Last year I watched the PBS documentary Makers – which told the history of the feminist movement from the 1950’s through the 1990’s. As I watched, I started feeling guilty about not having participated more in ‘the movement’.
What, I wondered, have I done to further the expansion of the role of women in American society, to give future generations of little girls the opportunities denied to me?
Not a feminist.
I was born in 1948, raised and schooled in the 50’s and 60’s and entered adulthood in the 1970’s. Most of the time, through those decades I was totally immersed in my own life, head in the sand, not usually even noticing that there was a feminist movement.
I competed with my classmates to earn the best grades. I competed with my brother to win science fair awards. I worked hard in college to learn psychology and business.
Mom said I could do anything, but supported my brother’s science fair projects and heaped praise on his prize instead of mine. Dad let me help him, but just to hand him tools. My chores involved dishes and grass trimming. My brother’s involved mowing and fixing things. He was encouraged to take science and math, I not so much.
I married right out of college and assumed I had to follow my spouse when he moved to a small town, quitting my management training job and hiring out as a waitress. When I got pregnant and started to show, I was asked to quit that job because I didn’t look good in the uniform “but you’re the best waitress we’ve ever had!”.
In the seventies, I totally ignored the marches and protests and controversy. My spouse railed against the ‘femi nazi’s at work.
Me, a maker?
But, as I went on with my life, I did eventually grow into being a maker.
I set out to get power by finding and pursuing a high paying job (read my story in Choose Wealth!). I started a business to earn money to go back to school. I finished learning to code and found a job and marched on up the ranks. Always I was one of a few women in technology. Most times in management meetings I was the only female present. Looking around, I didn’t see many other young women starting up through the ranks. Looking up the ladder I saw a few women leaders, but not many and none in top positions.
As I was pursuing my financial and career goals, I was becoming a maker – a woman in a “man’s” field – a successful woman showing other women that we could do it. I didn’t realize it at the time and I certainly didn’t plan my life to become one. I was just living my life, getting the job done.
When I was little, I always wished I had been born a boy. It wasn’t because I wanted to change sex, it was just that even as a little girl I saw that the world was slanted in favor of the male part of the population. Boys got to wear pants, girls had to wear dresses. Boys got to run and scream and play rough. Girls were supposed to be quiet, polite and subservient. Boys grew up to run the world. Girls grew up to run a house.
As I matured and experienced sex discrimination first hand over and over again, a dull resentment grew within me. Little did I know that all over town other women had the same feelings of frustration, resentment and hopelessness. I didn’t realize that my peers were fighting the same battle as I – silently – and that each of our individual victories and accomplishments would yield multitudes of opportunities for our daughters and granddaughters, if we let them.
Other makers abound.
I didn’t start out to become a maker. I didn’t plan the steps to get there. I didn’t know I would be one of a few women in the job when I started out. I was naive and believed I could do anything. Just like Carol Burnett. In her story – which you can see below – she says:
“Being naive I didn’t know it couldn’t be done…and so it could be done.”
Check out Makers.com for lots of stories on women breaking boundaries. Be inspired and know that
“Women can do everything, they just can’t do it all at the same time”
as Madeline Albright – first woman secretary of state 1996 said in her story on Makers.
Raise your daughters to be makers!
It is gratifying to see women in CEO positions, women in space, women running for President, women stepping into jobs and business as a matter of course, that we never dreamed were possible for ourselves. I love seeing that history is being revisited and women written into it. I love seeing future history made by men and women as we move from the domination of the physical to the domination of the mind. Perhaps we will eventually be able to evolve beyond a patriarchal society into a human-archal society.
However, it is disconcerting to me that more women aren’t entering my career field – that young girls are still not being encouraged to pursue science, math and technology. Ladies, that is where the money is! As the old slogan goes – We’ve come a long way baby…… but we still have a long way to go.
I’ve watched my great nieces and granddaughter be immersed in princessville – much to my chagrin. I’ve encouraged my son to make sure his girl and boy each get great encouragement in all the subjects, yet the girl is already (at age 7) starting to avoid math. Society (and relatives) can do so much damage inadvertently – as this Verizon commercial so aptly demonstrates:
Our changing society is hard not just on women, but also on men. Anytime traditional roles are challenged and overturned there can be hardship and heartbreak. Men in my generation were raised to believe they should be the breadwinner. It hurt when their wives began winning more bread than they did. Women are still raised to believe that hearth and home is their domain. How are they handling the invasion of the stay at home Dad? There can be jealousy, guilt and animosity with change.
I believe we can all become ‘makers’ – how are you a maker?