Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Being Graceful

A few months ago,  I posted this...

I have a love-hate relationship with those old boots; they are heavy and awkward and there is absolutely no way to walk gracefully in them....but I get a kick out of the farm workers as they drive by and point at them and give me a thumbs up!  I don't think they see too many women weed whacking and carrying wood to the fire pit wearing steel toed boots!  

I hope those heavy awkward boots will soon be put away in the closet again; I plan on getting a good pair of cowboy boots to replace them...that is what most of the folks out here wear to do their chores...I'll be able to do the hard work that this place requires and still walk with a bit of gracefulness!

Then, I found a new blog.  The topic for that day was "What is Feminine?" - not Feminist, Feminine. And that there was a debate about whether or not one could be both! I learned that apparently there is a lot of debate going on with what has been termed "the third wave of Feminism".   I wrote this post then but our life went just a bit crazy for a while and I never published it…..but for what it is worth…I'm publishing it today….

I say GOOD.  

We all know the "first wave"; so let's talk a bit about the "second wave"; it began in the 1960's with "free love" and "free drugs" and that whole hippy movement.  I was born in the decade and can remember watching the news reports as it swept the nation; as I entered my teens in the 1970's, I knew it as "The Women's Liberation Movement". And in my own opinion, that is the decade it really began to change things..that was the decade that I realized that the things I wanted in my life were possible for me in a way never felt by my Mother's generation yet, I also began to feel that some of those things were looked down upon by other women. 

The 1960's had the Flower Children where feminine qualities were seen by both men and women.  The 1970's saw women hurling insults at feminine things.  They were burning those bras.  They weren't shaving their legs and their armpits. There were a lot of good things won by women in this time, but something else was lost.  Respect for other women who choose to live their life by traditional standards and respect for women who embraced their femininity.

My generation entered the work force right as 1980 was ushered in.  We were becoming the beneficiaries of the battles those women had fought.  We entered jobs with equal pay for the most part (and if we didn't there was the Wage and Labor Board to report our boss to).  Our boyfriends, fianc├ęs and husbands were aware that we most likely would work through our marriage rather than be the traditional stay at home wife and mother. We benefited from licensed, commercial daycares rather than just organized pre-schools or babysitters.  The world was ours for the taking and many of us were ready to take.

And so we entered the brave new world where women were beginning to break the "glass ceiling" and our men were beginning to share the household and parental duties that typically had fallen on us. Some of us were lucky enough to earn enough to have a Nanny come in to care for our children and keep the household running.  Many of us weren't.

And something began to happen.  Some of us realized that we didn't want to leave our children in the hands of others for 50 hours a week. We started to stay home with our children; we starting having dinner on the table when our husbands came in from earning the household money.  We filled our time volunteering at the schools and churches and doing traditional crafts (gasp!).  And we dealt with the attitude of those women who "chose" differently than we did. 

In my thirties I had a neighbor who became a very good friend.  But before that happened, we had to deal with her belief in a stereotype that had evolved about we who chose to stay at home.  She was shocked that I was politically aware.  She was shocked that I continued to educate myself on any and every subject that interested me. She was shocked that I'd been college educated.  

I remember her slow "evolution" from a Feminist who thought anyone who stayed at home was unintelligent or lazy;  I remember the day that she drove home from her job to eat lunch and she was followed by another woman who was riding her bumper and swinging her hands in the air and yelling at my friend.  My friend was doing the speed limit but this wasn't fast enough for that woman...so my friend pulled over to let her pass and then followed her.  When the woman stopped in her driveway, my friend asked her what her problem was...only to be told that "you stay at home women have all the time in the world; I WORK and only have thirty minutes blah blah blah".  My friend said a lightbulb went on in her head and then, she quietly informed the woman that she too was on her way home from work for a quick lunch and that now, both of them had even less time!

This came after my friend had once said basically the same thing to me only it was in reference to parent teacher conferences.  She was angry that she had to take time off of work to attend them and said that it was because "stay at home mom's are running the schools".  I quietly asked her how she thought that was the case when it was the school board who set the hours that children would attend school and it was the teachers - the majority of whom were WORKING WOMEN - who set the times that they would be available for conferences.  I asked her if she thought that those teachers who usually left work at around 3 p.m. should come back to the school at the 7 p.m. time that my friend thought conferences should be held.  

The point is that Feminism which should have united women began to divide us.  The freedom to choose whether to be career oriented or be family oriented or a combination of both had caused conflict between us.  

So I'm pretty glad that this generation of women are talking about things like being a Feminist and being "feminine".  That it is okay to not emasculate our men in order to make us feel better about ourselves. That a feminine woman who loves to dress like a lady and take care of her family in the traditional ways of our mothers and grandmothers is not worth less than a woman who chooses to make her own way in this world cutting through barriers to achieve that brass ring.  And that they too can be feminine as they seek that ring. 

I'd like to see this conversation progress to a point where women like Sarah Palin are defended by ALL women regardless of their politics when they are attacked about their looks or their choices.  I'd like to see a stop to the belief that the darts thrown at the women of Fox News for their ability to tackle the politics and news of today while looking beautiful is okay because of their political choices....the comments about dying their hair blonde to get hired are divisive....and hypocritical.  Seen the early pictures of Hillary Clinton?  She went blonde and got contacts to help her HUSBAND's political career.....

I'd like for those women to respect my ability to understand that I am a better person staying at home and caring for my family than I was when I tried to make sure that my boss was happy, my husband was happy, and my children were happy....everyone was happy except for...you guessed it, me!  And respect the fact that that understanding of ME led to me exercising the choice that was made possible for me by the Feminists who came before me.... 

I have total respect for women who can "do it all" and do it all well.  I was and am not one of them.  One of my best friends didn't even make it past her 6 week maternity leave before heading back to work.  Staying home was making her crazy...she loved her infant daughter but knew that she would be a better parent and a happier wife the minute she was able to go back to work.  I spent my first maternity leave dreading every minute that brought me closer to returning to work and leaving my infant daughter for 9 hours a day.  I returned to work after that 6 week maternity leave and lasted precisely 3 months before I gave my resignation and found a way to stay home.   I embraced everything there was about staying home while she embraced everything there was about being an accomplished working mother and wife.   We are still friends more than 30 years later...we walked different paths supporting each other's choices.

That should be the next wave of Feminism. 

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