used to tell me about girls' high school basketball in the 1950s, where no one was allowed to dribble the ball more than three times, and the team was divided into front court players and back court players. I imagine sweating was just a little too unsightly and unfeminine when one is wearing her basketball skirt.

Well, here's the deal. We all need to come to grips with this tenet:
Women are tough. Come on...say it.

I've borne witness to two child births. It's not pleasant. Oh, sure, we guys experience pain and discomfort, especially as we age. It might take us three installments to pee every morning, or the old football knee may flare up when the weather turns cold. But I've seen my wife spring out of bed at three the morning, the barf bowl positioned under my kid's chin, long before I woke up and realized I hadn't actually attended that final exam naked.

Amelia Earhart—tough, Sacagawea—tough, Wilma Rudolph—tough, mothers across the globe—tough.

And the Women Airforce Service Pilots—toughness recognized at long last.

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