Friday, August 13, 2010

doormats, brutes, sissies and shrews

The other day I tweeted what was on my mind:

Why are us women almost always either submissive, or belligerent? It's so hard to learn to just be confident and content...

In the comments thread, an interesting discussion got started, but I think I see it differently from most of the people there.

My perspective is formed by living in a social milieu of strong women: tough, thick-skinned, don't-take-no, powerful women. Women who are changing the world, one million dollars at a time. Women who supervise dozens of engineers. Women who supervise men who supervise dozens of engineers. Not to mention the women who are doing government advocacy, writing controversial books, heading up information technology for large companies, or training all the teachers of an entire nation. Do not mess with the women I work with. Do not mess with my friends, who I admire, respect and love dearly.

I really do respect these women. But sometimes when us women get together, I feel like we are on a crusade to prove that all this power is, well, really really powerful - and deserved. That we are not doormats. This translates to everything being taken personally. If I got a smaller (more 'feminine') car than usual, it's because someone thought I can't drive. If someone suggests there's a problem with my project, it's because they're really saying I'm not qualified to be a manager. If a publisher rejects my book, it's because they held me to an unrealistically high standard - just because I'm a woman.

"Just let me get on with my life!", we cry. But I think what we're really saying might be, "After centuries of disadvantage, it's plain old not fair that I'm a woman - so you know what? Just don't mess with me at all."

In my world, I don't spend a lot of time with the women my peers and I seem to be eager to avoid becoming. I don't know many women who wear on their sleeves that they're lacking in self-esteem, the ones who believe that men are inherently better than them - well, maybe they don't think all men are better, but they do believe that the ones who have a say in their life are leaders for a reason. I know such women exist, and I've met a few. But my main association with them is in the form of adverse reactions from us shrews. We fight for our masculinized womanhood because we're scared of becoming the doormats.

Hasn't this gone on long enough? All this extremism when a beautiful woman is the one who is confident enough to not show it!

Meanwhile, some of the comments on the thread made a comparison to men. Men are also under pressure, because the 'brute' persona is more accepted while the 'sissy' isn't even considered an option by most men. Maybe that's true. But most of the men I know care a whole lot less than women. If they're brutes, that's just their nature, it's who they are. It's not a statement, nor is it a reaction against who they don't want to be. So I tend to dismiss it and even accept it. If women were shrews because it's our nature, I would probably have to accept that, too. But I don't think it is our nature.

Then again, I'll always be more critical of my own race. I'm a woman and I want to see us get it right: Just enjoy life, enjoy being a woman, Ignore the gender discrimination that we might or do see.

Enjoy being a woman enough to not be a doormat, and don't work so hard at being a woman that we forget to enjoy it.

1 comment:

LKBrazil said...

Dear Katie,

As I read this blog, I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite verses, one I strive to live by, though often failing:

"...in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..." (Phiippians 2:3-7)

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