Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I Am A Woman

So, here are the two Facebook posts that start off this blog entry:

"Mom, there have been no women presidents."
"Why do you think that is?"
"Men are for menkind, girls are all Barbies and Hello Kitty."
Oh my...where to even begin.
(Btw, this coversation was with my 7 year old while my 10 year old was yelling at him not to go down that path).


Okay, so this is the theme of my day:
As I was on the exercise bike I saw a high schooler tweet about an ideal wedding dress, and I couldn't help thinking what a downer Pintrest, etc, was because I did not plan my wedding until I was actually engaged.
Then at work I read a report on the status of women in Louisiana and page 38 is how many thousands of dollars less women make than men in the same industries.
Then I am asked if my husband and sons want to go to a hockey game. WHAT ABOUT ME? I like hockey more than my kids do.
Then, the whole women president conversation.
I'm feeling bummed, because you know what - women can't have it all, but the worst part is the assumptions everyone makes about you.

First I want to say that I did not intend to be antagonistic. I realize now that my post may have offended the offerers of the hockey tickets. I assumed there were only 3 tickets available and that's why the offer was first made to the males of my house. This was not a criticism of you, but rather an observation that my whole day had had a gender slant on how I viewed things. 

But just as I made assumptions, others make assumptions too and when they are made along the lines on gender, they cannot always be applied to individuals. I prefer hockey over pedicures and whiskey over wine. Yes, you can probably make the argument that women on the whole prefer the opposite of me. And the problem doesn't occur on the hockey or pedicure level, but it does occur when someone assumes that a woman in her 20's would not be a good hire because she will probably want maternity leave. It occurs when we don't consider a woman running for office and there is no one to encourage her in the first place. 

I feel like I've been witnessing a silent backlash to women lately. I think it's being perpetuated covertly by media sources, but to a point where we're not really aware that it's happening. Take Pintrest for example. I love Pintrest, I love finding new recipes for all the local veggies we've been eating lately. But what I don't like is when younger women (high school and college age) have boards devoted to the perfect body. While men feel that pressure too, it is much more emphasized to women. The "wedding" boards of the unengaged bug me too. Now, I know it's nothing new for women to have a fantasy wedding planned out , but it's much more thought consuming when when you have the virtual tools laid out for you. While I spent a lot of time in high school and college thinking about guys, I spent more time thinking about my college and career choices. I worry that those are being downplayed to the younger generations. While I love "teen dramas" like Gossip Girl, I look at those shows as satire and I worry that those newer to this world will look at them as a guidebook. 

And the reality of women in politics? In the 2010 elections (from Women in politics stats)
For the first time since 1987, the United States made no progress in electing more women to Congress.
Women are still under-represented at all levels of government.
  • Women hold only 17% of the seats in Congress. (Source)
  • Only 22% of all statewide elective executive office positions are currently held by women. (Source)
  • State Legislatures are only 24% women. (Source)
  • Only 6 out of 50 states have a female governor. (Source)
  • The United States trails behind much of the world—ranking 90th in the number of women in our national legislature. (*Note: The U.S. is listed as 73rd, but after accounting for tied rankings of other countries, the ranking for the U.S. is 90th. Source)
  • On average, male cabinet appointees outnumber women cabinet appointees in our states by a ratio of 2 to 1.  (Source)
  • 50% less women than men consider of running for office. Of those, 30% less actually run, with only a fraction seeking higher office. (Lawless, Jennifer and Richard L Fox. It Takes a Candidate: Why Women Don’t Run for Office. New York: Cambridge UP, 2005.)
  • Women constituted 54% of voters in the 2008 elections, but only 24% of state legislators. (Source)
  • Women of color represent only 4% of Congress and 23% of women Members of Congress. (Source)
I am not saying that everyone is against women. What I am saying is that assumptions we all make affect so many different levels of our lives. I think we constantly need to be in dialog about the assumptions we make about women, race, economics and every level where there is disparity. I think we all need to advocate for choices for everyone. I read an article this morning on computer coding for girls that made the point that most schools do not even offer this to any students. I would love to see more programs for all students while encouraging those (girls or other minorities) to go into underrepresented areas. I am very vigilant, as the only woman in my house, as to what views my kids are acquiring outside the house as to what girls and women are. I have nothing against Barbie and Hello Kitty, but I have yet to make the connection with my 7 year old about what that has to do with being president? I think we all need to be alert as to the messages we are sending and receiving.  

Most of all, I think we need to get to know people as individuals. I really believe that when we learn more about each other and truly care about each other - change happens. For us and for others. Its our connectedness that makes us strong.

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