By now you’re tired of hearing me say this, but you won’t believe…

…the things one couldn’t do without a Y chromosome when I was growing up.

My own parents were great—and a bit ahead of their time—at encouraging me not to be fenced in by my sex.  I had backhoes and construction sets as well as dolls for toys.  I was encouraged to climb trees—and mountains.   But society at large was still severely restrictive.

In sixth grade I expressed the wish to be an astronaut, and was emphatically told by my (male) teacher that girls could never be astronauts, because all astronauts had to be test pilots, and test pilots were only men.  (Take that, Sally Ride!)

Those were the days when girls took home economics classes and boys took shop.   Period.  End of story.

There’s no point in detailing all the restrictions—there are too many, and this is about thanksgiving, not griping—but here’s one I just learned:  Until the late 1960s no woman could run officially in the Boston Marathon.  My running friend says women were told they would damage their bodies if they tried to run such a long distance.  (Now some of the best ultramarathon runners are women.)

I rode the crest of the wave of change, with doors opening all around me.  I was the first (and only) girl in my high school’s jazz band, the only girl in my Boy Scout Explorer post, the only girl in many of my physics classes.

It’s true that in our enthusiasm we’ve allowed the pendulum to swing too far, forcing women to face a different kind of restriction:  While a myriad other opportunities were becoming available, women were finding it more and more difficult to choose the noble career of homemaking that had for millenia been taken for granted as their birthright (and duty).

A course correction is necessary to fix this injustice, but let’s not lose sight of what we have gained, nor be tempted to push the pendulum back too far.  These may be perilous times, but if you’re a woman, you don’t really want to go back to the 1950s.

I’m thankful that today’s girls can dream about becoming astronauts.*  Or whatever else they might want to be and to do.


*The uncertain future of our space program notwithstanding.

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, November 19, 2010 at 6:32 am | Edit
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When I tell the young women working at the local gas station that when I was their age, I was turned down for a job at the local gas station because pumping gas was, and I quote, "Too hard for a girl," they don't really believe me...

Posted by katie baker on Saturday, November 27, 2010 at 10:03 pm

We have, indeed, come a long way. Not always in the right direction, but sometimes!

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, December 03, 2010 at 9:10 am
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