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Archive for the ‘Feminism’ Category

Women’s lib has undeniably done a lot for women over the years, but I am not convinced that one of its clearly unintended side-effects has really been that advantageous for its recipients. I am not in any way suggesting that I see the whole movement generally referred to as women’s lib or feminism in any way negative, indeed those who are familiar with me will vouch that I am a great proponent of the ideology (in its various guises). However, one thing that appears to me a direct consequence of years of fighting for equality is that what we now have is not only unequal, but also so aspirational, that it makes it almost impossible for most to achieve.

In the fight to be treated on par with men, we have possibly been blindsided to agreeing to constantly trying to outperform men in what was traditionally considered their dominion, but without relinquishing any of the expected roles and functions women have always been associated with. What I refer to here is the currently prevalent ideal most women aspire to – “We can do it all – we can be as successful, if not more, in our chosen careers as men AND homemakers par excellence”. In short, we are perfect and can have it all, do it all and what is more – we will try to do it better than men.

Have we set ourselves an impossible task? Oh yes! Please hold your horses before you accuse me of being a slur on women-kind to suggest we are in any way not achieving our lofty ideals. I know a huge amount of spectacular women, and I admire and respect them without reservation. However, I don’t see the real victory in having to feel obliged to achieve and succeed to simply prove a moot gender point. Women today aspire to hold down extremely challenging careers, have children, be good mothers, wives, have a fun and interesting social life, keep a beautiful home, be entertainers in their home and as part of their work, look after immediate and extended family circles and perform a multitude of other functions which I cannot even think of without feeling exhausted. I believe the result is often feeling like you are stretched as thin as skin or feeling like a failure – the first shouldn’t be necessary and the second is totally untrue.

It is a tricky one – we have fought for years to be afforded educational and professional opportunities so we feel that we cannot now abandon the workplace battle (not that this in itself is a definitive victory when one carefully analyses the real discrepancies that still exist in pay scales between the genders and other more subtle forms of discrimination). At the same time, many have tried to confine themselves solely to achieving glory in only the boardroom stakes but have then reported back to their fellow-kind that such success felt hollow. It often led to either not being able to have a family life at all, or having an incomplete personal life, with missed years from their kids’ lives, no time with their significant others and in general, a gradual passage of years with little in the form of friends and family involvement to commemorate them by. This then led to a change in aspirations; women at some point decided that they did not have to compromise. Who says that you cannot have your cake and eat it too? Let us take examples of those who have achieved the impossible. There are various famous role models to use as inspiration – if they can do it, why can we not?

The result is that what was once an unlikely achievement for some, is now branded a common enough occurrence, something all women can aspire to if they wish to and are prepared to put in the hard graft for. The majority of us are therefore now no longer satisfied if we are simply just successful career women or homemakers. Unless we do both, and do both in a manner acknowledged by all who know us “perfectly”, there must be something lacking in us, leaving us dissatisfied with life, and certainly our lot in life. If you wish for a career, making the conscious choice to sacrifice children or even a partner, you are branded incomplete. If you go the other way, you are lazy and not driven enough to succeed.

The alternative – try to, or kill yourself trying to, but hold down a job, have a husband/partner and two point five children, a lovely home (ideally complete with the white picket fence!), be available to your friends and family, host amazing dinner parties and oh, don’t forget to look stunning at all times (aim for a size 8 figure with curves, great hair and flawless skin). Sounding like a tall order? Coming straight up though – after all, there are so many wonder girls/women like that around today, it is not hard at all to find one – honestly!

But, try and pierce the veil a little and look beyond the superficial. You might find that not only does “Superwoman” not feel very powerful most of the time, she wishes she did have real superpowers, the sort that would let her fly herself away from the crushing pressure of it all. If you think I am wrong and that the majority of the so-called modern successful women would disagree with me, think again. They may disagree with me, but only in front of the high-powered bosses they are trying to impress for yet another promotion, or in the presence of their fellow baby moms, as admitting you feel overworked, overwhelmed and just generally overburdened on all counts, is the cardinal sin for “Superwoman”. Far better to simply soldier on as anything else would be considered acknowledging failure and we cannot have that when we are competing to survive in Smallville/Metropolis.

I suggest that we may want to really ask ourselves whether the price we will pay for our superhero(ine) status will be worth it. I do caution that the question only be asked if you have the courage for serious soul-searching and the appetite and stamina to afterwards make some fairly drastic life changes, one way or the other. For those not bored by this and willing to brave more, my piece on “Stop being a Rat” may provide some perspective in this context.

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