PavlovaMud sweetened MotherSugar just a couple of days ago with a great post about first kisses. I’d been cooking a few ideas myself so am offering a savoury alternative for anyone who still has appetite for it.
While baking a cake last Thursday (yes, a cake) I heard a couple of stories on the radio about women and politics. Not women running for office, although I could definitely spend time talking about that right now, but women publically leveraging their roles as wives and nuns to advocate for gender equality. Forgive me but that was just too juicy to pass up!
The first story was about the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) which represents about 80% of all Catholic Nuns in the United States. This week they were openly praised by the Vatican for their work with schools, hospitals and institutions that support the poor. But they were also criticised for being conspicuously silent on issues such as contraception, abortion and homosexuality, and for facilitating conversations internally about patriarchal practices and the ordination of women.
For an understanding of both sides of the story watch this great PBS interview of a feminist theologian and a Catholic nun. And here is an example of how it is being reported in mainstream media:
The second story was about a YouTube video, produced by the wives of two prominent UN diplomats, intended to shame the wife of a prominent politician into pressuring her husband to change an unpopular policy. (Whoa!) Specifically it asks Asma Al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, to compel her husband to stop the violence in that country. But what was most compelling for me was not the video itself but an interview with Huberta von Voss-Wittig, wife of the German Ambassador to the UN and one of the people who produced the video. She argues that the impact of the violence in Syria is borne disproportionately by women and children and that Ms. Al-Assad has a responsibility to speak up for them not only as a political figure – but as a woman, a mother, and a wife. Furthermore, Ms. von Voss-Wittig argues that she is not asking Asma Al-Assad to be “disloyal to her husband” but expects him to be loyal to his wife and by extension to all women, mothers, and wives.
To hear the full interview look for it under “The Thursday Edition” (main body or right hand column) broadcast on CBC’s “As It Happens” Thursday, April 19, 2012.
It was fascinating to me that both stories talked about women who had overstepped the bounds of what was expected of them. As wives (and wives of a sort) they were expected to support but not influence and definitely not instigate political dialogue. But they did so anyway, not only because they believe that women are entitled to be politically active but (I assume) because they believe that women are also entitled to assume their traditional roles, as wives and mothers, safely and of their own free will.
I have no tidy conclusions but these two stories definitely made me think. Among the questions they raise for me: Do I have a responsibility to stand up for other women? When I do that, what exactly am I standing up for? Our right to assume traditionally male roles or professions? Our right to be respected for the roles and professions we’ve traditionally occupied? Do I really (really) hold the space of a peer and an equal at work and in my personal relationships? How much of my identity is predicated upon my gender? Would I defy a lover, partner, husband, or friend because I felt I had a responsibility to stand up for other women or what I believe we represent?
Always curious to hear what you think!