These are precarious times we live in. Trepidation abounds as each new chapter unfolds in the era of Trump. While heartbreak along our Mexican border reverberates across the conscience of America, and the nation searches for its soul, we here in Topanga luxuriate in the beautiful surroundings of mountains, canyons and the Pacific Ocean while we lament what is happening to our country, the world, and in general the future, that awaits our progeny.
On a crisp sunny Monday morning two days ahead of July 4, I had the pleasure of meeting Adeline Ramage Rooney, a local resident, at the Topanga Living Cafe. Our discussion started out as an interview but ended up as an engaging conversation on the awakening of the women’s movement to secure equality in a rapidly changing society that is still dominated by men.
Adeline, originally from Scotland and still possessive of an accent most Americans immediately associate with high brow intellectualism, is co-founder of 8HOURS TELEVISION, an ambitious new unscripted production company. With offices in Los Angeles and London, they create and produce docuseries, formats and competition shows in the music, food and lifestyle genres for a global audience.
For roughly two hours we discussed the broad topic of feminism, defined generally as the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes. I have long considered myself a feminist, yet only with the emergence of the MeToo Movement have I taken a hard introspective look into whether that designation is indeed justified. Self satisfied that I do indeed fit the description I proceeded with the discussion.
As a married woman in her 40’s, the mother of a five-year old, two stepchildren in their teens, and a significant financial contributor in a two-income family, she feels that many more women of her generation are legitimately equipped to handle the rigors of a professional career but find they can’t get back into the workplace because of societal prejudices.
“I have many friends who are still full of energy and creativity and, having raised kids, are uniquely qualified for fulfilling roles in the workplace due to the fact that they have become experts at running a home and family and juggling so many plates in the air, yet they feel unable to get out there and look for work because the odds are stacked against them,” She opined. Ingrained societal attitudes still tend to bestow a secondary role upon women over 40 in the workplace. “You only need to look at the stats: 60 percent of college graduates are women, yet only 22 percent make it past middle management. That’s just not right.” Rooney concluded.
Of course, complete gender equality may not necessarily be the ideal consequence of a mature and developed society, Rooney contended, while offering “look, men and women are different. Women have different, often highly complimentary strengths and weaknesses to men, but we are only seeking a fair playing field.” So Men really are from Mars and Women from Venus I immediately shot back. While her initial response was no, after a long pause she offered, “Maybe so, I certainly believe that, as a very wide generalization, women will often approach and solve problems with a very different creative methodology than men.”
In an effort to at least try to quantify our progress or lack thereof I asked her if she were to rate on a scale from one to ten, where one represented what I would refer to as the 1950s Ozzie and Harriet version of the perfect marital relationship, one where the wife stayed home, took care of the house, the kids, and tended to the daily operating activities of the household, while the husband went to work, came home, and after dinner read the newspaper and watched the news or sports, and ten represented total equality where she thought we were, “Probably at three,” She offered. Surprised, I did not find this very comforting or acceptable and offered that we still had a long way to go. She concurred.
Inexorably the conversation turned to what I consider to be the quintessential question as regards the matter at hand, are we in fact making progress, stuck in neutral, or sliding backwards? Surprised again she offered that she thought we were slowly making progress. My own assessment was somewhat harsher as I feel we are actually in danger of sliding backwards.
Regardless of the conversation these days, it is virtually impossible to engage in meaningful dialogue without commenting on the empathy or lack thereof of Trumpian policies that range from locker room dialogue on the treatment of women to availability of abortion and planned parenthood programs to treatment of women and immigrant children.
While we seem to have stepped backwards somewhat, we agreed the advancement of women candidates in recent primary elections, and the expectation a wave of younger voters in the fall may presage not only a check on Trump’s policy agenda but possibly the promulgation of progressive social policies geared to promote greater compassion, offered at least some degree of hope and promise.
I can only hope that her positive attitude is a better gauge for the future than my own skepticism. Believe me, on this one I want to be wrong. After our discussion I felt the open dialogue was a refreshing change from the staid echo chambers that currently dominate what passes for policy analysis and political dialogue. In a very real way it was a cathartic exercise meant to rejuvenate the ideals and expectations many of us have for the world our children will inherit.
I would strongly encourage everyone to seek out a friend or even an acquaintance, preferably of the opposite sex, and engage in a regular dialogue on the differences between men and women. Harkening back to college days when such discussions were commonplace, usually with the help of alcohol or marijuana, music, and going late into the evening, back when some of us were dead set on changing the world, a reexamination of idealism in the face of reality may actually be the cathartic exercise the doctor ordered.
Meanwhile, living in California offers promise, and living here where we do is just another beautiful day in Paradise!