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The Journal Gazette

  • Monica Wehrle

Sunday, March 24, 2019 1:00 am

Full equality? Needs improvement

Patriarchy, much of it unconscious, continues to constrain women's advancement

Monica Wehrle

As we celebrate Women's History month, I think back to growing up in Fort Wayne. I was not taught to notice or value that women played significant roles in anything other than family life and educational life. And now we have March, a whole month of the 12 devoted to celebrating women's contributions in all areas of our life. And this year – 2019 – we can proudly note that women have had the right to vote in the U.S. for 100 years.

That was then and this is now, right? Where are we, as women in northeast Indiana, in the present? Can we finally tell our female children and female young adults that, historically, women may not have had much power, but, now we do? Have we achieved equity?

Let's take a brief peek at the role of patriarchy in answering that question. Try not to cringe here. Just for a moment, let's look at whether the patriarchal process is playing some role in preventing complete equality.

There are so many definitions of patriarchy available electronically today. I offer this one – patriarchy is generally not an explicit ongoing effort by men to dominate women or to assume that men are superior in all fields. Rather, patriarchy is a longstanding system we are born into and participate in, mostly unconsciously.

Let us review and rate a few areas of public life to become conscious of where we stand presently.

The law: Women and righteous conscious men successfully changed some of our laws to include the rights of women. Some even filed lawsuits to interpret the law equitably for women. To name a few areas, women are represented in property ownership, marriage dissolutions, financial inheritance, child custody and recourses when sexually harassed or attacked. The Equal Rights Amendment almost passed. That would have enshrined in our beloved Constitution that unpatriarchal notion that equal power should be the law of our land. But almost doesn't count legally. Needs improvement.

Sports: Gratefully, there are many more powerful female national athletes, including Serena Williams, Diana Nyad, players in the WNBA, LPGA, on the U.S. women's soccer team plus so many Olympic role models. In the 1980s and part of the 1990s, Fort Wayne's run jane run: Women in Sports event attempted to showcase amateur women's sports in our region.

Considering current sports coverage in our electronic and print media – certainly, the number of inches/minutes devoted to covering women's sports equals the number of inches/minutes devoted to covering men's sports, doesn't it? Didn't Title IX take care of making sure that girls and women attending institutions that receive federal funds receive equal support financially? Well, not really. Needs improvement.

Politics: How many women are currently in national political elected office from our region? None. Of the 212 elected offices in Allen County as of January 2019, there are 54 women filling those jobs. That includes school boards, trustee boards, county and city elected offices. Not parity by the numbers or the power of the positions. Needs improvement.

Religion: There are a few female religious leaders in northeast Indiana. And many women attend spiritually based groups and organizations in this City of Churches and the rural areas surrounding it. Is the eternal source always described with a male pronoun? Needs improvement.

Business/community leaders: Yes, we have some outstanding women in business leadership, doing well in running their companies and contributing to our community.

What about the largest companies and the most well-known companies from our region? Male leadership. Board members there? Well, mostly men. Needs improvement.

Pay equity: Women work outside the home now in more occupations than ever before. There are more physicians, attorneys and professionals who are women. What about skilled trades? Not so much. Sadly, women are way behind men's earnings in all areas of work. Pay equity in Indiana lags way behind the country. Indiana has the sixth-largest wage gap of all states in the U.S. Women make 74 cents for each $1 a man makes in Indiana. Needs improvement.

Historically, we can appreciate that positive changes for women were a result of a basic first step of noticing the inequities. Can we please take notice of where we are today and plan what is yet to be done to achieve true equality?

Please take a moment to notice. Look at the role of unconscious patriarchy where you work, where you pray, where you vote and where you live.

Make it possible for the young female and male citizens in northeast Indiana to see how the lack of gender equality limits the possibilities for our region as a whole.

Just notice the impact, take a deep breath and know that the future for young girls and young adult women in northeast Indiana depends on your taking notice of the patriarchal process.

A small thing – just take a moment to notice.

Monica Wehrle is a retired corporate recruiter, social activist and co-founder of Fort Wayne Women's Bureau, Inc.