Thursday, January 24, 2013

Free to be ... in combat?!

"Free to Be...You and Me" just turned 40!   I loved the songs and stories as a child, and I was thrilled to hear Darius Rucker cover football hero Rosey Grier's "Its all right to cry"  on a For the Kids CD.  I remember the messages delivered by older kids as they performed the skits during an assembly in the gymatorium.  But I struggled to recall a melody for my then preschool son--who, like William, has a doll.  Unlike little William, who was mocked for his choice, our community supported my child's decision to bring his baby into restaurants and to religious services.  Many applauded his effort to not only care for her, but to include her in activities.   Until he stood up to join the other children in dance and adjusted Karen on his hip, many had not realized that the small, fair-trade scarf was not a blanket, but was converted into a sling, very similar to the one I'd used to carry him and that I still use with his cousin.  Furthermore, no one questioned why such a fair skinned child had such a dark skinned baby.  In the moment that one father offered my child a high five for his future parenting promise, I was overcome with pride and with hope, that when he is a Dad, he has the choice to care for his children as he and his future partner (as all spouses will, indeed, be equal partners) deem best for their family, and they are not hamstrung by societal gender or racial stereotypes.   And that worldwide, there will be no need for programs like Girl Rising to bring attention to the necessity of bringing girls into education to break their cycle of poverty.

I hope some of those stereotypes really are relegated to history, where they should remain as lessons.  My son's current teacher, in preparation for Martin Luther King Day, shared that "It really is gratifying to have to explain the laws he worked to change--our [kids] have absolutely no idea why anyone would ever judge a person by the color of their skin (or hair, or eyes..)."  What a wonderful birthday present for Dr. King!

In related (to gender stereotypes) news, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will announce today and notify Congress that the U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat with the goal of opening up as many jobs as possible to female troops.  Branches will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units over the next few years, and will report their progress quarterly. From an equity standpoint, its about damn time.  However, I'm  wary that  "If, after the assessment, a branch finds that a specific job or unit should not be open, they can go back to the secretary and ask for an exemption to the policy, to designate the job or unit as closed."   This concerns me, somewhat because of its CYA, and don't worry your pretty little head implications, but primarily because if there really are positions that are so dangerous or difficult that not one woman is capable of even attempting to compete to fill it, than how screwed up is our world that there is a need for such a position, for anyone, for any length of time?! 


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