Living With Feminism
I have to confess, nothing makes my head explode faster than articles about working women discussing the plight of working women, mostly because they use so very many words to say nothing at all. National Journal brings us the latest iteration of this too often plumbed genre: a lengthy feature piece entitled High Hurtles, by Fawn Johnson.
Like so many meandering expositions on the plight of modern womankind, I am no closer to understanding why I have fewer opportunities in Washington after reading the article than I was ten seconds before I started. The information, though thoughtfully presented, is statistically unhelpful. What’s more, it directly conflicts with my own experience, as well as that of other women I know.
I’ve worked in D.C., with union bosses, and it will surprise no one when I say they aren’t the most female friendly group. Also, I had nothing good to tell them, which didn’t help. So I adapted. I didn’t have to work harder; I had to work differently. Like spending countless hours talking about the merits of Cool Hand Luke, and Mail Call, so I could eventually work around to, “Hey, your public sector program is getting tanked by the congressman you endorsed, you might want to do something.”
I don’t count having to navigate reality as a blow to gender equality, so much as a fact of life.
The author cites this statistic, which I consider not very useful because it doesn't really advance the ball any, and likely doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know.
“Sixty percent of the respondents said that it is harder for women than for men to attain positions of leadership. Yet almost the same number of women (65 percent) said they believed they could advance as far as their talents would take them, regardless of gender.”
So what does that mean? Washington area women believe they have to work harder to get as far as a man. That might be the perception--but the reality is, everyone in D.C. works harder. I don’t know anyone, female or male, whose success in Washington wasn’t directly linked to working twice as hard as their peers.
Another sticking point for me is this idea that women should be valued in the workforce as equal to men... :
“Heidi Hartmann, a George Washington University professor who heads the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and studies women in the workplace. ‘In Congress and the federal government, women are moving up and getting a higher share of the federal jobs,’ she added. ‘It’s a continuing problem to still get in there on equal footing.’”
... And yet also valued as innately female:
“Yet the qualities needed to navigate the political scene—empathy, observation, loyalty—are particularly innate to women.”
Personally, I'd like to see all women view their gender as an asset, unique from that of men, and a strength.
The article evaluates this issue of equality in opportunity for women in a variety of ways, from pay, to actual job numbers in Congress, to family bias and education. But these statistics ignore the fact that women send mixed messages about the issue.
On the one hand you have sage counsel telling young women:
“…to lower their voices, shake hands firmly, introduce themselves with their first and last name, and attend cocktail parties where they don’t know a soul and come away with at least one contact. She teaches them about 15-second elevator pitches and personal branding. (“Take the drinking photos off your Facebook page. Set up a Google alert of yourself.”)”
While on the other you’ve got another woman saying she doesn’t:
“…shy away from acting like a man in her job. She drinks with her male colleagues, curses, and tells dirty jokes.”
The reason why this topic may be so hard to pin down is because, as women have become far more fully integrated into the D.C. workforce than any time in history, there is less and less real distinction between the genders when it comes to job opportunities and hard work. Women are finally coming to understand what it’s like to have to compete as men do. And not all of them like it.
I am curious about your experiences when it comes to job opportunities and gender inequality. What do you think?
(h/t to @Nic_Fisher for the article)