Sunday, May 30, 2010

Many paths - one destination

I've splattered blogs all over the internet.  For the past two years, I've posted my advice column "Dear Kristine" on both my FACEBOOK and my TWITTER pages.

This blog, however, has my attention these days.  Writing about the theatre inspires me to write for the theatre - so my blog feeds my art.  Can't think of a better way to use my time!

I'm writing a play about the 1970s, and the difficulties behind breaking into a male-dominated profession.  My first work was as a Presbyterian pastor.  I met some strange, strange clergy in those days - and many wonderful church-going believers.  Not one of the former group encouraged me - not one of the latter said anything other than wonderful praise.

I suppose that's why there is a city-wide interest in the completion of this play.  When finished it will contribute to history.

Once upon a time, women who sought work, opened the Pioneer Press to "Help Wanted - Girls," and "Help Wanted - Men" section.

Those words signaled a serious reality.  Men and women were not equal in the workplace.

I remember how unequal we were.  For example, during my first professional interview, I was asked if and when I expected to be pregnant.  In my first position, my supervisor routinely asked me to go to the storage room with him so he could rub my bottom and confirm I was not wearing a girdle; something he had to clarify to concentrate on his work. This, my friend - is gospel. When I resisted, he told me he would fire me.  Reminding me who signed his pay check, he dragged me to the storage room.

In those days, I lived at home with my aging mother.  I grew up in a home without a father.  From the time I was able to work, my little paycheck helped my struggling mother make our monthly mortgage payment. Work was important then, and has remained important to me throughout my life.

I remember coming home from that horrendous work place and telling my mother how my boss was handling me.  She told me to accommodate as much as I could.  "Remember," she said, "the way he treats you has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with him."

Her kind words never made life easier.  Nor, I'm afraid, did the passing of years and the changing faces of my harassing supervisors.

In seminary, I grew to understand that the treatment I received in the workplace was not unique to the secular world.  With the exception of the profoundly unattractive, every woman I encountered was harassed in seminary.

Of course, becoming professional - working beside and sometimes in front of men - created a shift in power.  When women began to grow in numbers and authority, laws changed.  The culture followed.  Never forget - it is not only possible, but often necessary to legislate morality.

These days, it's difficult to remember a time when women were not welcomed into leadership positions.  And my play hits hard on this topic that needs serious revisiting.

Several years ago I started a salon in the Twin Cities.  "The Dead Feminists Society of Minnesota," is open it to anyone interested in discussing gender equity and feminist principles.

Today, the group has almost 300 members - and our gatherings have been as large as 70.  The discussion is always lively - and I remain impressed by the many 50-something and older in attendance who recall, with fond memory, their good work for feminism.

Here, there and everywhere - everything I do is for the advancement of my sex.  I hope that what I write for theatre will be as evocative and inspiring as were my newspaper columns.

Theatre, journalism, salons that focus on equity - - - I guess my many blogs make sense. Sometimes the only way to move forward is to follow many paths.

The journey may vary.  The destination is always the same.

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