Saturday, July 16, 2011

Yes, I may be a feminist, but I still like men...

Ok, so follow my logic here: Recently, while in graduate school, I learned that feminists are not what society has created them to be. They do not hate men. They do not think they are better than men. They simply believe they are equal to men. Wow. Imagine that. Equal to the XY chromosome? Oh, the horrors! Yet, this is an identity I identify with. ;) I am different from a man, but together, we bring equally valuable perspectives to whatever discussion is at hand.

Seriously, though, in my reflections, I realize that I come from a long line of true feminists. Not females who think they are better than their male counterparts, not the "man-haters" pop culture likes to pigeonhole in to the definition of "lesbian," or those who were "wronged" by men and, therefore, despise them. But examples of true feminists who believe women can work and live along side the males as equals in the world. Nothing more. Nothing less.

On my paternal side, my grandmother was the first female U.S. Navy Dispersing Officer. She was not enlisted in the Navy, merely hired by them, but, in short, she was the first female to pay the bills for the installation. The keeper of the money. In fact, she was the only one who knew the combination to the safe at the Naval base in China Lake, CA, in the 1960's. A lot of responsibility... and it was even a much bigger part of the U.S. Navy than it is now, with a lot of testing and engineering that done near Ridgecrest, CA. And, yet, someone realized Grandma Barbara was the best person for the job. Amazing. I did not appreciate what she had accomplished for my gender until after she had passed away, but better late than never. Three cheers to my Grandma Barbara. Way to make the most of the opportunities you had!

Yet, the grandmother on my maternal side was no slouch. Unexpectedly, my grandfather passed away of a heart attack when my mother was just over a year old. That left my grandmother alone with a daughter to raise. Now, my Grandma Ginia was close to her parents, but she did not rely on them entirely for financial support, or just quickly marry another man for the sake of acquiring a head of household to support her and my mom. Grandma Ginia worked for a living, for an insurance company, when most uneducated women stayed home with their children. Now, my grandma did have an associates degree, which she earned before she met my grandfather, and such things were rare for women in America at that time. However, in the 1950's, World War II had ended and women were being replaced in the workplace by men who returned from war. Yet, Grandma managed to find and maintain her position as a integral part of the insurance agency she worked for for nearly 20 years. And despite her mother working for a living, my mother turned out to be a productive member of society, earning her associates degree, and nearly a bachelor's degree, before meeting my father and changing her priorities.

So, here I am, two generations later, and I am the first member (not just female member!) of either side of the family to work toward a post-graduate degree. Technically, I am more educated than my husband, as I have a bachelor's degree, and he does not. However, his training as an air traffic controller is quite extensive, and earns him an abundance of college credit. With my bachelor's degree and 18 credits toward my master's degree, I merely strive to be equal to him in the eyes of society. My IQ is slightly higher, but my common sense skills are lacking slightly in comparison to his. I'd say we are pretty equal right now, in our respective areas of expertise, yet his compensation is triple mine. Why? According to Time Magazine, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns - when comparing the same skills, dedication and availability. Yet, no one can truly point out the reason for this. Women tend to not ask for raises, and tend to attribute accomplishments to the "team," according to a recent book I read authored by "Morning Joe" TV co-host Mika Brzenzinski. Men are more forthcoming with their personal accomplishments. Women are much more less likely to say say "no" to ridiculous requests, and tend to take more time off to have children.... pick your excuse. But should gender really matter when it comes down to who is the best person for that particular job?

The women in my family have more than proven themselves. I just hope to follow in the footsteps they have already left behind, and then spread those prints a bit farther down the path toward equality. My mother-in-law, a retired elementary school teacher of 30-plus years, recently told me, "It is still a man's world." She is probably right. However, I prefer to fight the good fight and hope than I am valued for the skills and experience I bring to the table, not the combination of chromosomes I have in my body. But the part that bothered me the most is that she brought it up now that she is retired, when gender biases aren't encountered each day in the workplace and should matter less. Was she trying to warn me? Motivate me? Seriously, people, I just want to be equal. Why is that such a problem?


Jenn Christman said...

AMEN sister! now trying being out of the workplace for 10 years, no education but a a few credits short of associates degree at wanting more then anything to work again. No one wants me to work for them because I am a mom! They believe I can't step away from my family and be someone they can count on. I am will to find a happy medium and I know they will be amazed at what I can bring to the table, but no match for the fact that I am a stay at home wife. So annoying! This wasnt my choice but it happened because my daughter was born 7 weeks early and I was scared to leave her with anyone on her meds and with machines. So does that make me worth nothing? NO but in their eyes yes! So instilling in my children a different way of life so they can prove that women and worthy of greatness! Prove them wrong Jess with your head held high cause you are capable.

Jessica Guthrie said...

Hey, I just heard on NPR about mom going back to work through internships designed to get them acclimated to the office world again. I wonder if anything like that is offered near you? And I can understand your frustration. And I am not sure I could be a stay-at-home Mom. Seriously, talk about a tough job! BTW, Miss you!