…Coming from a woman.
For the female portion of the population, the road toward success and autonomy is fraught with difficulty, danger, and discouragement. We are told that we should be nurses when we dream of a career as a physician-scientist, a courthouse clerk when we aspire to defend corporations, and a research assistant when we yearn to unravel the mysteries of cancer with the knowledge base of a PhD behind us. In an attempt to provide an answer to this problem, we have blamed everything from society to our male companions. Indisputably, this is a most descriptive and accurate spectrum of stumbling blocks, but very small ones in comparison with the biggest elephant in the room-ourselves.
Let’s start with the most obvious element of this issue. We, as women, often feel overshadowed by males and pressured by the stereotypes imposed upon us by society, and refuse to make ourselves heard as a result, whether this be at school, at work, or in simple daily interactions. We say nothing in the hope that our silence guarantees a non-confrontational and tension-free existence. We refrain from contributing to scholarly discussions for fear that we might sound stupid, inappropriate, or politically incorrect. Essentially, we begin to ruin our chances before we even start by lowering our voices to a whisper, sitting in the corner, and thereby letting our male colleagues or peers take over. We do a huge disservice to ourselves and other women through such acts of silence. It can be argued that assertiveness, no matter how slight or subtle, is deemed to be a “male” trait unbefitting of a woman to display in any setting. Some females argue that it never works when trying to put a foot down in a certain circumstance. Nonetheless, I am of a firm belief that drawing lines in personal and professional relationships is an essential recipe for success. For both sexes, this includes having the ability to figuratively raise their voice when necessary.
The biggest problem, however, is something we women will probably never be able to fix-our inherent dislike and distrust of one another. In everything from personal to professional relationships, we women tend to be exclusive and passive-aggressive toward each other. We stab each other in the back due to feelings of jealousy or spite that are by and large unwarranted. We are all alone, each a solitary silhouette trying to make its way in postwar Europe sans the Marshall Plan. We seem to want to keep it this way despite the fact that such an idea reeks of impracticality when we take into account the way in which our male colleagues work. Their profoundly tight bonds of loyalty to one another in matters of the heart and the head that are nigh impossible to break and have never ceased to amaze me with their strength. We feel that we can and have to do it all on our own, to have it all with no help at all. To be frank, the books of self-promoting CEOs of mogul companies (such as Deborah Sandberg’s Lean In) perpetuate this mythology of “having it all” to no end. While such stories are by all means valid, they reinforce the Hollywood phenomenon and are hence detrimental for individuals who take one hundred percent of their contents to heart. Women need to know that there is no shame in calling for a Marshall Plan in times that lack direction and a sense of purpose. We don’t have to have it all, and we certainly don’t need to do it alone.
In the end, it’s not the men, it’s not the society, it’s not even our personal inhibitions. It’s our attitude toward one another that drags us back in such an extreme manner. So, have we moved the needle, girls? I think not. Nice try, feminists and women’s rights champions. Better luck next time.
PS: Don’t rely on the Women’s March to fix this.