International Women’s Day: The Encore

Due to a major scheduling issue (basically, I messed up, big-time), we somehow managed to miss out not one, but two bloody brilliant posts on the day itself. We discovered it that night, and rather than tagging them on to the end, we decided that they deserved their own space, so we’ve decided to post both today. The second one is a Behind Closed Doors piece, so look out for that one later today at 1pm.

 This first post though is Amanda’s, and I still can’t believe that I missed it and it didn’t get posted on the day, because it is just such a perfect summary of where we currently are, as women today. It is a post that I’ve written in my mind so many times, but it would never have come out so powerfully and so eloquent. Amanda, thank you….

I am part of a generation that grew up being told that “women can do anything they set themselves up to”. This is the generation that could finally enjoy the fruits (voting, an education, birth control…) of years of struggling and fighting that started with our grandmothers, if not earlier. From grades 5 through 9, I went to an all-girls hardcore catholic school where we were led into believing that we were going to be “agents of change”, that it was our calling to make a difference in the world. We had classes and conferences by empowering role-models, successful, worldly ladies, explaining how women, by their own psychological complexion were ideal candidates to reach the very top of all kinds of businesses and professional roles, as values such as compassion, empathy, connection and our innate ability to communicate were natural to us girls. At the same time we received parallel messages telling us of our important role in the home, how we were meant to be the pillars of our families, how a feminine touch (like leaving flowers by your husbands’ workplace or knowing how to cook a perfect meal, complete with sauce hollandaise) could make the difference in a bad day. How we were to be the rock of our husbands and families. They went on to explain that all of these things were our duty along with other things like managing the household’s budget frugally and efficiently, and yes, emphasizing how our main and most important mission along with all of the above was to procreate and take care of all the children that would be sent to us (those were the words they used).

Trying to succeed at all of those spheres at the same time sounded contradictory. We might be super girls, smart and funny, tough yet romantic, but I have not yet discovered my own superpowers.  I cannot be in two places at the same time and I certainly don’t have any control over my crazy hormones. There are so many cultural messages, coming from media, literature, our education, telling us what we are supposed to do. If you take a dip in Art history, starting with the earliest civilizations, one of the first pieces that you study are Venus statues. Those big stone women with a huge belly and big breasts, the earliest dating back to 35,000 – 40,000 years ago, were already telling us that our uttermost important role was (and is?) to bring new humans to the planet.  From them on, the role of women in society has very slowly changed, but has, overall been limited to the backstage scenes. Through high-school and university I really enjoyed reading “The Second Sex” by Simone de Beauvoir. Her in depth study about the female condition along time and history is so clear and straight forward that I formed my own ideas and ended up convinced that yes, against all odds, us girls were ready to join Pinky and the Brain and take over the World.

So what does being a woman mean in 2013? Apparently it means that we can finally “have it all”. When I hear such claims I can only laugh. And when I see women discussing these issues and tearing each other down because apparently whatever you do it will be wrong, I can only conclude that we haven’t quite figured it out just yet. It is so sad, this fight between “women”: it seems that whatever choices are made someone will come to tell you how you are not doing it right. And one can only assume that we are all intelligent beings, making the best choices that we can, with the resources, possibilities and information that we have in our hands. We are all just trying to make our best.

As I go through life being unemployed regardless of the fact that I have two scientific degrees, while, at the same time I struggle with what the medical community refers to as infertility, I think of my junior-high school days and wonder what I did wrong, and when. If I am to judge myself according to the standards I was taught I am clearly failing in all womanly spheres at the same time.

And then I read the news and it breaks my heart (not to mention enrages me) to learn that little girls are sometimes not even allowed to be born, and when they are, they are  forced to work, forced into arranged marriages, are not allowed to study or pursue their dreams, cannot be independent or get positions of power.

It is international woman’s day and I think there is still a fight to be had. We have to fight so that every girl and woman gets the choice to live the life she wants. We have to change the structures in society to ensure that professional success and a family can finally be compatible. And among us girls that have been lucky/blessed enough to enjoy such luxuries as an education, the right to work and develop careers, the choice to have children (or not) to stay at home (or not), to go and work in the world (or to do so from the living room, while dressed in pajamas), to be scientists, lawyers, politicians, doctors, writers, to make a difference… so much kindness is needed. I seriously wish we would just start being nicer to each other, we would stop the judgments, because the beauty of feminism, is that we can *choose* who we want to be.  This fight is not over and we should make it possible for every woman in the planet to be able to make these choices for herself.

*First image from “Boyfriend” magazine, somewhere in the 60s (I took the picture at a bookshop then regretted I didn’t buy it)

*Second Image from Venus figurines from the Wikipedia

Categories: International Women's Day
13 interesting thoughts on this

13 Comments

  1. Becca
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you posted this because I’ve had some thoughts for a while that instead of talking about how it’s possible and how there is a fight to be had, maybe what we should be doing is being realistic in our choices. I read Becca 2s comments on IWD and the thought that stuck with me was ‘maybe I’ll have a career. Maybe I’ll have a family. Maybe I’ll have both’

    And I just thought…. Fuck.

    Is that what we’re doing? Telling girls they can have it all because, undoubtedly, they’re going to come crashing down to earth with a massive bump. It’s not about equality because I know my male bosses are the same but here it is……YOU CANNOT HAVE IT ALL. Fact. Now or ever. It’s just not possible. Male or Female.

    You can never be a guiding light in your career and be a partner in an International Law Firm or Prime Minister or (God love you Hillary) the Secretary of State or discover the cure for cancer and be a mother (or father) that is at home when her Ducklings come home from school. You may CHOOSE to work for a less demanding workplace or you may CHOOSE to hire a Nanny or help or you may CHOOSE to work part time but that is not having it all. That is a compromise. Something will suffer because no one is wonderwoman. No one is superman.

    Rant over.

    • Posted March 19, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Yes exactly, no one can do ALL THE THINGS at the same time. Something has to give, and every one of us chooses their own fights, loves, causes, sacrifices.
      It’s perfectly fine for someone to choose their family as priority number one, as it is fine for others to develop all their energies into a scientific / political / ….*you name it* / career.
      But who can excel at all areas at the same time? It’s a lie.
      What I have heard from older women though is that you may be able to have bits of “ALL” but not at the same time. Maybe some years will be for your career, and later, your family will require more from you, and you will be happy doing that. We can always adjust, adapt… like you well said COMPROMISE. But no, there are no wonderwoman, as there are no supermans. (CEO’s families also “suffer”, I am guessing that that guy / gal going to all the meetings, leading the complany can not at the same time be at the child’s school play / science fair / birthday party). It’s basic physics, impenetrability of matter, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. We can not at least just yet be everywhere at the same time.

  2. Chirsty
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Amanda I just love love this. You have said so well what I think so many (if not in fact all of us) of us feel and you’ve said it so well.

    The bit that resonates the most with me is the kindness. For me, it’s not so much the what are we doing / are we doing enough / if we’re doing this we aren’t doing that etc etc, it’s the difficulty in engendering the feeling that, wherever each of us falls on whatever bell curve of ‘possibility’ (whether by choice or design) is OKAY. And the current lack of kindness, especially from OTHER WOMEN (see also http://www.skinandblisterblog.com/2013/02/im-calling-out-your-bullshit.html – another incredible post that articulates this much better than I can)

    For every variation of this conversation I have the saddest aspect is the STRUGGLE to not feel that our life choices and circumstances are NOT GOOD ENOUGH. And how much we beat ourselves up. Over and over.

    ENOUGH. Let’s start with some more kindness and maybe the rest will follow.

    • Posted March 19, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      Yes, the constant judgements make me so sad, because we are really all trying our best. We need to be kind, to each other, and to ourselves (which is hard in its own way). There is an actual link to the great post of Anna@SkinandBlister that you mention. So eloquent and well put.

  3. ClaireH
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t agree more Amanda, great post. We (men and women, as Becca said) can’t have it all and we are all going to have to compromise on something – whether it’s our career, time with our family, time with our friends, time to do the things we enjoy or time to stay healthy and well. However, what needs to happen is that people can have the opportunity to do what they want and make the choices they want without feeling constantly judged by others/the idea of what society *expects* them to do because of their sex, education/qualifications, background or current situation in life.

    • ClaireH
      Posted March 19, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      When I say ‘have it all’, I mean the ‘having it all’ as defined by the media/unrealistic societal expectations and the pressure we put on ourselves because of these.

      I hope that one day we can all, even if we don’t feel like we can or are doing so right now, feel happy and contented with the balance we achieve between the different aspects of our lives (although if anyone is anything like me, no doubt we will continue to mentally beat ourselves up about how we could be doing things better…sigh…)

      • Posted March 19, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        Exactly…. it is about finding the balance, making the choices and being happy where we are. But of course it is a constant evolution… and as humans we end up always wanting different things, challenges.

        I believe though that free / subsidized daycare provided by companies or the governments would be great. Imagine going to work with your kid, and being able to know he/she is there (not far) and properly being taken care of. It sounds very dreamy, specially in this era where profit seems to be the end objective, but we need a more “human” society.

  4. Fran M
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    This, for me, crystallises what feminism is and where we are with it at the moment. A great piece of rational writing. Totally agree about being kinder to each other, too – I think we’ve possibly got ourselves so wrapped up with adhering to having it all that we forget that ‘all’ isn’t for one person – it should be available for everyone to choose as they wish – and they shouldn’t be judged for those choices (sorry, longest sentence everrr).

    Off to buy a copy of Simone de Beauvoir later, to catch up on my feminist reading.

    • Posted March 19, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      :) Simone de Beauvoir wrote a great history on womanhood from the start to modern times (well to when she lived) and how all the constructs of society have kept us in the back… I think at some point she also analyses from a nature (science) and philosophical point of view.

      • Fran M
        Posted March 19, 2013 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        OOps…meant to reply to this but added a new comment… see below :D

  5. Fran M
    Posted March 19, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Cool! I am shamefully uneducated when it comes to this – Caitlin Moran is about the extent of my feminism-related reading. Oh, and Germain Greer’s Female Eunuch, which I used as a source for practically every essay during my degree ever – cringe.

    • Posted March 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      I read Caitlin Moran and de Beauvoir, but that’s about it.
      Though I do like to read biographies of remarkable women like Marie Curie, Lady Mary Montagu, Florence Nightingale…

  6. Rach M
    Posted March 24, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    I bloody love AOW. This piece is excellent, thought provoking, and all the comments here make me feel so reassured of the kindness that is out there, among us. Not for the first time, reading this blog makes me feel better about the world. Love it. Great piece Amanda x

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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