No sooner had I sounded off in this blog about women having it all — and my frustration that we’re stll asking this question, and having trouble moving past the idea that there must be SOMETHING valuable and wonderful that women must give up, to be sucessful in both the hearth-and-home realm and the business one…..I got a phone call from a radio show producer who wanted me to speak on this topic. So I did that, last Thursday night, and it was a ton of fun.
My fellow guest and I (that’s CC Pelmas, a therapist and coach who specializes in women’s issues: learn more about CC here) together with our rockin’ host Mahlia Lindquist, shared a fun hour talking about how and whether women can have it all; what gets in the way of women living their dreams; and how women and men are changing their perceptions (some more quickly than others) about their respective roles at home and in the workplace.
This was a call-in show, and interestingly, almost all of the callers were men. One earnest young man said that at times, he’s embarrassed to be a man when he sees how badly some men treat the women in their lives. Other men felt that our conversation was perpetuating stereotypes about men and women (although honestly, I don’t agree; CC and I both talked about what we hear and see from the women we interact with, CC in her therapy and all of her other work involving women, and me via my interaction with WorldWITters and corporate and entrepreneurial women across the US and abroad). For me, this notion of “you’re perpetuating stereotypes, by saying that some men don’t support women very well” is part of the problem.
When we talk about what we see, experience and feel in our guts, is that perpetuating a stereotype? If we don’t speak of it, aren’t we agreeing with the folks who would shut us up (or down) from expressing what we know to be real?
I am always careful to say “women tell me” or “many women feel” or “I have seen” in my examples, and the women I know, like CC and Mahlia, who address the same set of issues do the same thing. When we say “Many Native Americans have had a tough time in white America” is that also perpetuating a stereotype?
There are a lof of ways to silence ideas that we don’t wish to hear. I applaud those men who called in to Mahlia’s show to say that they wish things were different for working women, that they don’t follow tired role models in their own families, or that they wish for a better work/life landscape for their daughters and sons. As for the folks who would say “Don’t say that men don’t help out at home” when day after day, I hear women say that the men they love don’t help out all that much at home, and when every new survey confirms that working women still do the lion’s share of the work at home, to them I say: Wake up and smell the Pine-Sol.
Perpetuating tired stereotypes is bad. Faithfully recounting real women’s experiences to seek solutions, affirm what women are experiencing, and perhaps give hope to a woman who feels hopeless or terribly isolated, is a good thing. We should be doing a lot more of it.