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.