Blogversation 2012: What would make the world better for women?

Throughout this year, several bloggers will engage in a conversation here and on their blogs — asking questions of each other and responding. Others are absolutely welcome to join the conversation, as well. Learn more about the ladies of Blogversation 2012.

Today’s question — which is actually a series of related questions — comes from Eleanor Traubman, Creative Times, @creativetimes on Twitter:

Eleanor Traubman sneaks multiple questions into today's Blogversation question

Looking back over your life, from childhood until now, what would you say has been challenging about being female?  What has been great about being female?

What do you think would make the world a better place for females – both girls and women – to live in?

Eleanor and I have already discussed our respective answers, but we’ll hold our fire to let some others join the conversation first.


Categories: lifestyle

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6 replies

  1. I grew up the daughter of a tomboy — my mom bought me boys jeans because she felt they were more durable, even though I cried and said I wanted to wear designer jeans or dresses. I have since come to love certain things about being a girlie girl, like having too many shoes and loving jewelry.

    I don’t think I should have to be a faux man to be treated as equal. To say that men and women are the same is ridiculous, and instead I aspire to a world where we can embrace what makes us different and celebrate what we all contribute.

    It astounds me that we’re so recently removed from a time when girls couldn’t wear pants to school. My mom told me stories of feeling subversive because she’d change into jeans in the school bathroom before leaving for the day. Really? Just a few decades ago. Maria, thanks for helping to fight that fight, and everything it represents.

    I’m grateful to be a woman in a time when so many choices are open to us. I’m the primary breadwinner of our marriage, we’ve opted not to have children, and I appreciate the freedom to live a nontraditional woman’s role.

    What do I think would make the world a better place for women?
    1. I don’t usually get political on my blog, but my blood boiled so severely at Rush Limbaugh’s takedown of law student Sandra Fluke that I’ll make an exception — this double standard where a woman is a slut and a prostitute for wanting contraception covered, but we hold up Don Draper as some societal hero for repeatedly cheating on his wife, has to end. Yes, I know it’s a long-standing sexual role that men are supposed to be virile and women virginal, but we can’t have true equality in an environment where we’re attacked for wanting a healthy sex life. What if men had to pick up the tab for birth control pills? What if they had to pay for Viagra out of pocket? Rush Limbaugh has been married four times and has no children. So maybe it’s not just single law students who use birth control?

    2. Reminding women that if whether you choose to be a stay at home mom or a hard-charging corporate exec, having those choices available to you is a gift from the feminists of generations before you. When young women reject the “feminist” label, without appreciating how recently we couldn’t vote, couldn’t enter many businesses, couldn’t wear pants, etc., it pains me. You don’t have to burn your bra in the street to be a feminist. You just have to want control of your own destiny. Continue working to achieve equality, however you choose to exercise your own options.

    3. Women can be truly viscious to one another. I guess it starts in middle school, then morphs into an adult version of that same competitiveness and cattiness. I’ve seen it repeatedly in the workplace and it’s really horrifying to see how women can treat each other. That’s not to say women all have to like each other just because of our shared gender. I like some men, dislike others, and feel the same about women. But when women are still struggling with challenges of raising kids and having a career, when there’s still a pay disparity, when just a sliver of top corporate leaders are women, it would be so wonderful if we could look out for our fellow women a bit more. Don’t judge other women so harshly on their appearance or dress, look for opportunities to find common ground.

  2. What would make the world a better place for women?

    You have to remember that I was part of a sit-in that demanded girls could wear pants to school year ‘round, not just in the winter. And we wanted to wear jeans, too.

    There is such a difference between women who came up in my time and women coming up now. There are fewer barriers of gender and race, which is wonderful. But I’d always hoped the world would adopt a woman-centric approach to how things got done, that instead of approaching life like men, we’d be all about collaborating and community. The world remains much as it has been for eons, and while I sense things are shifting, it’s not fast enough for me.

    Much of what has changed for women in the past half-century — gains in all arenas — revolves around sex control and birth control. And here we have this firestorm erupting over both. Having control over one’s body is such a basic human right, and this discussion both inspires and sickens me.

    To be truly free, to be truly equal, how we use our bodies must be our own decision. I don’t always agree with decisions women make, but the decisions must be theirs.

    Once, when I was much, much younger, I had a secretarial-type position at a professional association. In one of my evaluations, the male director noted that I really ought to wear dresses and makeup more often because when I did I looked really nice.

    There was nothing about the great work I did computerizing the office, about upgrading the association’s publications. Nope. Just that I needed to dress up more, that my ability to be window dressing was more important than my skill at designing databases.

    I knew then and there that I needed to get back to school and finish up my degree.

    The toughest thing for me, professionally, has been supervising men. I joke that newspaper folks are successful because they’re independent, competitive, opinionated and convinced that they know better than everyone else, which makes them awfully difficult to manage. And that’s without throwing in gender issues.

    For many years as an editor, I made about 25 percent less than my male counterparts. Never mind that (in my pretty informed opinion) I worked harder, managed more people and produced a better product. When I found out about the pay disparity and commenced to complaining, the explanation from my supervisor was that I was a “newer” editor. The longer-term editors (all males, by the way) made more because seniority mattered. The issue remained a sore spot until I finally became the managing editor and got a nice raise as well as acknowledgement that I had been previously underpaid.

    Should I have been more vocal than I was? Should I have filed a lawsuit? Perhaps, but I focused instead on doing as good a job as I could and complaining at all the appropriate moments.

    When I was young, a woman who worked as a Realtor advised me to go into sales, any kind of sales. “It’s the only kind of work in which you can earn as much as a man, and be really and truly equal. You’ll earn as good as you are.”

    That’s stuck with me all these years. I didn’t heed her advice and sometimes I wonder how things would have been different had I done so.

  3. What’s great about being female?

    It’s March, Women’s History Month, and I’m incredibly proud to be part of a long line of people – other females – who have taken charge of seeing that things go well on so many levels of life – in the home, in workplaces outside the home, in neighborhoods and other kids of communities, in the world at large.

    I’m pleased to be part of a group of people who have figured out to make relationships a primary focus in life, and who see to it that relationships around them go well so that everything else in life goes well.

    As a group, we’ve done and continue to do a kick-a** job of leading work for social change, including work around eliminating key forms of oppression, including racism, classism, sexism, and homophobia. We’ve voiced our opinions and spoken our minds even when we’ve received both subtle and blatant messages to be quiet, be nice, and preserve the status quo.

    We also make fantastic artists, manual laborers, athletes, comics, politicians, and community-builders.

    When I think about al the women who have come before me and the women who are living now, I beam with huge amounts of pride.

    What’s hard about being female?

    It’s been tricky growing up in a time period in our culture where there’s this huge pretense that sexism does not exist any longer in the Western world. There is an accepted notion that all the sexism exists over there in the non-Western world.

    The effects of that pretense are huge. First, it justifies the oppression of peoples in these countries and the wars we wage and prop up abroad. Second, it sends a message to Western women that our fight to end sexism is over. Our “liberation” is presented to us as endless choices, mostly consumer choices. We’re “free” because we can “choose” what we look like, different ways of augmenting our appearance, what career we can have.

    The other result of this pretense that sexism is over is that it has left us women and girls feeling like any struggles we have are purely personal and individual. It’s like any place we have a rough time – be it in our personal and intimate relationships, in our efforts to build community, in our ability to trust our own thinking, in our quest to stay on top of our health and well-being, to raise children, to balance the demands of work in the home with work outside of a home, to make a decent living, to be completely pleased with our physical appearance – is due to some personal shortcoming, some failure to “figure it out.” Women’s magazines and self-help books offer endless tips and tricks to make things more manageable, somehow implying that if we just take this course of action or that one, we should be able to work out the ways our lives are hard.

    With sexism and its effects on women hidden, trivialized, and denied, it’s difficult to place any of our struggles into some larger context; in turn, it’s been hard to team up with other women (and men!) to challenge sexism and also where women have internalized its messages.

    What would make the world a better place for women and girls to live in?

    1. Ending racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia would hugely improve things in the lives of girls and women. These systematic forms of mistreatment wreck the fabric of our lives and keep us separate from each other.

    2. Any adult who plays a role in the life of a young female (including girls, teens, young adults) needs to treat what they say and do as important and significant. This means listening without interrupting or giving advice.

    3. Adults can also back young females to take risks in areas where they’ve been excluded or discouraged from participating – e.g. in math, science, and athletics. As a preschool teacher, I’ve make it a point to spend time with girls who are building things with blocks and other materials at choice time, and ask them questions about what they are doing.

    4. I’d love to see another identity besides (or at least in addition to) the one of “princess” that young girls can latch onto and explore.

    5. When females have conflicts with each other, the people around them need to step in and lend a hand. One of the big reasons women and girls lash out at one another is because we’ve internalized the ways we’ve been belittled or invalidated. Without tools to heal from that mistreatment, we take it out on each other. (What’s crazy to me is that popular culture, especially reality shows, capitalizes on the struggles between females and makes it into a spectator sport.)

    6. I want all guys to know that they can be awesome allies in ending sexism in all its forms, and that their lives, also, are better without it.

    7. So much of the work that women do, especially domestic work and child care, is unpaid or underpaid. That needs to be changed!

  4. I know the world would be better for girls and women if we owned and supported more of our own businesses.

    Growing up I watched my mother start and operate a beauty salon in a lovely commercial space. This was where I learned the basics of being polite and professional — my 1st job. I was tasked with wiping down the shampoo station and dryer chairs, sweeping, and scheduling appointments. At 8 this felt like a great responsibility. Looking back I understand that it was this experience that primed me for the workforce. I’m imagining what life would be like, now, if my mother had grown her business into a product line or evolved the salon into a school. These were some of her business aspirations that never came to be.

    I’ve recently started my own business and I’m very passionate about it all – success for me would be more girls and women being inspired to start something of their own. It’s difficult to leave a legacy or tell our stories if we’re hidden in cubicles all of our working days. I believe that now is the time to shift from being afraid to following our dreams, while bringing the next generation along.

    “I like being a woman, even in a man’s world. After all, men can’t wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.”
    — Whitney Houston


  1. Blogversation 2012: Do you feel there’s a political “war on women” being waged? « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally
  2. Blogversation 2012: Wrapping up a year of online conversation « Newvine Growing — exploring evolution, revolution and living life intentionally

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