I'm told--which is to say I never read it in the by-laws--that the church where my wife and I are members determined 35 years ago, at its conception, that it would not have separate mens and womens bible study groups. After all, local church culture had it that way--full separation of genders--and it was an antiquated notion and segregationist and not normative or something to do things that way, and it simply wasn't going to go on anymore. About five years ago, women themselves seemed to forget that mandate. Now there's a women's bible study and secret friends.
I was part of the march on Washington, May, 1970, where, for the first time in my life, I saw fully registered political movements under waving banners--the gays, the SDS, and, yes, the feminists--"Feminists against the war," a whole gang of empowered women, something like a brigade. Okay, I'll admit it--it was a little scary.
I remember, back then, a Christian feminist colleague telling me that the only difference between men and women was plumbing. The reason I remember that statement is because it struck me as bizarre then, as it does now, but, good night, I didn't argue.
Once, years ago, three of us, all males, traveled to Madison, WI, for a meeting a magazine wanted me to cover, a meeting of the dairy interests in the middle of the farm crisis. As we were walking into the hall, one of us--not me--saw a woman lugging something like a bass viol case into the place, part of the musical entertainment, as it turned out. When he volunteered to help her--she did seem to be struggling--he was told rather impolitely to get lost. Chivalry, after all, was just another form of exploitation. We laughed half the way home.
And now here's this morning's story. Apparently, some small town in Maine has a coffee shop where the waitresses have gone topless. I did use the word waitresses because I saw nothing in the story about waiters, although I don't doubt for a moment in this day and age that topless male waiters with well-ordained, six-pack abs could draw customers too. Anyway, this one features females--or rather their breasts.
Some people in that town are mad--sure. Business is up, of course. The place is getting a ton of attention in the press, even from a blogger way out in Iowa--none of that is news either.
And neither is this, really. The owner says he hired ten young women from the 150 who applied. Now I'll grant you that unemployment is up too in these bad economic times. But 150 young women willing to bare-chest it to deliver hot lattes and an occasional frappacino suggests that some women at least don't mind at all being "objectified"--after all, I can say this with some experience, as a male: most customers won't be buying their Jo at the place on account of attractive personalities.
Someone asked one of the young ladies if she felt the whole idea degrading to women. "No," she said, "I love it. I find it very empowering, not degrading."
Tons of women loved Bill Clinton, even when he did his woman wrong. I never did get that either. There's a lot about gender stuff that I just don't get.
And that's okay, too. I rather like the mystery.