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Last evening—after the elections—PBS presented a program called “Makers.” Women in politics were the focus. What I didn’t know was that the women of Congress periodically ignore party lines to meet together for a fun dinner. They talk, not about politics, but about governing the country well—statesmanship. One of their fairly recent accomplishments was forcing an agreement after the last government shut-down due to the refusal of many men in Congress to compromise or even talk. The women did it.
I have to say the program made me proud to be female, even though I hesitate to compare myself with women who aren’t afraid to put themselves out there for ideas they value. In the Ken Burns TV series on the Roosevelts, I wanted to cheer when, in a single convention speech, First Lady Eleanor hardened the American resolve for WWII by stopping the bickering over who would be FDR’s vice president. She was the brutally honest voice in her husband’s ear about the plight of the downtrodden—including the Jewish refugees fleeing German murder and the African-Americans starving for lack of jobs. As I’ve mentioned previously, women are biologically well suited to cooperation, and I’m always glad to hear of them using their abilities for the betterment of everyone. Women’s brains are hard-wired for communication and the kind of team work that uses diverse talents and experiences instead of trying to iron them all smooth. Although men are often well versed in communication, they may choose to flex their urge to compete and dominate, instead. They need us to balance their action.
Women are often pushed aside—sometimes by other women. In my years of teaching secondary and college students, I often ran into girls who were reluctant if not unable to say what they were thinking in public. They were convinced their comments either wouldn’t be worthwhile or would make them look less feminine and fun. The old definition of lady-like behavior included being pleasant and attractive at all times, which meant we weren’t supposed to openly disagree. As we have discovered that we are, indeed, intelligent and capable of exceeding high standards, we’re growing bolder about voicing our opinions. The men whose high opinions are worth earning will listen.
I’ll admit I’ve chosen to be silent when I should’ve spoken loudly countless times, because I dreaded the belittling conflict that would probably follow. And, I’ve seen women who spoke up only to prove to everyone that they weren’t prepared to reply. (We aren’t all born with the same levels of ability.) But I wanted to take this moment to encourage women everywhere to refuse to be puppets for the ideas stuffed in your mouths by men. Find out the facts behind their conclusions to see if you truly agree. Think before you speak, and then GO FOR IT. The world needs the more empathetic, practical ideas of women. We were given fine brains in addition to our reproductive organs, and we can’t be afraid to use them.