Lady Power?

So, there’s this Greek play, called Lysistrata. It’s an easy read and relatively short (especially as Ancient Greek literature goes), however, it doesn’t make it into the High School curriculum much, and if you’ve read it, you know why. Even most college freshman writing teachers really don’t want to go there, it is generally, as far as I know, is a college sophomore level and up work of literature. It does get performed live from time to time.

The basic premise of the play is that the women of Ancient Sparta are not on board with the whole Sparta as military society and blockade themselves into the Acropolis and refuse to “spend time” with their husbands/boyfriends until the men of Sparta give up their warlike ways. The ringleader is a woman named Lysistrata. The play is full of cheap jokes about the men struggling with involuntary chastity (I can’t put my “sword” down!), and some of the women likewise bemoaning their strategy.

So, an interesting idea of what Lady Power is. Is that really the only power ladies have?

In theory, and according to supposedly gender-neutral objective tests, women are as intellectually gifted as men, and anecdotally, teachers tend to find girls easier to teach, at least at younger grades, because they tend to be calmer and more attentive. Yet, “achievement gaps” persist, and women tend not to pursue certain subjects, fields, career tracks, etc, as they reach adulthood. Or if they do, they don’t always seem to work out—they fall off or stall on the professional ladder more quickly than men. Some of this can be attributed to having children, other family obligations, or generally women having more of an interest in life-balance even if they don’t have kids. If you look at pay in the United States, women (who work) earn about $0.25 less on the dollar than their male functional equivalents—about half of this can be rationalized and sourced to choices made by women; about half of it can’t.

So, take this in tandem with news that marriage is a disappearing institution. Well less than half of American adults are married. (Of course, some have been married in the past, just not now.) So, what does that mean for the fate of women who are less likely to have a job, more likely to have a work record (years and time in the workforce) affected by child-raising and other family obligations? Well, GenX in the House—how should I know, but I doubt it is good.

It’s a big question with a lot of subjectivity embedded in it. Money is power, but it is only one type of power. Physical strength and health is another; and so is just being a woman, at least according to Lysistrata and her friends. Yes, high paying jobs and fulfilling careers are good things. (Although not necessarily the same thing.) What about making connections to other people—friends, family, neighbors? What about intellectual exploration, satisfying curiosity, self-expression, artistry? What about compassion and empathy?

So, men control and generally wind up with more money in this life. He who has the most toys wins. Wins what? Life, the Board Game from Milton Bradley ™? I dunno about that, exactly. It sure makes some things nicer and easier, no question. And, of course, lesson of the Lehmann Brothers crash, just because you had a lot at one point or made a lot doesn’t mean that you keep it.

Waxing conservative: a corporate job with a big salary years ago used to mean a guy married his teenage sweetheart, bought a house, started having kids and spent his evenings and weekends at tiny tot’s plays and little league games. Now? Beer allowance and an upscale bachelor pad?   Not completely fair because it is not completely accurate, but close enough to rattle a cage or two. Guy—if you’ve ever said “she wasn’t good enough for me that’s why I’m still single,” no, not really. If you were close enough for someone else to ask (and even if they don’t), she was plenty good enough for you. Get over yourself.

So, why is it “worth it” to commit? You know, years ago, I read a magazine article about “pro-marriage” classes led by an African American man in a town in, I believe, Oklahoma. His first marriage had failed, and he then remarried and had been married to the second wife for over twenty years. He was trying to encourage younger men to settle down with their girlfriends and get married. Someone in the class asked him just that, “why is it worth it?” According to the article, the guy was stumped for a short answer, basically said the whole course was about that and he couldn’t really answer the question it just was.

Commitment to anything is dangerous for the plain and simple reason that if you commit and the other side doesn’t you will wind up worn out, used up, strung out and exhausted. Doesn’t matter if it is a job, an educational program, a political movement, a friend, or a marriage. So, yeah, be careful and make sure that it is mutual, whatever it is.

Maybe the struggle isn’t the answer, maybe the struggle is the question. Maybe it is not about commitment to a partner being “worth it”. Maybe asking, “why is it worth it to commit?”, asking that question alone is an orange flag, Single Ladies. (And Single Gentlemen.)* Maybe the question is how do I get there? How do I find someone who has habits and preferences and values that I can connect with?

And for women, a bit too often, how do I get my boyfriend out of the junior adult dive bar zone, putting money and time toward long term (hopefully?) mutual goals of creating a stable life? A half dozen beers at the bars every week adds up after a decade or so, even at Happy Hour prices. Or again, maybe it’s not the answer it is the question, Single Ladies: Do I bother? (But if I don’t, where to go from there?) As the song goes, “you’ll go farther as a couple” but “couple” is more than just a ring and license from the State.

Because at the end of the day, earnings are not savings, what you start with is not what accrues, all that glitters is not gold and all that counts is not cash. The last I truly believe.

So, what is Lady Power? Everything you were born with and accrue, with the own special twist that is you. Find people who like and appreciate it. If a husband doesn’t come along (or if he comes and goes), alas, alack, that is Man-kind’s loss, not yours. (Menfolk the same—if you do the man things, savings account, bended knee, house and tell the boys at the bar “gotta go!” and she’s not impressed? Uh, there’s a whole pool that will be, toss the line in again.)

*Of course, the truly Dark Side to “worth it” are the guys who are scrounging around for in-laws who are going to spend money on their daughter and son-in-law—down payments, jobs, vacations, etc. Just remember, guys, the man at the head of the family doesn’t necessarily mean you, and if her dad is paying the bills, guess who runs the show? <Snrt.>

About missbodie

The Dragon Lady is a life long tea drinker. Her first coffee shops were Big Boy and the Oriental Diner in downtown Milwaukee. She lives in our Nation's Capital with three bicycles and an energetic tabby cat.
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