Women’s Lib, Ya Done Me Wrong

Do you believe in women’s rights?  Me too.  But, I feel like my generation has been duped.  “Work hard, sweetheart, and YOU can be anything you want,” they said…

I can remember it so vividly.  Standing up in my sixth grade classroom to fight for my right to play tag football with the boys during recess.  The teachers, all the while, muttered that it was no longer appropriate for the girls to play, because the girls who wanted to play with the boys were “developing.”  No longer having boyish figures meant it was time for us to play more passive games or to cheer for the boys on the sidelines.  It made me so mad.  With gritted-teeth, I said, “Girls can play!  Girls are just as good, if not better than boys at ALL sports.”  

“Settle down, Gretchen,” they said.  “Boys play too rough for girls.  It is just a matter of nature, boys are stronger and faster than girls,” they continued.  Each word that they muttered put a fire into my soul that I could not hold back.  And never did I.  Ask anyone who knew me in school or anyone who knows me now.  I will never give up!  Girls (Women) deserve equal rights in everything.  

Equity.  It is one of my core values.  While I don’t believe we are all the same, I do believe we all deserve a chance to play.  Some people are smarter than others, it is just a reality of life.  Some are faster, some are stronger, some have charisma, some do not.  But, not giving someone a chance to do something based on some arbitrary guideline (like sex, skin color, religion, sexual orientation, beliefs about a high-fat diet, etc.) is absurd.  

So with that being said, you might find yourself asking why I harbor a resentment against the Women’s Lib movement.  Well, here it is:  I want to be allowed to do anything, if I so chose, BUT I really don’t think it is necessary for society to expect me to actually do EVERYTHING.  The amount of pressure on women today to be driven professionals, soccer moms, breadwinners,  coaches, community volunteers, shoppers, housekeepers, entertainment coordinators, beauty queens, and fitness gurus is absolutely ridiculous.  It is impossible, unrealistic, and tragic.

My mom did a phenomenal job of keeping her household afloat while holding down a full-time job.  She drilled it into my head that “you can’t wait around for a man to do anything” and “if you want something in life, you have to go out and get it.”  These are both great lessons in becoming independent and self reliant.  However, these lessons, along with so many others I heard from strong women throughout my lifetime, didn’t do anything to help me learn how to share responsibilities in a household, to demand equal pay and opportunities that I earned, or to give myself permission to not be any and all things to everyone around me.  

Woman after woman who I have spoken to over the last couple of years feels that her gender has negatively impacted her professional career.  (Yes, we secretly talk about our careers, believe it or not.)  Add onto that having an advanced degree, and many women feel that they have a REAL problem professionally, especially those who live outside of a metropolitan area and have children.  The idea that the workplace is becoming more diverse is laughable.  Most companies don’t want women in their executive positions, they want men.  Argue it day and night to me.  

My perspective is my reality, and no one will change this perception of mine, until I see it really happen.  Here’s what I do see; I see companies saying they believe in flexible schedules and balance in the workplace for mothers.  However, what I see is entirely different.  I see my friends and me trying to juggle nine hundred tasks while not letting any one down.  As a mother of young children, I believe it is important for my children to see me at their school events.  I’ve had employers say, yes, you “can” go, but while I’m walking out the door I’ve been reminded of what an inconvenience it is to reschedule a meeting.  Not to mention the way it makes me feel to walk out the door when I see my colleagues rolling their eyes at me in a way that clearly says, “You should just stay home with your kids and stop slowing down the flow of things at work.”  It makes me think, “Hey, genius, I’d love to, but someone has to pay for your social security and the mortgage.”  So, the women I know, who choose to be professionals, hover in a bubble.  They never advance substantially in their position, not for the lack of qualifications or ability, but rather for the lack of true flexibility. In addition, they find themselves missing events for their children, because it is just impossible to “make it all happen.”

In contrast, the handful of women who I have known who have professionally succeeded do not have children.  What’s more, they don’t have husbands either.  In fact, many of them look like men to be perfectly honest.  (This is not a bias of mine, just an observation, short hair, no makeup, pants suits…they are beautiful (inside & out) women, who choose to embody a more masculine demeanor, which it seems has paid off for them.)  They spend every once of their time on their careers.  (Of course, who knows if they are making the same amount of money as their male colleagues, which I’d guess they are not.)   

We all know there is a glass ceiling, but there is more to this issue than just pay.  Women who choose to look feminine and to show up to the plate, by asserting themselves in a professional conversation, are immediately cast as emotional.  I’ve heard incredibly intelligent and professional women referred to as every name in the book.  “She’s a B….,” is often the sentiment after a particular grueling meeting.  How can this still be appropriate?  As if women don’t have enough to deal with, they have to also be concerned that people are threatened by their success or intelligence.  As someone who strives to keep my emotions out of the workplace, I find it extremely difficult to walk away from the name calling.  But, most of the time, walking away is just what I do, because, honestly there are only so many hours in a day.

On the flip side, the women who are uber-successful at being moms don’t have jobs.  When I say uber-successful mom, I’m talking about the mom who attends every meeting, has the time to make pancakes before school, and is somehow able to pay enough attention to her husband that their relationship doesn’t take a backseat while the kids are so needy.  I envy this women and wonder how I could ever survive my house without the distraction of a job.  Could I?  How many of us wonder the same thing every day? Has their choice left them feeling like they sacrificed something in their life to keep their family functioning the way it does?

The truth of the matter is that a woman can do anything, but she can’t (and shouldn’t have to) do everything.  This is not to say that professional women aren’t great mothers, they are, of course.  But, they can’t do it all when they are focusing on their careers.  Nor should they have to feel like they should do everything.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been taught to fight for my right to do whatever I wanted.  Of course, I was no dummy, I didn’t want to be a mom, how insignificant I thought at the time.  I wanted to be a doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut, etc.  I didn’t want to be a teacher, because “Those who teach can’t,” echoed in my brain as I made my career decisions.  

Then a magical thing happened, my frontal lobe (yup, my brain) developed, and I realized that I am a teacher, always have been.  I fell in love and became a wife, and my husband became the center of my world.  And then another miracle happened, I became a mom.  I am a mom and I can think of no other game I’d like to play in.   And now, I have this unending argument in my head, I must proved myself professionally, as a wife and as a mother.  I have to prove that I can be someone who matters in the world and be the best wife and mother I can possibly be.  As an overachiever, this is downright frustrating.  

I’m told I don’t have enough experience, tenure, education and it keeps me from excelling professionally.  While, the time I am spending to get the experience, the tenure, and the education are keeping me from valuable time that I could use to help my children navigate this world.  What kind of nonsense is this formula?

What’s more, did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women?  Is there any wonder?  Society has us so mixed up, we don’t know which way to turn, other than to carry on.  We spend every waking moment searching for answers on Facebook and Pinterest.  Where are the tools that will help us do it all.  Guess what?  They are not out there.  Only you can say, “Stop!  Enough is enough, and this is what I can do.  This is what I will do.”  

Women are beautiful creatures capability of far more than any man could do.  Women should be given the opportunity to play in anything and all that they want to do.  But, their lack of participation should not negatively affect their lives.  Again, thank you for fighting for my rights to be anything, Mom, but you and your generation’s cries for equity got off track somewhere. 

Glass ceilings, sleepless nights awake with sick babies, grocery shopping, long hours in the office, sorting through laundry, homework, cooking, cleaning, getting school supplies ready, no time ever…this is NOT equity, its inequity.  Women’s Lib, Ya Done Me Wrong!

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