American Culture

woMAN; Woe, man; Whoa! Man.

By Tamara Enz

CATEGORY: American CultureWhen I was in third grade, the elementary school principal came into our class to speak with the students. I don’t now remember what the primary reason was for his visit; what I remember is only a fragment of his lecture.

He stood at the chalkboard and wrote in large letters:


Stepping to the side so everyone in the class could see the letters, he said, “Without man,” he stepped back to the board and wrote “wo” before completing his sentence, “you cannot have woman.”

On the board was the word:

wo MAN

Almost 50 years later, I can still see this man saying these words, spewing ignorance and sexism across a new generation of children.

The principal of a school stepped into a classroom to tell half of the students that they were not of value or importance, that without the other half, they simply did not exist.

At the time, I am not sure that I understood all of the implications of his words – I was, after all, a child. But, I still think about this often; clearly, it made an impression upon me.

To be told that, as girls, our very existence is entirely dependent upon men fundamentally undermines all that we intuitively know to be true about ourselves, our intrinsic value in the world, and all that we think ourselves capable of doing.

Woe, man.

Women innovators, explorers, and scientists the world around and for generations back have been discouraged from their pursuits. Surely, their place in the world did not involve pushing boundaries. Too many women have been punished for pursuing their dreams, for questioning the status quo, and for attempting to break barriers.

Sexism must die. In light of the recent election, the disease that it has created, and the long road that lies ahead for us, it seems particularly important to bring these words out of the dark. They are words that can no longer be whispered. They must be clearly spoken, believed, and lived by every thinking person: Sexism must die.

The possibility of a quiet revolution or a slow paradigm shift has passed. Improving women’s status has repercussions well beyond the individual; it has been proven time and again. Yet, repeatedly, women are held back, pushed down, and thrown out.

And, of course, this extends beyond women to every other minority (whom, collectively, create a majority).

Whoa! Man.

Imagine a world where all genders, orientations, colors, and religions are celebrated. Imagine collaborating across the board, and finding the best place for each of us to shine. Imagine if we were each encouraged to pursue our inherent talents and were supported in our dreams. What an amazing world we could create.

It’s time. Whoa! Everyone. What a cool world we live in.

Formally trained in Japanese, biology, and culinary arts, Tamara Enz has been better schooled by life.