Is the world inching toward the age that looms as its last hope: The Age of Women? It’s happening in the United States, as in other Western nations, and in some corners of Asia. But is there enough momentum to bring the world to a consensus of the senses, if you will, to keep the appetites of men from drowning us in climate change?
Much of the answer will flow from how they use their universal instrument of change where they have it: the vote. I’ve been saying this since well back in the last century. But it matters far more for women to say it, over and over and over. And far more yet when they vote their own interests ― as men have never feared of doing.
It’s been less than a century since the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified by the States, to qualify women to vote. But they were hardly prepared then to use it in a concerted way. In the absence of the Amendment, they had no reason to organize, or flex their potential.
They knew that the Constitution promised equality and equal protection under law. But it has never come of its own accord. After all, they were less than citizens when the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the amendment reaffirming equal protection were adopted. They’ve learned at persistent pain that they get it when they step up and take it. “Establish Justice.” Women are about it now. A good deal of history in this century will be written, belatedly, in this struggle.
To prove more adept at using their vote, women are pushing hard at an equal priority that’s bound to sharpen their use of the ballot box: education. American women have made themselves not only a majority of undergraduate students earning degrees, but a growing majority at the same time. Three of every five degrees awarded now are going to women.
Their numbers are growing in almost every graduate school. It won’t be long before gender balance will define the professions. And that is bound to change, in not so subtle ways, the way the law works. Going back to the Victorian model, the law has always worked as not the rule of law but rule by the profession of the law. Always dominated by men, fattening their wallets wherever possible.
This is bound to change as women fill more practices and more benches. For one thing, they will soon demand and get equal protection ― the old boys’ network be damned! If the old boys aren’t seeing this, they better wake up very soon. While they go on doting on football and the new playoff scheme, and the South East Conference proving that the South won the Civil War after all, the lingering ripples of the Big Recession have more than leveled the workplace, tilting more and more jobs toward women, because they are better prepared, and pushing as they should for equal pay for equal work.
What is all this saying to the world? What will it mean? Hopefully it will dawn on men that they have to compete now with more than men in the job world. Merit has increasingly replaced privilege in higher education, except in big conferences of football and basketball, who never let admissions standards stand in the way of a potential star.
The bigger challenge in higher education is to get the focus back on learning as first and foremost priority. Not learning for learning’s sake alone, but better matched to the challenges facing the globe, at home and abroad. With this focus, community colleges have grown into the largest network of undergraduate studies, at the same time keeping athletics a minor distraction. When will the universities get it right?
Higher education must also help us to realize that the future of a stable world does not lie in consumer economics, nor in corporate power. It should be making the most of science, and showing us the way to live better by living simpler. It’s the choice that is the hope of keeping choice in people’s hands, by which they map and steer their future. It’s their hope of keeping freedom alive in the world, of holding off the tyranny that ignorance, superstition, and excessive wealth want to foist upon us.
Churches have been with us long enough to show that they are not the answer. They are all man-made. We know that because there are so many of them. The more science tells us about the vastness of the universe and its astounding age, the more apparent it is that we are guests on the one inhabitable planet among the several of our small solar system, barely a scratch of what’s in store out there. However deep our faith about a post-earth fate, the great truth of our existence is the earth, which holds all the known keys to our survival and the goodness it can give us if we treat it right.
Women will have a profound role in this awakening, if we are to evolve life styles in which we live with less threat of self-inflicted extinction. Women have been conditioned over centuries to think first of the family. It’s the inevitable bearing that goes with pregnancy and motherhood.
It will be American women who form the model and set the pace in this awakening. They must claim sole voice for personal health decisions. Unmitigated and unfettered procreation can only expand the vast legions of both the homeless and the unwanted children, which are another growing pale upon the world. American women are showing women everywhere that they can get out front in the world, through education and a game-changing presence in the world of work for pay. Honest labor ― not corrupted subservience.
Might the corrupted subservience that men accept in their mania for football be a conspiracy wrought or abetted by women? Are mothers, for reasons of their own, encouraging sons to try football, knowing the risks of permanent injury are high, and even life-threatening, and less likely to end in a worthwhile degree than would strict devotion to the education itself? Women have now more than leveled the playing field in higher learning. While men have grown football into the leading entertainment industry, women also are leveling the competition of the workplace.
As they claim the greater share of jobs in the post-recession economy, because they are better prepared, are they turning the second century of their right to vote into the Century of Women? I’m betting on it. With a second Super Bowl on the horizon to clarify and satisfy college dreams, male dreams, of a true national championship, women will gladly set the tables and feasts of the two biggest holy days on male calendars to please their spouses, while they go on building their momentum in the workplace. When will American men see that Big Mo is no longer on their side, gridirons aside? Not soon enough to take it back. Nor reason enough.
Ironically, the centuries of exploitation and subversion have prepared women for this challenge. And they have science on their side, whether the question is personal health or global warming. If anyone can show the world how to go on living by living simpler, women can. But men will have to lessen their addictions to ego, power, sex, war, ignorance and superstition for it to happen. Looming as the biggest obstacle in this century is corporate power, flexed in global trade. But before the century is done, I count on women with Big Mo and science on their side to turn consumer economics into a friend of less materialism and simpler living. I am confident they are up to it, made doable by boys always being just boys.
Frank Mensel ― September 2014