A few days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who is a successful financial advisor. Our conversation began with the usual pleasantries – work, families and friends – and proceeded as always towards complaints. We always complain about the same things; about how tough it is to feel like a minority, about how men always treat us like secondary objects and about how opportunities, although available, are rarely awarded to us.
After a while, things began to take a different turn. We ended up discussing the same concern we had for our future. We were both extremely fearful about managing the great juggling act and emerging as flawless performers, the kind who managed high-profile careers along with soccer practices, balanced 8:00am presentations with themed birthday parties and juggled travel with bedtime stories, all the while looking like a flawless model out of a magazine! My friend was planning to start a family and was scared that she would lose her job, her career and everything else she had worked so hard for.
After our conversation I couldn’t help but think how feminism, which was meant to liberate a woman and empower her with a sense of equality, has ironically raised the bar for a perfect woman so high that no mortal will ever be able to reach it! Feminism has set unreal expectations for every woman expecting her to miraculously turn into Superwoman.
Why is it that over time, we have all lost the real ideals of feminism and have only held on to its superficial appeal? Feminism today has raised the level of expectations for women but has unfortunately not been able to wipe out the expectations our society had from women in the earlier age. So women are stuck lugging these towers of expectations where they are meant to be tough bosses, doting mothers and wives, wonderful cooks, caregivers, managers and look 18 forever!
No man has ever been challenged to achieve this feat ever but women are criticized every moment when they fail to manage this balancing act. So the real question now is, “Can women have it all and do Superwomen really exist?” I believe they can and yes they do.
We are in an era where our generation needs to understand that today, true feminism is not only about equality, but also about differences. This means that society should understand the differences between men and women and acknowledge that the path to success for a woman is different and more complicated than it is for a man. Women are emotionally and sociably different from men. For example, most women who pursue romantic relationships are more interested in companionship rather than casual affairs. This is not necessarily true for most men. When men and women work together, there is always a possibility of some form of personal involvement. Hence most organizations have set up stern rules against workplace relationships. Unfortunately, this does not help women because by focusing on such peril, companies drive men away from having harmless, platonic, work-oriented relationships that they have with their male colleagues, with their female colleagues; the kind of relationships that would help women advance. Due to this, deserving women may be overlooked for promotions in favor of less deserving men. It is time to be strict about sexual harassment policies but not to the extent that any relationships between male and female colleagues are marked with fear. Such an attitude will only hurt the careers of women.
It is time for organizations to also acknowledge that women are biologically different than men, and that they reproduce. Life for women before and after babies is entirely different. Before having children, they play sports, get educated and acquire practically any job they desire. Come babies, they are scramming for a few extra days after what seems to be a minuscule maternity leave, pumping breast milk in office and dealing with sleep deprivation. It is mostly women who dodge meetings to manage doctor’s appointments and live with the guilt of leaving a crying child for a meeting or conference. This is where new age feminism needs to help women cope with the specific dilemmas of motherhood, push companies to have better maternity leaves and family-friendly workplaces and support childcare. Of course this will not change the fact that women who juggle children and work face much more stress than those who are dedicated to either one, but if a working mother has some more support, it may shed some of her burdens.
Feminism was supposed to be joyous. It was all about expanding women’s choices and helping them lead a fuller, richer and happier life. Unfortunately, along the way feminism replaced joy with expectation and that’s where things took a different turn!
It is important to once again go back to the real idea of feminism, which was to have the freedom to choose and the satisfaction and joy this choice was supposed to bring. If women want to work in high-powered jobs, they should. If they choose to manage the house and can afford it they absolutely should. They should be free to decide what they want to do with their lives and not be made to feel guilty about their decision. If they like to cook exotic dishes, they totally should. If they are happy with boxed meals, so be it! Being a woman is a wonderful thing and we must never forget that, else we risk losing ourselves to false expectation!