Mission Real Women

Long, long ago in ancient Greece, only men had rights to nobility, inheritance and property. Literature, art and archaeological excavations tell us that from 2,000 BC to 300 BC, there existed self-reliant female societies around the outer edges of main civilization. Evidence has been found on the island of Crete, in Turkey, in Scandinavia and around the Altai Mountains. Between 1162 and 1889 as explorers travelled further from the known world, all-female communities and armies were encountered in countries known today as Mongolia, China, India, Thailand, Benin, Libya and South America along the Amazon River. Of ancient female communities, the Minoan culture on Crete is the oldest.

Mister Mom Minoan women did not marry but had children by arrangement involving no ties to the father. Male children were either sent back to their fathers or kept in domestic service. In 2015, 40.2 percent of births in the USA were to unwed women. Today in the USA, at least 300,000 married-family households report the husband not working nor looking for work but staying at home caring for children. More stay-at-home dads results from the fact that 55 percent of married women earn half or more of their family’s income. Labour reform is addressing support systems for working parents such as day care, flexible hours, shared workdays, as well as maternity leave for men. In 2016, 50 percent of the world’s population is women and 40 percent of the global workforce is female. Real women create a household arrangement that best supports the goals of each member.

Women Warriors Minoan women were trained in agriculture, hunting, and war. They were skilled at combat including fighting on horseback, the bow and arrow, the battle-axe, spears, swords and shields. Ancient attire revealed in artworks and tombs suggest that women may have amputated one breast so as not to restrict their use of the bow and arrow. Historians agree that while exact statistics remain vague, there has been a constant presence of women fighting in wars. Often they had to disguise their gender to pass enlistment and to surprise the enemy. The submarine lamp and telescope was invented by Sara Mather in 1870, yet ironically one of the first enlisted women to serve aboard a Navy submarine, Dominique Saavedra earned her submarine qualification, or ‘dolphins’, on 2 August 2016 and is preparing to deploy aboard USS Michigan. Real women contribute by taking up a cause, the pen or a stance.

Saluted Stateswomen On the outskirts of the ancient world, women formed independent kingdoms under a Queen-Priestess-Goddess-Warrior. Female figures in Minoan art are painted twice the size of Minoan males. Women are often portrayed being saluted, and whereas there are many depictions of men showing deference to women, not one shows women deferring to men. Since ancient times, 86 nations had or have female monarchs, presidents or prime ministers. Since the debut of ‘Commander in Chief’ starring Geena Davis, a survey reveals that 79 percent say they would have no problem with a woman President. Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first woman presidential candidate in the United States in 1872 when she was nominated by the National Radical Reformers. In the last US presidential election, 65 percent of women voted whereas 62 percent of men cast a ballot. Real women make their vocation, voice and vote count.

Fictional Females As ‘queendoms’ of women were conquered, unflattering tales were told of legendary fierce female warriors who were barbaric man-hating temptresses. Turning powerful women into the Amazons of Greek mythology was an intimidation tactic of the patriarchal system. The strong revulsion expressed for matrilineal culture raises suspicion that male-dominated societies were threatened by cultural integration. Amazons became mythical illustrations of danger to travellers and the conflict between classical Greek culture and that of neighbouring colonies. Until the 20th-century, Amazons were typically portrayed as alien adversaries of heroes whose goal was to rescue or defeat them to assert male superiority. Today’s depiction is as powerful warriors whose respect and cooperation the male heroes are challenged to earn. Modern science fiction works and computer games often feature all-female armies, communities or heroines. A modern example of an Amazon is the superhero Wonder Woman. The award-winning author Maya Angelou recently coined the word ‘sheroes’ meaning heroines. Since 1995, the character of M in James Bond movies has been played by Judi Dench instead of a male actor. Real women earn respect rather than demand it.

Athenian Athletes Women on Crete participated in sports such as wrestling, boxing and bull-jumping. In the ‘Toreador Fresco’ women are shown somersaulting over a charging bull. During the ancient Olympic Games (776 BC to 393 BC), married women were not allowed to attend under penalty of death. There was a concurrent Grecian Hera Games in which women participated in footraces. Unlike men, they did not compete naked but wore short skirts and kept one breast exposed, similar to Janet Jackson during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Women seem to disappear from sports until 1567 when Mary Queen of Scots is said to be the first woman to play golf. She caused a scandal in Scotland when she played golf a few days after her husband was murdered. When the modern Olympic Games resumed in 1896, women were paid to attend as groupies. Fast forward to the recent games in Athens when 45 percent of Olympic competitors were women. The 2012 Olympic Games in London were the first Olympics in which women competed in all sports in the programme. Real women champion a personal fitness plan that suits their lifestyle and may not necessarily involve competition.

Current Categorization Modern western culture seems to take a step backward for every few strides forward. Talk show hosts take quantum leaps to create candid dialogue about women’s issues and imperfect celebrities yet one only has to watch the reality television show ‘Wife Swap’ to observe that some couples believe that a woman’s role is to serve her husband. Worse still, they are raising children to believe that women have zero intellectual significance. In her book ‘EVEolution’, Faith Popcorn states that women ‘buy 80 percent of the products and control 80 percent of the money’ yet currently a truck commercial features a man priding himself on being able to offer his girlfriend enough room in this vehicle for all her feminine wares of hats and shoes as they prepare for a date. Most media agencies including advertisers, publishers, press, television and radio are becoming more responsible regarding elimination of content that slanders either gender, and try to promote attitudes of self-esteem and mutual respect. Even so, some women continue to sacrifice their overall well-being in the pursuit of the stereotypical ideal female appearance. Real women have a healthy self-image whereby their aesthetic decisions are based on personal style.

Historians agree that trends are cyclical. Overreaction to gender inequity could turn power back to an unbalanced situation. Under-reaction to inequities perpetuates an unbalanced system. Gender equity in every aspect of life is essential for greater harmony amongst humanity. Western society is close to reaching equity but must continue fair practices toward measurable indicators of the gender’s social, business, political, purchasing and academic participation in both qualitative and quantitative terms. Men and women are both from planet earth and should cohabitate harmoniously upon it. We can all play an important role toward ‘Mission Real Women’.

To Real Women everywhere... Happy Womens Day for 9 August :)

Larna Anderson, a Real Woman

Managing Director at The Art of Learning (Pty) Ltd

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