This post has been under “Drafts” for a bit, and realizing that today is Women’s Day I thought it was time to finish it up! I wanted to say something like “Ladies, I’m tired of the catfight!” but I actually think the term catfight is rather demeaning. However, it is a good transition into the heart of this post: stereotypes. With the continual change of women’s rights issues, it feels like women are still sharpening their knives eager to cut the perfect mold of Womanhood. And, like the age old story, one size fits all. Again. This undressing of women’s choices and voting on the best shape is comparable to a seedy bikini contest. The issue of stereotyping of women is very slippery. I tried to find a good quote on this issue, but ones I found felt, well, stereotypical. Or the quote was by someone I didn’t know enough about. So I’ll start with a definition:
There are numerous directions to take with the issue of stereotyping women, but I’ve focused on a few I’ve run into in my experience. This is an arguably ancient conversation I’m jumping in on, so hopefully I give each stereotype of womanhood it’s due justice with grace. Here is a defense of, and call to solidarity, for each stereotype.
The Woman Without Kids, or the Non-Mom
In Defense: This women knows she can be stereotyped as selfish, or doesn’t value stable loving relationships because of forgoing the parent-child relationship. For women to even have a choice as to whether to have children throughout the world, and definitely throughout history, is rare. If a woman wants to build a life on relationships other than parent-child, then why not? Also, I wouldn’t assume that women who don’t choose motherhood dislike children. For all you know they may be a highly admired Aunt to several nieces and nephews.
A call for solidarity with Moms: If you are harboring stereotypes against Moms, realize that parenting, like many other love relationships, looks different from the inside. Even if you don’t understand it, please support it. Also realize that to moms, sharing sentiments of motherhood being demeaning, or ‘caving’ to maternal instincts can be offensive. Remember it was only 150 years ago that the idea of marrying for love still seemed absurd. Do we really need such criticism of something as fundamentally human as motherhood? I think not. Also, moms are raising a generation of your future coworkers. Befriending mothers may help you to better understand the world through the eyes of a parent.
The Full-Time Working Mom
In Defense: This woman knows she can be seen as being less involved with her kids less than a Stay-at-Home mom. She is just as much a mother. For millennials, in the age of mountainous student debt, it is no wonder many women my age are choosing to stay in the workforce after having kids, not only for financial reasons, but practical ones. If you bought a $50,000 new car, wouldn’t you want to drive it? Also, continuing to contribute to a career has a payoff for later in life, as well as a grown and happy adult child. Your kids leave home eventually, but your career continues after they leave home. Besides, we need women in the workforce to hold the spot for future generations, like my yet unborn daughter who may want to be an astronaut or congresswoman someday.
A call for solidarity with SAHMs & non-moms: It is still in debate whether women can “have it all” but we see you achieving this with grace. Show how us how you make it happen. Show us it’s not it’s not through magical thinking, but through deliberative planning, and flexibility. Parenting is a big job, as you know, and it will take a give-and take in your priorities. Also, respect the women who have chosen to “have it all” in a different fashion. Either without having kids, or the women who have chosen to experience it all, while staying home with the kids.
The Stay-at-Home Mom
In Defense: They know they are stereotyped as unambitious, or unaccomplished. But, most of them are continuing to learn and grow. Working moms, just know that they are you. They are the part of you who said, “Screw this, I’m staying home with my baby!” They took a chance on that impulse, and are paying the tantrum-throwing, poopy-diaper consequences. And may be enjoying every second of it. Also, it’s not a viable option to be a SAHM without a partner in crime. So we should celebrate when a couple has found an emotionally, and financially stable relationship in order for a mother to pursue this aspiration. Hoorah!
Call for solidarity with Non-Moms and Working moms: Don’t be defensive, or feel demeaned when that was not the intention. You can are undermine what it means to be an independent woman, not others, so feel empowered. Know that there are numerous ways to continue to grow and learn. Also know that working moms worry about their kids just as much. Also, women without children still have to put up with many stereotypes, even if they haven’t taken the traditional path of being a mother.
The Part-Time Working Mom, Work-at-Home Mom, or something like it
In Defense: This is me at the moment. I haven’t really run into stereotypes, but here is what I imagine it to be: I’m not committed to the SAHM-thing, or professional development. I actually went from a part-time working mom, to a SAHM. Then, when I found opportunity, a SAHM to a WAHM. As a millennial I’ve had my bouts of underemployment that paid the bills, but paused professional development. So doing freelance work is about the same level, or arguably more growth than some jobs I’ve had in the past. As a young mom, I’m glad to spend time with my kid. I’m basically unabashedly having my cake and eating it too. For now.
A call for solidarity: If this current arrangement wasn’t an option, I’m not sure what I would be doing. In fact, I could stop working and we would still be financially stable. To be honest, right now, I’m glad to not entertain either option. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Having another kid someday could change my current setup, financially, and also my ability to work from home. So, I support the women who grapple with the decision to invest in time with their kids at home, and the ones who have confidence to find a way to balance the best of both worlds, while working full-time.
So what do we have in common as women? We are constantly fighting against being shaped by voices other than our own. Voices that don’t support or uplift us, but demean us. Lets stop judging others as less-than because they don’t fit our shape. I’ll even take it a step further and say to not only refrain from judging, but even support other women who have made different decisions than you. It’s much the same with beauty, it’s rather relative, and has many variations. So let’s support the fact that we are all in this together. We should all be wildly supportive of the variety of choices we have and celebrate them for the sake of all women. Many who don’t have the choices we do.
So let’s practice.
“You chose to: _________ (pursue a career/be childless/work full-time or part-time after having children/stay at home with baby/endless variations)? Well, it looks lovely on you.”
So instead of stereotypes, why not create a standard of empowered and graceful women? That’s what I want to see.