Modern society robs women of spirit, body

By Patrick

(University of Chicago)

CHICAGO — Slap. Punch. Sexually invaded. Bitch. Whore. Refusal of promotion. Whistles. And cat-calls. All of these elements, from a woman being raped to a woman being called a bitch when she has refused to go for a drink with her boss, constitute the robbery of a woman’s spirit.
This robbery reinforces the objectified status of women in our society. Moreover, this objectified status is economically beneficial to the dominant society. The souls of women have been taken without permission and prevented from returning. The soul-snatching is a process carried out by television, music (pop, country, gangsta rap, and R&B), education and the private sector.
According to Andrian Wing, an African-American professor at the University of Iowa School of Law, “Spirit-murder consists of hundreds, if not thousands, of spirit injuries and assaults, some major and some minor. The cumulative effect is the slow death of the psyche, the soul and the persona whether in the depths of poverty or in the heights of academia.”
Yet many believe that the “gender issue” has been solved and that feminists — “womanists” for African-Americans — are just a bunch of women angry at white males.
Has the women’s movement emancipated them from the permanent secondary status in our society? Many, including economists, say that the role of women has been altered. They can even rattle off the number of women appointed to the Supreme Court and the number of women within Congress and other elected positions. Economic studies indicate that at least partly because of the advent of easily accessible birth control, women currently enjoy more economic freedom.
Why then, with these optimistic statistics, was a woman driving along in Detroit last year stopped, physically beaten, chased and forced to jump to her death after colliding with a car filled with three men? And this travesty was cheered on by a crowd! If the role of women has changed since the 19th century, why is it that out of top 100 Fortune 500 companies in this country, not one chief executive officer is a woman?
And then there are those who point to the number of laws made for and rendered by women. How does one account for the Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas debacle, whereby the most powerful legislative body in the nation authorized the humiliation and harassment of women?
The injuries by society extend well beyond the spirit. They crystallize in the form of a sharp slap, not only on the buttocks, but in the faces of women everywhere. The injuries are physical. Men manipulate women into spirit-killing situations — retaining a job, unwanted sex or verbal abuse. That feeling of power in a man allows him to rape women and sexually abuse young girls.
This is evident in war — the object of which is defeating one’s enemy and capturing the women in the country by raping as many as possible. The subjugation of women as a crucial economic element of war is further proven by the fact that in many areas around the world, particularly in non-industrialized countries, revenue is realized from military bases. Income is derived from the prostitution of women whose main source of income comes from the soldiers; there are more than 1 million prostitutes alone in Asia. How can one divorce the “numbers” from the events?
In 1992 and 1993 more than 300,000 cases of rape and attempted rape were reported nationally. In addition, in 1990, some 5,000 women lost their spirits and their lives as a result of homicide and 40 percent were murdered by someone they knew. When society views women as objects, by employing statistics and economic formulas and seeing women only as conduits of sexual satisfaction, then it is no wonder that we allow 10 year-old Nepalese girls to work twice as many hours as boys in order that we may wear designer clothes, or that we encourage young women to be robbed of their teen years by picking grapes in California and that we sanction spiritual injuries and physical and sexual abuse through advertising.
It is no wonder the presidents of organizations are almost always men, that on television there is only one cartoon show where the main character is a female, and that centers for gender research, counseling and support are scrutinized, underfunded and even academically ridiculed.
This is not another attack on white males. It is, however, a clarion call to society in which women have not been, are not, and (if allowed to be ignored further) will never be more than an object — a warm body, a hot meal and a nagging “Aunt Jemima.” I would be remiss if I did not mention that my African-American sisters suffer a heavy burden. When one recalls important leaders during Black History Month, often one immediately recounts Martin, Malcolm and Marcus. The list of significant women is just as long, if not longer. In fact, African-American women have been held to a different standard than white men, women and their black brothers.
It is incumbent upon us to investigate, explore and recommend policies that are truly gender-benign. Our action and scholarship must retrain the social behaviors of a society that strongly believes that the first lady of this country should be seen and not heard. If allowed to continue, we are destined for a world full of women without souls. As one of the characters stated in the movie “The Joy Luck Club” concerning the reason that her daughter allowed herself to be mentally abused by her husband, “She was born with no spirit because I had none to give her.”