This I Believe: Women’s Rights Are Human Rights
I believe in human rights. Not African-American rights. Not gay rights. Not women’s rights. All people are created equal.
Except they’re not.
All men aren’t even created equal. And women go unmentioned.
When I was in second grade, all the boys were out of the classroom for some gym-class thing except for one. That left about a dozen girls, one boy and our teacher, Miss Kubly, who wore saddle shoes and bobby socks over her stockings in winter. She told everyone to pick up his pencil.
“Miss Kubly,” I asked, “Why didn’t you say, ‘Everyone pick up her pencil?’” She explained that even with just one boy in the room one had to use the male pronoun. And this was a boy too puny to go to gym. Girls just had no pronoun power. Or any other kind.
At least Miss Kubly did not say, “Everyone pick up his or her pencil.” (Too cumbersome.) Or worse, “Everyone pick up their pencil.” (Just downright wrong.)
The lesson I learned in school that day was I am not worth mentioning. That was so long ago that Miss Kubly’s stockings had seams that looked like black lines drawn up the back of her legs. The stockings were attached by murderous metal and rubber devices that dangled at the ends of bouncing elastic strips. Unless you were a contortionist with masterful motor skills, you would most certainly fumble to secure your stockings at the back of your legs. Thank God for pantyhose and other improvements since then.
Some of those improvements led to better lives for women. Despite the language lesson I had, or perhaps because of it, I founded and ran a small business for 15 years. It’s a feat few women would have dreamed of back in the garter belt days.
As a businesswoman I was sometimes asked to join various groups of professional women, a request I always declined because these groups excluded men. I was also encouraged to apply for government grants as a minority business owner. Again, I declined.
I am a person who is a woman. I expect to be worthy of mention. I will not discriminate against others and I want no special treatment. My hope is that others will behave the same.
An apocryphal story purports that President Obama, when applying to Harvard, neglected to check the box that would describe him as a man of color. He wanted, apparently, to get in on his merits. He wanted, like I do, to be judged by the same standards as everyone else.
I cannot expect to have it both ways. I cannot be treated equally while I separate myself for the sake of privilege—even when I’ve had to suffer what others don’t. Like fumbling at the end of elastic straps for metal clips that snap up and whack me on the bone.