Men and Women: Equals and Opposites
Tuesday June 3, 2003 Grand Junction Free Press Page 10 (c) Copyright 2003, Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall, All Rights ReservedBy Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall Axiom: Women are equal to men because they are their opposites. Men are equal to women for the same reason.
From the time human beings lived in caves until very late in the 20th century, men protected women, women protected children. That probably represents millions of years of conditioning... hardly something a generation of liberated females can overcome in a few years. I’ve always been comfortable with the philosophy that the only thing that makes women equal to men is that we are their opposites. Equally, the only thing that makes men women’s equals is they are our opposites. I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of the commercials designed to appeal to women. You’ve seen them. They make men look like idiots, liars, incompetents… pandering jerks at best. I love men. The ads anger me. When our boys came home from war in 1945, I was eight. The government had to get all of the Rosie Riveters out of the work force. Our returning heroes wanted – and needed -- their jobs. My generation of women was taught a female’s place is in the home. Beautiful women like Doris Day told me so in every movie. In living color. On big screens. By the time I was 16, I had a clear view of who society thought I was supposed to be and what everyone – except me – expected of me. At 17, my first article appeared in the Denver Post – a sports story about the Denver Bears. A popular adage of the day was “Send your sons to college, not your daughters. Girls don’t need a costly education to have babies.” I was still going to university in my 40s (to get a graduate degree) because of that adage. Unfortunately, social engineers of the 40s and 50s did not know I would have to support two children, alone. They did not project the millions of women who would be forced into the role of total family provider. They did not calculate the number of men who would drop out of sight and refuse to support their children. Neither did I. Men do not desert. Little boys who never grow out of the “I am the world” stage do this. When I refer to the importance of men in this article, I refer to men, not little boys. After my first year as a newspaper reporter for the Wyoming Eagle (Cheyenne, 1957), I moved back to Denver for family reasons. I got a job at the Denver Police Department and married a police officer in 1958. Three years and two babies later, he was arrested for his minor role in the Denver Police scandal. He got a one-to-five year sentence. (He caught fellow cops burglarizing places, reported it the first time, was threatened, and did not report it after the threats… I knew nothing about it until his arrest.) Just prior to his arrest and while seven-months pregnant, a woman came through a stop sign and hit me broadside in the driver’s door. I was driving. Though I carried the baby full-term, I was in hard labor for three days. The accident caused health problems for me in the aftermath of my daughter’s birth. It is why I am disabled with arthritis, today. My husband was arrested three months after her birth and my second hospitalization was caused by it. While Joe was in prison, I had to have surgery. I had no sick leave from my job. I had surgery one day and two days later I sneaked out of the hospital to go back to work. I was the sole family provider. Two weeks later, I collapsed. I had to go on welfare. It was there that I learned the cost of something for nothing is human dignity. I became conservative as a result of my welfare experience. To make a very long story short, I stayed with my husband when he came home from prison. He was on parole for several years. The experience so destroyed him he could not work. I cannot explain to you the difficulties or the pain of those years, so will not try. Six years after his arrest, we divorced. At the time, I was a high school graduate who loved to write and who could type 92 words per minute. I was terrified. I asked for a huge $50 per month per child as support. I knew he would have a hard time and didn’t want to add to it. I might as well have asked for a million a month because he disappeared. Desertion. Child support payments were never paid. I did what all women who needed to get ahead did in those days: keep changing jobs. I had just become a magazine editor and assistant to the publisher when I met Gordon Barnewall and remarried. He and I got along well… but he was a terrible stepfather. The children were my primary responsibility. We stayed married only two and a half years. When I divorced Gordon, I went to work for a downtown Denver bank. I vowed I would not remarry until my children were raised. As I began my career in the white male-dominated world of banking in the early 1970s, I knew my limits. Society had taught me well. Don’t compete too effectively or you will threaten male egos. Don’t be too bright, too intense, or you invite competition – and, it’s not ladylike to compete with men. It’s even less ladylike to win. It was men in my world of banking that expanded their views of my capabilities. They were the ones that took me out of the socially acceptable “woman in marketing or personnel” role. Fiscally conservative males put me in the non-traditional female position of managing a major credit and deposit portfolio. Men who had to fight their own social views -- taught them by preceding generations -- supported and promoted me. I had to fight my social views, taught me by preceding generations. I’m not sure who had the toughest time with attitude, the bankers who helped me learn and succeed – or, me. It’s hard to step from a support to a line management role. One job requires a reaction to decisions made by others. The other, to create the concept and make decisions for others to implement. Some of those men who supported me expected me to fail. Some hoped I would fail. They wanted things to stay the same. They wanted to say, “See, women cannot assume a stressful, logical, decision-making role like credit management.” Most, however, did what they could to be non-judgmental. When I succeeded, many of them changed their attitudes. It opened the doors for more women to progress into the male-dominated world of bank credit. I can promise you however, it was no fun being a pioneer. I constantly fought the sense of displaced housewife and mother and all the inherent feelings of guilt that accompany both. When there is only one working parent in the home, it is true that children suffer the consequences. In my opinion, the parent who must be both mother and father, who must be provider and housekeeper, loses, too. Loses what? The right to be young, to mature slowly, to have time for friends... even more important, to have time for self. I didn’t realize that until years after both of my children had left home. At one point, I worked 60 hours a week, sat on five boards, and worked on my graduate degree so I could continue my upward mobility at the bank. I had two teenagers. I had to earn enough to pay for braces on teeth, a home in a good neighborhood, medical insurance and care, clothing, car, insurance – all of the things a father provides, or should. Maybe that’s why I have so much respect for fathers. I know how hard the job is! There were Sunday mornings when after a Saturday spent cleaning the house, washing and ironing and doing the grocery shopping for the week, I took my kids to the mountains. We’d get a campsite by Bear Creek and cook breakfast outdoors. I taught them to play tennis and to swim. Today, psychologists tell us that kids raised in fatherless homes really do not suffer any sense of loss. These “specialists” need to go back to school – and study something else. Two years ago, the children’s father died of cancer. My son was 21 months and my daughter three months old when their father went to prison. For most of their lives, I raised them. Over all those years, Joe came to Colorado less than six times. He always called to make sure I wouldn’t call the Sheriff to arrest him for non-support before he stopped to see the kids. Before he died, both children (now in their 40s) flew far from their homes to his bedside. They stayed with him through the ordeal. I knew that his only fatherly act was that of sperm donor. They did not know that. From their perspective, he was their father and he was dying. Women’s libbers try to make men insignificant. They cannot. And, since the world is made up of equals and opposites, if there were no men, it is likely there would be no women, either. I may add companies to my list of “Do Not Buy Their Products” if they run ads that demean men. When advertisers demean men and make them look like idiots who are barely tolerated by a superior female, they demean me as a woman, too.