“Not only is another world possible; she is on her way. I can hear her breathing.”
The long dead debate over what women really want, or should want, has risen from the ashes and become trendy. Again. On one side are the hyper successful corporate climbers telling the rest of us to get off our butts and become as ‘successful’ as they are; on the other side are the equally successful mommy trackers, arguing that young women should be given the ‘right’ to stay home and be mothers or whatever, if they so desire. As apparently, a lot of young women do.
What’s wrong with this discussion? Nothing; it’s great to see intelligent women disagreeing on an important topic and arguing about it on TV and in print. But for anyone over the age of forty, this all sounds so, well, yesterday. We’ve had this discussion before, and clearly, it didn’t deliver any long lasting insights. Men and their views and values still run the world, decide what’s important and make the leadership decisions. Women, with notable exceptions, are not in charge, in spite of over a century of trying. What’s really depressing is that we’re rehashing an old, old debate about ‘equality’ with men where the standard is and always has been, masculine. Why is it that in this debate, women are still, the ‘second sex’, the one that defines itself by comparison to men. Why not turn this tired debate on its head and ask instead, how come men are still running the world when they so clearly are making a hash of it? Why do women have to measure up to men, anyway? Are we not good enough, smart enough, different enough, to bring something to the table that might, in fact, be superior to masculinity and its outworn values?
As soon as we move the discussion of what women want up a notch and ask if being like men is actually the wrong goal, then the discussion gets interesting again. It might be time to recognize the unique contribution that women make to the world, honour it, and use it to solve our crises. When we are not trying to be ersatz men, women are the gender that cares about the long term, that seeks cooperation and will fight for human rights. It took mothers marching on Ottawa to get a change in the laws regulating the production of baby bottles leaching cancer causing chemicals. This is not to say that men don’t do things like that; it’s clear we have human problems in the world today that can only be addressed by having both genders work on an equal footing. Talking about why women need to pull up their collective socks to become high powered execs with excessive salaries just perpetuates a stereotype of ‘success’ that is prevalent on Wall Street, where casino capitalism and the subsequent financial meltdown was born.
And we all know who engineered that disaster. Mostly men, bent on hyper competition and profits at any cost. Very few women shine in this corrupt arena. I think that’s a success. And it’s something worth pondering. Success for women looks different than it does for men, and that’s a good thing. The more women question the prevailing corporate mindset, the sooner we can get around to not only imagining a different world, but to build it. Together.