It gives me great comfort to think that, the Tea Party notwithstanding, we are making progress as a species. I watched Annie Get Your Gun on the hotel TV last night and while I suppose that part of it was considered radical for its time, a gun-toting woman who could outshoot her man, it was terribly disappointing that by the end, she had to lose the contest on purpose in order to win him. Not to mention a cast of Indians who said “Ugh.” I wonder whether high school drama classes still put on the play and whether they take the liberty to change it. I hope so.
Today is my older daughter Kerala’s 32nd birthday and I’m proud to report that she and her sister Talia were taught to reach for the far corners of their promise, even if it meant consistently beating a man (their Dad) in Boggle, writing blogs pithier and funnier than his or playing basketball all-out regardless of the opposing team’s gender. How could it be otherwise? Why would anyone wish to hold others back because of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and the like? How can they live with themselves knowing that the only way to raise themselves up is to keep someone else down?
Well, they have and they do and perhaps they always will, but at least not with society’s wholehearted approval. We have a First Lady in the White House who models an intelligence, commitment, eloquence and talent equal to her husband and feels no need to hide it under a posture of deferment. We have women entering most every profession and after decades of practice, learning how to do so on their own terms and in their own gendered style. The differences in gender are real, manifest in the body, the brain and the heart, but instead of limitations, they are opportunities to redefine the way certain jobs get done, be they female airline pilots or male pre-school teachers. Difference accepted is a chance to enlarge the needed conversations and perspectives.
My daughters grew in a culture that encouraged the pursuit of any dream that announced itself. Hooray for that! But they also left home and set out in the wide world where other people think differently. One has had to deal with the arrogance of certain male attitudes in the workplace, the other endure (or enjoy?) the whistles of Argentinean men on the street.
And now my granddaughter Zadie has the double challenge of meeting people who may limit her because she’s a girl, others who may limit her because she’s mixed race. But for now she’s blissfully innocent of it all and the world is hers for the taking, making her way through it with a scream, a shout, a charming smile, infectious laughter, a whine, all the tools in her arsenal that announce: “You will never see me lose on purpose to make some man feel better.” And I say hooray for that.
So happy birthday to my sweet and strong Kerala. Wish I could play Boggle with you on your special day. By the way, next time we do, will you please let me win?