american scream


I saw the flying Dutchman last night. Conversations with Dutch are usually odd, each for its own reasons, and last night was no exception. Dutch chose a topic seemingly straight out of his butt. We hadn’t even been discussing politics or current events or anything like that. I think we had been talking about sightseeing on the north coast of Ireland when Dutch suddenly switched the conversation to women’s rights.

Dutch’s first premise was that women are still not equal. I agreed with him. But since Dutch has a problem listening, he argued his point to great length in order to convince me. Dutch’s next statement was that women need to mobilise. The time is right for us to protest, march in the streets and demand changes from our governments. I immediately disagreed.

My point was that government is not the answer. Equal rights have already been legislated. Dutch spoke about the principle of equal pay. I pointed out to him that equal pay is guaranteed by the European Community Treaty*, but legislation does not create reality. Any action taken would have to be taken in relation to employers, not governments. Then while Dutch objected that you couldn’t get anywhere with corporations, I reminded him that I didn’t care, that equal pay was not an issue for me at the moment.

Dutch talked about “liberated” women going out to work all day and then returning home to do the housework, cook the dinner and take care of the children. I pointed out that this was an individual family problem and I had no interest in how the couple next door were dividing their household tasks.

I didn’t really know what Dutch expected from me. I asserted that I am doing just fine as a woman**. That, in fact, I don’t make any less than men doing similar work, that I don’t do my own housework, and that I don’t in any way feel oppressed or taken advantage of. But he didn’t lay off until I presented him with a bigger problem. It went something like this…

Dutch, do you want to know why I won’t give any energy to the problem of European women being paid less than men? Because right now in The Amerika, fundamentalist Christians are brainwashing American women to be literally submissive and to stay home, to do the cooking and cleaning and bear lots of children. I don’t actually care if Belgian female factory workers are getting a few cents less than Belgian male factory workers whilst my compatriots are being turned into Stepford wives.

I had to put in a little too much effort, but finally Dutch got it and allowed me to steer the conversation to the problem of religious fundamentalism that crosses all borders – whether geographical, political or even religious. I was then able to tell him about fundamentalist Christians from The New Amerika meeting with fundamentalist Muslims from the Islamic Republic of Iran. They occasionally meet at international interfaith conferences where they discuss approaches and strategies because they have an awful lot in common with each other. Subjugation of women is only the tip of the iceberg.


* Article 141(1) – Each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied.

** I have always been a woman and intend to remain so.


4 Responses to Subjugation

  1. Dane says:

    Max, today I’m giving you a quote from some correspondence between Davey and me:

    Davey makes this post about cultural antisemitism as he experienced it on Easter this year.

    I write:
    “I have never seen too much. I have never felt too much. … And I’m thinking about the blog entry you wrote yesterday. … I want to take that blog entry and shove it up your ass. Because, in the words of the generations before us, what the fuck do we know from antisemitism?”

    Davey writes back:
    “I did not decide to go to Auschwitz. There have been times when I have immersed myself in studying the Holocaust and similarly laden issues (Amnesty [International] appeals, witch burnings, rape statistics, AIDS, etc.). Right now I am not doing that. My work right now is to develop my skills so that I can work more effectively as an organizer to prevent further atrocity and build sustainable communities.

    Part of that work is knowing that “good enough” never is. Sustainable communities are ones that are constantly self-critical, constantly developing. Putting up with small injustices does not do honor to great injustices – in fact, it fosters them.”

    The reason for this excessive comment: to pass on the last bit of Davey’s note (the full letter is on his blog, if you’re interested). So, yeah, it still matters that there’s a wage gap in Europe. If I may humbly protest.

  2. Max says:

    Dane, I am not saying that the wage gap doesn’t matter. What I very patiently explained to Dutch last night was that, at the moment, it is not one of my battles. I get very angry about things, but I have to choose where to focus my anger. That’s all. I very much hope that other people choose other battles so that we have everything covered.

  3. Slovak Dave says:

    Hi Max. Regarding your second footnote–I don’t know what prompted it, but rest assured that I myself have never questioned your womanhood nor your intention to remain a woman. 😉 Thanks for the blog. It’s a great way for me to avoid writing that conference paper I’m supposed to be working on right now…

  4. Max says:

    Hey Slovak Dave!
    Thanks for the affirmation. I saw some recipes for halušky the other day and I thought of you.
    What prompted the second footnote was that I thought some people might infer that I had previously had experience as something other than a woman. And with the androgynous name, people often assume I am a man (no one who has met me in person, however).
    Anyway, it’s nice to see you here. Now get back to work on that paper!

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