As a professional and educated woman born in the 60s in a country where men and women were by no means considered equal, I have spent a great deal of effort and hard work in creating first a career and then a life where I felt I was not less than a man in any way. I didn’t do any of it, with a suit of armor or an anti-male agenda, but in the spirit of “I would love to be able to …” and without knowing that there might still be some obstacles in my path. Having immigrated to the U.S. in the 80s, I thought I had arrived. No one could tell me I couldn’t achieve something. I was fully unaware of what is commonly referred to as a glass ceiling.
Today, as a mother of both a boy and a girl, I am constantly re-evaluating my perception of the issues facing men and women. Last week, I went as a chaperone on a camping trip with my son and six of his friends. We all had a blast. The other two parents like me were mesmerized by what we learned about our sons. Seven boys with seven very distinct and different personalities managed to get along just fine. They were harsh with each other at times, yet they laughed about it, they teased each other, and then everything was ok. They were together, one unit with their individualities intact. Laying in the tent that night, listening to their juvenile and loud conversations blasting out from their tents into ours, I realized that I would not be so relaxed if I ever did this with my daughter and six of her friends. I closed my eyes and imagined what that would be like, and all I could think of was drama.
We as girls first and then women create drama, usually because we are sensitive and we are concerned with fairness. Everything is about things being fair, equal, right, etc. When we perceive that there is an injustice somewhere (someone isn’t being nice, we didn’t get our fair share, the wrong person was promoted, etc.), we go into crisis mode. Sure, we probably are correct in our assessment, but what we lost during all of that analysis was a lot of fun, peace, and harmony.
Having said that, whether it be sexual harassment law suits, diversity initiatives, women’s rights, etc., I do believe that all of our discontent and our expression of our discontent, is what has created a more even playing field when it comes to gender issues. And we have all those strong willed, courageous, and passionate women who came before us to thank for all that we have today. However, I think the struggle and fighting has created a consciousness that is not serving us or our daughters anymore. I see 10-14 year old girls asserting themselves in ways that makes their mothers shudder. The media and pop culture doesn’t help parents either. Finding clothes that aren’t suggestive or inappropriate for a 12 year old girl seems like a huge task.
Speaking to parents of boys only, I realized how concerned they are about the boy-girl relationships as they mature and while they are still under our roofs. My son is going to his first dance and he and his friends are sure that they don’t have to do anything, they just show up and the girls will be asking them to dance. At first, I found this role reversal entertaining, until I thought about the ramifications of it as they get older. In fact, I am seeing men in their twenties who do not know how to communicate with a woman and of course, all the technological advancements have made it that much easier to not really communicate. In other words, have we as women created a culture where men don’t know how to treat us?
Is this what we fought for? All that work was done, so we could become one of the “guys” and the guys could become more passive? Are we the ones who are confused about who we are and what we want and hence we are confusing the men? I don’t have the answers to all of these questions, but as a mother of both a boy and a girl, I am concerned about both of them and who their role models are and how they will be as adults. And perhaps I am overly concerned about nothing, especially when I look at what is happening to women in Afghanistan or elsewhere.