The Feminine Mystique

“It is not enough for an individual to be loved and accepted by others, to be ‘adjusted’ to his culture.  He must take his existence seriously enough to make his own commitment to life, and to the future; he forfeits his existence by failing to fulfill his entire being.”

I finally got around to reading The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, the ground-breaking book about how women have outgrown being simply housewives.  It was written in the 1960s, at a time when the majority of women were staying home to care for the family, and yet so much of what Friedan said is still relevant today.  The value of education, the necessity of maintaining your sense of self outside of your husband and children, the nature of humanity to keep moving forward and keep growing: these are not dated ideas.  If anything, the reality of these gets truer as the years go by.

I didn’t know much about this book when I first picked it up.  I had heard that it was important and an integral part of the feminist movement, so naturally, my interest was piqued, and when I saw it at the bookstore, I picked it up.  After it had sat at home on my bookshelf for a while, I finally got around to reading it, and then I was kicking myself for not opening it sooner.  From the first few pages, I was hooked.  I’m not a wife or mother, and I clearly don’t live in the 1950s and 60s, but the transcending ideas had taken over my brain, not to mention the amazing history of the movement I am glad to feel apart of.

I couldn’t help but tear up while reading the afterword, written years later by Friedan.  She talked about the impact her book had had and the work she had been doing since, including international gatherings and the creation of NOW (National Organization for Women).  She talked about how far we had come as women and as a society, and when that portion was written in 1993, she talked about how she didn’t think it would be long at all before the discussions of birth control and abortion were a thing of the past and we would even have a woman president shortly.  It saddens me that these are still prevalent issues, and that these matters which should have already been determined, leaving room for other issues, are still the focal points of just about every political platform.  This, to me, is unacceptable.  The oppression and taking away of rights has got to stop in order for us to continue moving forward as a society the way Friedan dreamed we would.

Whether you’re an active feminist, a casual observer, or have absolutely no idea what’s going on with it at all, I recommend this book 100%.  It gives wonderful insight into the evolution of mankind, the evolution of women, and women’s role in the large scope.  It introduces ideas that go beyond feminism, women and housewifery and opens up the mind to look beyond your own home and clearly see the world around you.

Welcome to Adulthood

6 months ago, I got my first “grown-up job,” working in an office as opposed to a retail or customer service position.  About 3 weeks ago, I was involved in my first workplace sexual harassment case.  I’m just growing up so fast!  I feel like I could’ve done without this particular part of it though.

It wasn’t particularly traumatizing or horrible, just your basic creep that had to be dealt with, but there were other things that happened in the process.

Throughout the past couple weeks, the head of Human Resources met with me, him, supervisors, and several witnesses, most of us she even talked to twice.  Towards the end of the whole situation, a few things came to light, and in my final meeting with HR, I almost lost my job along with the guy I was fighting against.

After all the decisions had been finalized, I had my final follow-up with HR to wrap up the situation, and she proceeded to lecture me for about 20 minutes about my behavior.  I am well aware that I and everyone else should act a certain way, and at your job, you’re held to a higher standard, but this still rubbed me the wrong way.

It turns out the creep was almost let off the hook completely because I had joked around with him in the past.  Apparently if you’re friendly with someone, that means that all boundaries are gone and any inappropriate comments and behaviors are totally acceptable.

Let me tell you, I was absolutely livid, and I still get angry every time I think about it.  I have completely lost all respect for the Head of HR.  On one hand, I understand that she was just trying to do her job, but on the other hand, how dare she?  To imply, nay, to come right out and say, that friendly conversation with a co-worker is an open door to harassment including, but not limited to, hovering around my desk despite multiple people telling him to go away, constantly finding reasons to touch my shoulders, arms, and back, and making repeated comments about my boobs.

I know I’m new to this, but is this really how things work?  I know that there are plenty of people that share this attitude, which, in itself is downright disgusting.  I guess I just didn’t expect to see it from a person who deals with people and relations for a living.  Is this my official Welcome into Adulthood:  Realizing just how big and close to home the problems are that I’m fighting against?

So now, I’m facing a weird combination of being incredibly bummed and depressed about the state of the world, and being fired up and ready to take on anything that comes my way.  Maybe I won’t go down in history for being a revolutionary and maybe I can’t change the world, but damn me if I just sit down and give up.  That’s for sure not going to happen.

Staying Home: Anti-Feminist?

Is choosing your family over a career anti-feminist?

I’ve seen a lot of questions and discussions on this topic lately.  There seem to be quite a few people under the impression that being a stay-at-home-mom as opposed to having a job or career is something close to the anti-Christ of feminism.  People believe that it is a backwards step for womankind, that the point of the feminist movement is to get women into the work-field and independent of men, and to have women staying at home with their children, cooking, cleaning, taking care of the house, etc. is exactly the opposite of what this society needs.  Maybe it’s because I hear about so much of this from my SAHM cousin so I’m seeing this issue at a pretty close perspective, but in my opinion, those who think that SAHM’s are anti-feminist are not viewing the feminism movement in a proper light.

Feminism and women’s rights are not about making sure all women are working, none of them being stuck at home with the kids anymore.  In truth, for women to reach equality, it’s not about all women working, it’s about women having the choice.  If you want to raise a family, go right ahead.  Then, at that point, it becomes up to you and your partner (if there is one) to decide what’s best for your family.  Is he going to work while you stay home?  Are you going to work while he stays home?  Are you both going to work and opt for either a nanny or daycare?  These are all acceptable answers, if that’s what you decide is the right choice for your family.  If the choice is made for you, and you have to stay home with the children, whether that’s what you want or that’s what’s best for everyone, then it becomes a problem and that’s what we’re fighting against.

Next step: fighting for better maternity benefits for working women, but I’ll save that for another day.