From There to Where? How Far We’ve Come.

The INT ran a fascinating story on the end of tradition in Albania last week. The article begins:

Pashe Keqi recalls the day nearly sixty years ago when she decided to become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress for her father’s baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex.

Women in Albania have long had the option to hold power traditionally reserved for the family patriarchs. The catch is, they’d have to abdicate their femininity, a la Keqi.

Once considered the only way a woman could be strong, by pretending to be a man, it’s now considered outdated and unnecessary, and women, for the first time ever, are making serious strides in a very old-world country. The longstanding opinion of women is stated succinctly here:

Under the Kanun [a code of conduct that has been passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than five centuries], the role of women is severely circumscribed: Take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same — 12 oxen.

But things are changing, and quickly. There’s no longer the belief that a man or pseudo-man must be around the homefront to keep worlds righted and working. It’s now understood women can handle it all, too.

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There’s a lot of rah-rah “sisters are doin’ it” cheerleading going on on the stump in America today, with Obama trumpeting Hillary’s gender-bending run for the presidential nominee as the two engulf headlines with their show of unity in Unity and the their travelling love-in.

And I think it’s easy to get a little cynical and just dismiss it all as politics as usual when someone like Obama lauds Clinton by saying not only can women do it better, but “do it in heels…” But it’s important for us to really dust that cynicism off, especially for those of us under 35 who’ve never really seen how damaging sexism once was.

This is no time for that cynicism, though. For a little while we deserve to be proud, too. This is a great time to be alive. It really is. There’s a lot of hope for the future, with all these walls coming tumbling down these days. Black folks running for the highest office in the land, beating a woman for the job. It’s a wild time.

When you look at the sacrifices made by those who’ve gone before us, like the women in Albania who’ve opted for a life of virginity and pretending to be a man so they might adopt control of their families, or those who’ve been skewered in the public for saying a woman can do a better job than a man, like Hillary did, it’s been a long fucking road.

Girls today maybe don’t even realize that most of us females have had the right to vote for less than a hundred years. We had to fight for the right to have a say.

Women today maybe still don’t realize that most women never worked a job until this century, and pay still isn’t equal for equal roles, most of the time.

But, wow, have we come a long ways, baby. I get a little dejected sometimes when I see the Paris and Britney wanna-bes coming up in the ranks, but then I see the new generation of women who can’t stand their P/B contemporaries, who are smart, sexy, driven, resourceful, and promising.

It’s going to be all right. I suspect some tough times may still be ahead, but that light at the end of the tunnel just keeps getting stronger, doesn’t it?

It’s a great time to be a witness, don’t you think? An even better time to play a role.

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