September 19, 2008

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Women’s liberation: A legend and a simple tale

Shirley Vogler MeisterPerhaps some Criterion readers are acquainted with the following anecdote: Journalist Barbara Walters of the ABC News program “20/20” reported that she went to Kabul, Afghanistan, before the Afghan conflict.

She noted that women customarily walked five paces behind their husbands.

Several years later, she returned to Kabul and still saw the wives walking even farther behind their husbands.

Walters asked one of the women, “Why do you seem happy with the old custom that you once tried so desperately to change?”

The woman replied without hesitation: “Land mines.”

True or false? According to, various versions of this tale actually surfaced as long ago as World War II. Sometimes the tale edified women. Other times, the tale was slanted to negate women.

Then along came feminists—some of whom sadly began their movement by belittling many women’s roles in life.

As the years mellowed them, most feminists tempered their views of women who, like me, were housewives, mothers and volunteered much of their time with schools and churches.

I was not a dyed-in-the-wool feminist. However, ultimately I was grateful for and benefited much from some of the new views of women.

Yet, I admit I was “a slow learner.” An example of a simple step toward my so-called freedom was simply buying a ring.

Friends and I went to an arts and crafts show at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, something we had done before and many times thereafter. At one point, we stopped at a jewelry display where I admired an unusual gold ring. Its design reminded me of tiny stairs—yes, stairs, not stars—on either side of an amethyst stone.

I left the booth empty-handed. As the afternoon progressed, I returned to that booth a couple more times, always trying on the ring. My friends encouraged me to buy it. I balked, saying I had better call my husband first. They reminded me that I had a part-time job so surely I could treat myself without permission.

I bought the ring and have not removed it—or my engagement ring, wedding ring or birthstone ring—since then, except in the case of surgery.

Deep in my heart, I sometimes refer to it as my “liberation ring.” However, because of its design, more often I call it “my stairway to heaven.” That’s mainly because, coincidentally, my spiritual life changed for the better after buying that ring. Why? I really don’t know.

What did my husband say? Not one negative word! That is when I realized it was I who was holding on to the idea that I did not deserve that ring.

I already had a husband who, despite some bumps along the way, usually considers me equal.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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