First things first:
(1.) Holy typos in my last post – my apologies! I accidently uploaded the un-edited version of that particular post and then had trouble going back to edit. I am terribly embarrassed – I’ll try not to let it happen again.
(2.) Thanks to all of you good, goodpeople who noticed I had my husband’s real name in the blog at one point. The only reason I am using pseudonyms is to keep the blog relatively unsearchable by internet standards. I greatly appreciate the heads up!
So, WOW, y’all. Voices, in print and online, are LOUD lately, have you noticed? All week I’d been planning on writing a response to this article – Why Gender Equality Stalled, by Stephanie Coontz, but as the week went on I noticed more and more hollering, particularly when it comes to women, women working, women having babies, women having babies AND working, women working and choosing NOT to have babies, all (sort of) culminating in the New York Time’s preview of Sheryl Sandberg’s upcoming “Lean In,” her book/manifesto on women in the workplace. Over the course of the week, from across the not-all-that-diverse spectrum of Slate, Huffington, Salon, the Times and USA Today, I’ve read that women aren’t having enough babies and it’s going to hurt the American economy, but then again women who do have babies are choosing to stay home, setting the women’s movement back by about a billion steps, except for those of us who choose to work but that’s basically a mistake because we can’t be fully present in our jobs, and our lives also suck because we live in the suburbs while our non-child-bearing counterparts live in the heart of cities, enjoying things like live theater and artichoke risotto. Women! We should be thinking about leading companies! But also, breastfeeding for at least a year. We should go back to work, even if the quality of our lives suffer tremendously for it. And of course, none of this speaks to the rest of our lives – loving our partners, caring for our aging parents, remembering to run the goddamn dishwasher once in a while.
And just forget about it should you like animals and have a pet.
I’ve really been struggling to understand where I fit in this conversation. On the one hand, part of my undergraduate degree is in women’s literature, and I currently work as a public relations advocate for women’s health in my community. I consider myself a follower of Hillary Clinton and I truly believe that women need to find ways to break through the proverbial glass ceilings, in politics and the work force.
On the other, in my mind I always add the caveat, that is, they should break through the proverbial glass ceilings if they want to. Through a series of choices that I made, some alone and some in conjunction with my husband, I have ended up in a career of sorts – one that often requires suits and lipstick and the confidence to speak my mind in the workplace. For the most part I actually look forward to going into work each day and while I can’t say I LOVE what I do, I can admit to liking it a whole hell of a lot and even claim passion for the subject matter I handle. It is not, however, what I had hoped to do with my life – I had hoped to be an actress. And if not an actress, then a freelance writer. I actively and passionately pursued these careers but ultimately they were not enough to assist in sustaining my family and I place a lot of importance on the ability to care, financially and emotionally, for my family. Part of the argument that keeps coming up in the conversations put forth is the idea of “having it all” – but the definition of “having it all” seems to be defined quite narrowly – marriage, children and a corporate or political career. For me, “having it all” actually means the ability to support my family through art but let’s make one thing clear – I am a talented individual. I was not talented enough to be be able to make all of my dreams come true.
And I am perfectly okay with that. So what about the actresses and writers, photographers and dancers, yoga instructors and journalists, painters and landscape designers who don’t necessarily adhere to the traditional corporate structure and the popular 8:30 – 5 work schedule? Whole entire worlds of people are being left out of the kinds of conversation people like Sandberg and Ann-Marie Slaughter are having.
I made a conscious decision a few years ago to cultivate a goodlife – one I could say I’m proud I led if an asteroid hits us today, or if I live to be one hundred years old, rocking away on a porch somewhere, spinning yarns to anyone who will listen. To me, this means doing good – volunteering when I can, not littering, giving money to those who have less than I do, and it means being good – a good friend, a good wife, a good mother and good to myself, and it means feeling good, which includes exercise and eating well and caring for myself. It means wine at night with my husband, and date nights with him as well – it means caring for plants. I am striving to put together a lifetime – a good lifetime – for myself and those around me. I often return to a line from Brandi Carlile’s song “That Wasn’t Me” when I think I might be losing my way – do I make myself a blessing, to everyone I meet – this line – it feels like something to strive for, doesn’t it?
I do not think I am necessarily the target audience for discussions like Coontz and Sandberg are conducting.
This, however, does not make the conversations unimportant.
Off and on over the coming weeks I am going to try and unpack some of these conversations. Just because the 50th anniversary of The Feminine Mystique is over doesn’t mean we should stop having them. To begin, I’ll put forth two thoughts I plan on discussing in detail, as well as a blog I plan to write entitled “Consider the Morning.” First of all, I don’t believe much in the way of women’s rights in the workplace can be rectified until we have one-year of paid maternity leave when we have a baby. The skimpy 12 weeks only some of us are lucky to be currently provided is barely enough time to establish good breast feeding patterns, and when we return to work we are without vacation or any time off. Secondly, I think the current conversations we are having completely ignores women who are living in poverty in this country, to say nothing of women living in other countries throughout the world. Am I concerned about equal pay for equal work, and ensuring I am as valued as my male counterparts? Certainly. But I am equally concerned, and infinitely more horrified, by the rape culture in India? Again, yes.
All of this is much too much to discuss in one blog post – it might be too much for ten or fifty blog posts – but I’m going to try over the course of the year anyway. If you have an area you’d like to see addressed more than others, don’t hesitate to let me know. And if you would like to guest post on any of these topics, let me know that as well.