The other day I heard about a speech delivered by a prominent lady to an audience of mostly men. It went something like this “women are low on self-confidence and that choosing to stay at home with kids is all they can do, it’s a way of copping out of the real world” …
Do we (women) shoot ourselves in the foot by telling these kinds of stories?
Should we be a united front “marketing” women to the world?
Should we even be united?
We’ve come a long way since the feminist days and I’m glad we do actually have a plethora of choices. But lets explore the above statement.
In the beginning us girls were out in the field and forest collecting berries. We were singing, chatting and sharing stories. We were braiding hair and dancing with children. The sun was our clock and we had no haste. We shared in the joy of watching each other’s children grow. And we shared the chore of watching over them and chiding them for attempting activities that would endanger lives.
The men went off to hunt in a pack. The talk was about a strategy. Find the prey, herd it in, make a kill. Who would attack and how. The walk would be long and hot. A goal-orientated march.
Any noise would alert the prey. The timing was imperative. Haste was the name of the game. Once the kill was made, brutal strength was required to lug the kill home over a long distance.
This does not sound like an environment that any child I know would particularly enjoy.
And so it was. Children hung out even more with the ladies than with the men. Ladies adjusted their activities even more to accommodate the children. And over time the cycle came close to perfecting itself. I have heard about women who were involved in hunting in some cultures, and I know the lioness does all the hunting for lions. But I’m generalizing here and it is a fairly realistic picture of most of our heritage over the last few centuries.
This pattern then evolved into an office scenario where men went off to work, gathered for strategy workshops and went for the kill with lots of focus and silence (and adrenaline). Women stayed at home to collect food, prepare meals, take care of the family and stay in touch with extended family and friends.
The result: the office became a bit of a man’s world. Only for the last 50-100 years have women been given the vote (1930 for white women in SA), welcomed into the office and paid equal money for some sporting events. But there is no collective memory. No centuries of customs and habits to rely on or draw strength from.
And no physical evolution – I haven’t met many men who can actually sit on a picnic blanket (or beach or lawn) comfortably. Think how important this is for child rearing when the first few years of a child’s life is spent on the floor or pretty close to it! In this way, one could call the home or most family gatherings a bit of a “women’s world”.
There are differences between men and women, but neither one is better or worse than the other. We’re all better off living in a complete environment. Yin and Yang. Each sex brings its own collective skills to the party. The sooner we learn to embrace this the better the party will be!
No more decrying “it’s a man’s world” when office politics get complicated. Yes, it is a man’s world, and it isn’t always fair, but we’re welcome to join them, play with their rules, and try to add our unique touch. But don’t take offence when it is not welcomed, they’ve spent decades building up what we’re trying to change. Just like men are welcome in the “women’s world” but do sometimes feel ill at ease, and make welcome / unwelcome suggestions about how to do things differently.
It is a marvelous century that we are a part of. We are free to do as we please. Free from custom and tradition. The trick is to find what works for each one of us. I know fathers who do all the kids’ activities and prepare the family meals and I know mothers who are very successful in the office. They enrich our lives with their experiences.
But it shouldn’t be at the expense of blaming / judging our own kind. We also shouldn’t take offence. Nobody disputes the fact that choosing to sacrifice a job you might quite like and spend more time raising children is much more relentless than chasing a career full-time. It’s an honorable, brave choice. And future leaders are being prepared for their hunt. Mothers are the pillars of society.
Should we unite and market ourselves better? Judging from the past, we’re coded to unite. Life is easier when we unite and share. It’s our natural path. Anything else is like a fish swimming against a current. But each one of us has a choice. If we do unite, have more fun and tell a better story, we’ll win the crowd and we’ll win our freedom (in the words of William Wallace from Braveheart!)