Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Not Oppressed?

I've heard many state that women aren't an oppressed group.

I've thought about it a lot, honestly.

Growing up, I don't remember ever feeling oppressed.

There were times when I thought it must be a lot more fun to be a boy - but this was never because of restrictions placed upon me by my parents or society, just because they weren't so petty in conversation.

I was annoyed when I realized that girls couldn't play football, but it never struck me as oppressive.  I was angry when they kicked the girls off of the baseball team in fourth grade and sent them to the softball field, even when they were perfectly good baseball players - but I didn't think of this as oppression.

This weekend, however, while hanging around the theatre, I heard about the Crime and Punishment Museum.

I never knew about the severe oppression.  There were special torture devices for women who gossiped.  For women who disobeyed their husbands. For women who were "too quarrelsome".

We discussed it in jest, but it made my blood boil that such things ever existed.

And then, I saw this:

Sensei Keiko Fukuda was just presented with the 10th Dan (degree) in Judo.  She was a 5th degree black belt for thirty years, because a woman had never made it past that rank.  When asked if she could move on, the powers that be said that because there was no precedent for a woman, she should not be allowed.

It had nothing to do with her skills.  It had nothing to do with her understanding.  It was only her gender that prevented her from moving on in her art.

I had heard of oppression in The Congo and several other parts of Africa.  I had heard of oppression in Iran.  I knew of the disposal of Chinese babies who happened to be born female.

I had not heard of this in the martial arts.

My son takes tae kwon do locally and there are at least as many girls as boys at the do jang each time we visit.  They are equally capable, equally interested...  I can't imagine them being kept from progressing.

I know that we enjoy a little more equality when it comes to our gender in the United States, but we still have a long way to go.

Learning the history of what women have endured (and I'm sure I'll be doing more research into those devices seen at Crime and Punishment) has opened my eyes to just how far women have come, and just what we've had to fight for.

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