Is it possible to have babies, be a good mama, enjoy a career and be successful at it? Of course it is.
But is it possible to have babies, be a good mama, enjoy a career, be successful and be liked for it? Much more unlikely.
This is just one of the many great points in Sheryl Sandberg’s brilliant TED talk, but it’s one that really resonated with me.
So is it the men we have to worry about? Will other men despise us and use their insecurities as fuel for a good bitch session? No. But other women? Yeah, they’re the ones we’ll have to watch out for. Isn’t that awful?
We’ve all been there though. We’ve all judged other women, whether we meant to or not, at some time in our lives. We’ve all had the ‘bitch sessions’ with our girlfriends. (“Oh my GOD did you SEE what she was wearing?”) We’ve all felt unsure about our decisions at some point, unsure about how our hair looks at some point and a little dissatisfied with our bodies at some point. And now that I’m a mama, I find that the concerns, dissatisfaction, guilt and bitching can easily get worse if I’m not careful. Not only within myself, but to other women too. I’ve already found myself questioning other women’s decisions. Wondering how I could go back to work, torn between admiring and bitching about the women who do.
Adele wrote a brilliant post today about Sheryl’s talk and summarized some of a recent discussion we’d had about career women vs stay at home mums. Why is it that the biggest critics of our own choices (to add on top of our own inevitable guilt with whatever we choose to do) is other women? And the media doesn’t help – in Hollywood movies, the ‘career’ woman is almost always bossy, cold-hearted, man-hating and single. The lovely, warm, beautiful and funny women are chasing men, marriage and babies.
On the weekend I went to see a screening of Miss Representation – a documentary written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom about how the media is educating women and young girls that a woman’s primary value lies in her youth, beauty and sexuality—and not in her capacity as a leader.
I went to see the movie with Ivan and before the movie started I noticed that he was definitely a minority in the audience with at least 90% of the attendees being female. Surely the movie would be preaching to the converted? But the lightbulb, slap in the face moment occurred towards the end of the movie when I realised that we aren’t the converted at all. We’re somewhat blissfully (or not so blissfully perhaps) unaware that we are a huge part of the problem.
In this NY Times article, Kelly Valen talks about why she swore off sisterhood:
In the two decades since, I’ve been a full-time lawyer, a working mother and a stay-at-home mother. In each role, I’ve found my fears about women’s covert competition and aggression to be frequently validated: the gossip, the comparisons, the withering critiques of career and mothering choices. We women swim in shark-infested waters of our own design. Often we don’t have a clue where we stand with one another — socially, as mothers, as colleagues — because we’re at once allies and foes.
And in this Time article she answers some questions about a survey she conducted that fueled her book: Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships.
I could probably keep talking about this for ages. I have a daughter who is 5 months old and (like Sheryl Sandberg says) I want her to grow up with the choice to contribue fully to the workforce or at home and to not just succeed, but to be liked for her accomplishments. And I need to start with myself. Being a good parent means being the best version of yourself that you can be. I’m certain that version doesn’t include bitching and comparing.
Let’s be nice to each other then eh. If women don’t stand up for each other, who will?