Recently I’ve had something on my mind that I can’t quite shake. It came out of a conversation with Meg at A Practical Wedding, and this post in particular. She was writing about the self, and how women tend to undervalue themselves, and she briefly touched on how women also seem to hold each other down, or at least fail in lifting each other up, in surprising frequency.
Meg’s post was (I think) supposed to leave me feeling empowered, or at least remind me that I need to work on valuing myself more, expecting more for my talents and wares, etc. Instead, I’ve been chewing on anger and frustration.
The people who commented were great, uplifting cheerleaders for strong women everywhere. Some of them mentioned how they were just having this discussion with themselves in their own heads, or with friends. They mentioned how they struggle with balancing all of their lady-hats (mom, wife, employee, employer, writer, designer, etc) and how even with all of that juggling they never feel they are doing enough, or at least doing enough to deserve anything beyond a certain point with money. There was a resounding cheer of “yes! we need to acknowledge that we a) have a problem with valuing ourselves monetarily and b) we often judge other women for working too hard or being too focused on motherhood or even (dare I say) getting paid too much (what did she do for THAT raise, I wonder?).”
So why am I so frustrated? What she is talking about, and what all of those comments said were good and progressive. But maybe I’m inpatient. They were just comments. And it’s easy to say “woo hoo!” on a blog post and then turn around and judge the other woman in the office for getting the promotion, or the other mom who is on her blackberry while she takes her kids to the park, or the woman who has dogs and no children but a stunning business career because “she really must have such an empty life without a family”. What is wrong with us? Seriously. Men can be single forever with boats and ridiculous cars that cost more than a large house, and unless he’s a total ass hole, nobody finds that odd or sad. Men actually help their buddy’s in business, that’s why they call it the boys club.
And maybe I’m still pissed and shocked by one experience in college (way back somewhere between 2003-2006) that summed up a lot of smaller instances I’ve seen for my entire life. I was taking a women’s studies course on language and rhetoric (it counted for speech without having me actually get up in front of anyone). On the first day of class the professor asked how many people in the class considered themselves feminist. The class was about 30 people large. I was the only person to raise my hand.
I was the only person to raise my hand. The only one.
And when the professor asked some of the women in the class why they didn’t consider themselves a feminist, they said because we didn’t need to feminists anymore, that it meant being a man hater, that saying you were a feminist meant you wanted to be better than men, that you were a lesbian, that we were already equal so what more could women ask for?
There is this whole perception in mainstream America that women are silly. We like romance novels, and twilight movies, and shoes, and over sized bags and over sized sunglasses. We’ll know more about eyeliner than world events, and god forbid you show up to our door with anything serious, like the news, we may just have a spell.
I freaking love shoes, and I read every single twilight book, but I have educated opinions, two degrees, I deserve equal pay for doing the same work as the guy next to me, and the only thing that makes women silly is when we don’t have each others back, when we keep each other down by feeding the fire of “you don’t deserve that”, when we are too jealous of the lady next to us to allow her the chance of breaking through the glass ceiling. It’s hard, but it doesn’t actually start here, reading this. It starts when you can feel the jealousy for another woman’s successes and instead of wishing that she fails, you push her up even further, you push yourself further to match her success without pulling her down, when you’re faced with putting something or someone down because it’s feminine, don’t. Be stronger than that, we all need to be stronger than that. And it really has nothing to do with lighting undergarments on fire.