It was a late evening, I was zapping around on the TV and found by accident a program about women’s equal rights (or the lack of them) in the USA.
Lack of social equality
It is, to me, quite ironical that the world’s self-proclaimed biggest democracy still, after having been ahead with so many other social developments, cannot find out how to give women equal rights. Along with tons of other social problems that mainly arise from the deeply rooted belief in survival of the strongest, or, in American language, the freedom to make your own happiness.
I am not against freedom or liberalism. It certainly is important also to me that it is possible for everybody to create something, rather than just being locked into the existing social and economical patterns. It just has to be possible for real, not as a fantasy. And it looks like if many women in the USA can only fantasize about creating something big, simply because they are locked up in such patterns that keep them from doing big things.
According to a woman speaking in the TV program, men are either making a career or are considered losers. There is no middle way. Men cannot have just the same job for a longer period, being happy about it – and they certainly cannot put the career on hold while going at home, taking care of the house and the children. But this is exactly what is expected from women. Hence, the lack of equality in society.
But a remarkable consequence has developed from this inequality: women dare to say to their boss that he can have it, now they are leaving and do not care about what that means for their future career options. And they do that, often, according to the TV program. They quit their job if it becomes too much of a burden, while men accept much more of what makes work life miserable. Because men must go through a career and be careful not to ruin any options, not to burn any bridges.
Being a success
We are not locked up in the same way in Denmark and Sweden, where I work and live. But as the USA has had (and still have) a huge influence on our way of living, we are to a high degree driven by the same values – money, things, promotions, pension savings, etc. for the men, less of it all for most women who then instead have a focus partly on home and a secured economy and status in life, partly on enjoying that life as much as possible – now! Children, if any, are being taken care of by the kindergarten.
But in both worlds, the USA and Denmark/Sweden, we all want a lot. And it requires at least some of us to be successful in an economical way. We need money. So we are selling a lot of life for the possibility to buy even more smart phones, TVs and other things. And we try really hard to look successful to others, because if we do not look that way, we aren’t! It is not common to try to look a bit deeper – when evaluating others, we simply look at the size of their car, their house, and their level of job. Then we know if they are successful.
Everything comes at a price
When I was a small child there was a children’s movie on TV, I think it was a Swedish one: The Boy with the Gold-Trousers. About a boy who discovered that he could just put his hand deep down in the pockets of his trousers, and there would be money. And he could do this again and again, until having filled his room with money. What he didn’t know at first, however, but which he did find out later, was that the money actually came from somewhere – the bank! So each time he pulled money out of his pocket, a corresponding amount vanished from the bank. And that, in the end, lead to a lot of trouble.
The morale of such a story is, of course, that wealth is not for free. That a high standard of living would need to be payed somehow, by some. That the hunt for gold-trousers and the wish to use them for more than the necessary leads to serious problems.
Which way does the inequality turn?
So maybe the apparently bad situation for women in the USA has brought something really good with it: the ability for at least half of the population to say no to the career race, to the abuse of the gold-trousers. The ability for women to say no and focus on real values, while men are still running around like headless chicken, unable to sit still long enough to feel and find out if it was true what the fantasy said to them, when they still believed in it: that money can buy happiness.
Instead the men in the USA – and we in Denmark/Sweden – must look like successes all the time, look like if we are without any trouble, without fear, without the need for a helping hand, and, as a consequence, without showing any understanding of the fact that others could face trouble, feel fear, and need a helping hand.
And in the mean time, women figured it all out and reached some values that are closer to their true wishes and needs, closer to the idea of actually getting something out of the economical success.
(And pardon for all the stereotyping).