Changing Gender Barriers: Readers Share Reflections
Two weeks ago, I mentioned some of the many gender barriers that have fallen in my lifetime, capped with the recent decision to allow American women the dubious honor of being accepted into combat.
I asked readers to share stories or opinions along those lines. A number responded directly, and many others chimed in through Web comments.
Bev Shebs, of Pinehurst, told of opening her own restaurant and bar in Los Gatos, Calif., in 1969. Years later, a customer told her that he was the guy who had made it possible for her and other women to operate such establishments.
"Before I had opened my restaurant," Bev wrote, "he represented Sally Sanford - who, after closing her house of ill repute in Sausalito, bought the property and built a bar. But when she applied for a liquor license, she was turned down because 'women in California can't own a liquor license.'"
The customer, a lawyer, had represented her in Sally Sanford vs. State of California, and she won. That's why Bev, coming along later, was able to open a place of her own.
Local resident Paul Comardo told of working rotating shifts for many years at Eastman Kodak. Though the night shift paid more, women were excluded from it.
"The night shift was considerably more lively than the other two shifts," Paul wrote. "There was lots of swearing, pranks and mayhem. Along came equal rights for women, and the company decided it would have to change policy and have women work the night shift too.
"The end result was a massive culture shift. Women no longer worked mostly alongside other women. The work force became truly multifunctional, and as a result we became more efficient."
Still, he confessed, "I sometimes long for the camaraderie of an all-male work force."
A Web commenter on thepilot.com, who goes by the handle "babiehop," surprised me by reporting that in the old days, females were not even allowed to sell copies of The Pilot on the street.
"I can remember that when I was a small kid, my older sisters were not allowed to be hawkers for The Pilot," she wrote, "so my brothers would purchase papers and share them. Eventually, females were allowed to purchase papers to sell."
I can't imagine under what pretext that particular gender line would have been drawn all those years ago. To show you how things have changed, let me introduce you sometime to the person at The Pilot who has ably presided over that whole department for years. She's our circulation director, Darlene Stark.
The rest of the responses I received, mostly via Web comments, dealt with the specific question of sending women into war.
"Women should not be in combat," opined Deborah Salomon. "They should be the planners, the tactical specialists, the generals, negotiators and chiefs of staff. Chances are, the world would be a more peaceful place."
Commenter SH59 seemed to take issue with that, saying: "I've never understood why women couldn't do something if they were good at it and wanted to do it."
Geoff Cutler summoned this disturbing scene of potential practical results of the new combat policy:
"Picture, if you will, our women soldiers captured by our terrorist enemies - you know, the ones who take knives and behead their captives in front of cameras. And then imagine what they will do to these women combat soldiers before that."
He adds: "If this decision is just about breaking down gender barriers, then this might just be the most harebrained, politically correct decision we've come up with yet."
Special cred must be attached to a response from a commentator called teufelhunden. She identifies herself as a "former WM," or woman Marine, and she has doubts about the new policy that stem from much personal experience.
"I can tell you that being around a ton of men can be both liberating and nerve-racking," she wrote. "You know what they're thinking and you just bust your butt to prove that you're not as un-sat as some of them think. I'm all for women living their dream and accomplishing whatever they set out to do, but I've been there and it's definitely for men.
"I loved my service and learned so much. But in the end and in hindsight, it is and should remain a man's thing. Just my opinion. The guys I served with treated me with respect - like brothers, but I have heard some stories."
Lastly, there was this contribution from Jim Heim, the local Democratic Party chairman:
"Any guy who's been married a few years is well aware of women's combat capabilities. I'm surprised the Geneva Conventions don't protect the enemy from this."
Wonder if he checked with Mrs. Heim before he wrote that.
Steve Bouser is opinion editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2470 or by email at email@example.com.
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