Finally, the Church of England has agreed that women can become bishops. It has been a hard-fought battle for gender equality, although their US and Canadian counterparts in the Episcopal Church have had female bishops for quite a while now. I wonder if the Episcopal Church in the US pays the costs of insurance for their employees’ reproductive health.
I’m sure you have read about the Hobby Lobby—the store that has successfully argued that they don’t have to pay for some aspects of female health insurance for their employees. There is so much wrong with this decision by the Supreme Court that I don’t know where to begin, and in any case other people have already pointed out its flaws. But, I am repeatedly amazed by the need to fight the same battles for women’s rights that I thought we’d won in the sixties.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had a pretty darned good life. I had a great education and have had some challenging and rewarding work. In some ways, I’ve lived in a rare and special bubble full of intelligent people and feminists of both genders. Most of the men and women I know are vocal in their support of women’s rights, so this isn’t personal. This is about my dismay and sorrow at the ongoing struggle other women are still facing.
When I started dating again I found that some men still order food for their dinner partner, insist on paying even when their date offers to share costs, and sometimes call a mature woman “baby.” I also found that men of my generation expect that I am either a nurse, a teacher, or a secretary. I did spend most of my work life in education, but I still bristle a bit when that is assumed to be the norm. Obviously it takes a while for attitudes to shift and decades for some outdated assumptions to be abandoned, but I honestly thought we would be further ahead by now.
For all the women who wanted to be priests and bishops, I’m sorry we didn’t do more for you. For all the women who thought their healthcare was between themselves and their doctors, I’m sorry we didn’t make this clearer to your employers. For all the women who wanted to be scientists and mathematicians, I’m sorry we didn’t make that path more likely for you. For all the women who found they could not have both children and careers, I’m sorry we didn’t make childcare more easily available. For all the women who wanted to learn trades, I’m sorry it has taken this long to get you into those training programs. For all the women whose partners think they have a right to own or control women’s lives, I’m sorry we didn’t convince those men that they would be better off if they let women take over those roles.
Basically, those of us who came of age in the sixties have blown it. We didn’t do a good enough job and we still have work to do. I vote we start this time with the Hobby Lobby. We could introduce them to some Episcopal Church leaders who have, over the last fifty years, actually changed their views on the roles of women.