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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Can a Woman be Both Liberated and Conservative?

  I'm well into my fifth decade and I've crammed a lot into each of them, so I'm not sure where to start. I know there are many skeptics that a woman can be both liberated and conservative. I set out to be liberated before I had any concept of the liberal-conservative divide in this country. I was only 18 years old in 1977 when I started my first job as an electronic technician in a male saturated lab at Bendix Field Engineering Corporation. There were two other young women hired at the same time and we were the first females to work there. They sat us in a corner with wire wrap guns, wirewrapping empty chassis that would never be used. Busy work. The other two left in a week or two. I battled it out in that lab for about two and a half years before applying for a job posting as a jr. engineering writer.
   It was a maintenance and repair lab that was divided into two sections: digital and analog. After a couple of days of mindless wirewrapping I asked my supervisor when he intended to put me to work. I could see in his body language and dismissive answers that he had no intention of  letting me do anything but fill a quota. I found this to be terribly demeaning. I had been the only girl in my vocational technical school in the electronics program and I had been treated as an equal. It had not even occurred to me that I would be treated so poorly. The men were slobbering flirts and that was offensive, but the worst insult was to be deemed useless and not to be given the chance to earn my salary. I put down the wirewrap gun and demanded a real work assignment.
   As luck would have it I was given a workbench in the digital section of the lab. Digital was relatively new and I had no idea at the time how valuable this experience woud be. At first all of the techs had their test equipment that had been fought for or won upon the departure of another tech and no one wanted to let me use it, not even for a couple of hours.  I kept patrolling the lab asking each person if they were finsished with that power supply or this oscilloscope, but everyone claimed that they were still using the equipment and would be indefinitely. I remember asking one of the guys if I was supposed to shit a power supply. He was shocked, but it was definitely an ice-breaker. After about a half a day of this, equipment suddenly started to show up on my bench.
   That was the beginning of my battle to become liberated. Actually it started much younger as I had other situations from which I needed to be liberated, but that's another topic and another story. My first real conflict of being a conservative woman (even though I didn't know it yet) while fighting for equal rights in the workplace came in the form of a pro-choice march about a year after I took the job as a jr. writer at Bendix. I worked with my first real-life lesbian and became fast friends with her and her partner. They were all fired up about taking part in this march and they assumed that I would be too. I had never given much thought to the abortion issue to know where I stood on it. I need to know where I stand before I fight for or against something, but once I do I am all in!
   I stalled giving them an answer as to if I would be going with them to the march. I remembered several girls in middle school and high school who had an abortion and even multiple abortions. I had become a Christian (joined a commune) at age 14 (another story for later), and although I had begun to significantly stray from my faith I still had it down at my core. I came to the decision that I could not support it or go to that march. My girlfriends told me that I was confused and that I should go and be a part of it until I figured it all out, but I knew that I couldn't do it. So I am a young woman in a man's career field, a card carrying member of NOW, living life according to my own rules, but I could not tow the line for abortion rights. My girlfriends and I handled it with respect for one another. It wasn't as uncivil between women back then. They didn't call me names or say that I was bad for the women's movement. We were friends with different ideas on one issue. Women deal harshly with one another now when you don't fit in their box.
   I can see how this blogging thing could become addictive. I've always been told that I should write a book. That seemed too daunting a task to do while living a jam packed life. Maybe these little snip its will add up and give me the discipline to write more. After all, I am in the decade of my life where I am feeling like anything is possible!

Bendix badge 1977

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