From part 1…
In the introduction of Bitch Hanauer talks about a book called Flux “in which journalist Peggy Orenstein, after interviewing 200 women in their twenties, thirties and forties, concludes that ‘Women’s lives have become a complex web of economic, psychological and social contradictions, with opportunities so intimately linked to constraints that a choice in one realm can have unexpected consequences (or benefits) ten years later in another.’ Orenstein calls the modern world a ‘half-changed’ one, in which ‘old patterns and expectations have broken down, but new ideas seem fragmentary, unrealistic, and often contradictory.’ And I began to wonder if, far from being irrational (or me just being a spoiled brat), my anger – and that of my friends – had clear-cut wellsprings, sources that didn’t go away because we had more choices than other generations of women or because we had loving, sensitive partners or even because we led full, privileged lives.”
To me this idea is epitomized by my mother and grandmother. My grandmother would always say that the best job for a woman was that of a lecturer so that one could also give sufficient time and energy to the household. She also approved of the IAS as she had met a woman who was a capable IAS officer and a wonderful homemaker. In the next breath she insisted that we also learn interior designing. My mother on the other hand always let it be known that while I could take up any job I wanted, I would always have to deal with the reality of a household, cooking and a mother-in-law who would set me straight! She warned me against anger – it did not befit a good woman . So she thought it would be a good idea for me to learn all these and baking.
Our mothers and grandmothers come from a generation which thought a woman to be inferior to a man. They over compensated for that distinction made in their lives by treating us, their daughters, almost like their sons. Yes we could be an engineer, but we would still have to be home by 7. Of course we could talk to our male friends and discuss subject matter but never over a cup of coffee. I now understand what they were trying to do. They were telling us- very subtly- that as individuals we were capable of doing anything we wanted to, but society would not approve of everything we did. And perhaps to make things a little easier for us, to save us the heartbreak, they held us back a little – so we stayed within society’s prescribed limits. It is this almost that is the source of our anger now.
Our previous generation lived in a society and time that offered them very few options in life. Today we have a “gluttony of choice”, but that is not necessarily a good thing. Because making a decision and picking one path is not easy. I have a friend whose mother – a doctor herself – insisted after my friend’s son was born that she not give her job even if it meant she would have to live away from her baby and miss his growing years. I am sure my friend loves her job; but perhaps she would love it even more if she could make that decision herself. Instead she finds herself wondering if her son will resent her the way she sometimes resents her mom for being so busy during her childhood.
The irony in my life is that I have now become all the things my mother wanted me to be – I am a great baker and love dealing with the household and cooking – and she insists that “since you are so smart and educated,” I should go back to work in the technical field. For my part, all I want is the strength and patience that she possesses to be successful in whatever I choose to do. What she perhaps doesn’t realize is that this is my ultimate freedom – to be able to choose this life.
So my fellow bitches and bastards, it is important to remember this as we go about our lives huffing and puffing at our husbands. Just as we are negotiating new terrain, so are the men. They were not raised to do anything around the house – even get themselves a glass of water. Still they try everyday. They are our partners in raising our children – they change diapers, wash potties, feed and play with our children the way their fathers never did and in a way which makes their mothers and grandmothers balk. Still they deal with the surprised and disappointed looks on these faces and do it happily. They give us our personal space to watch TV or have dinner in peace or read a book. Let’s tip our hats to a generation of men who are often as confused as we are and is still trying. Instead of finding fault with everything they do, let’s include them in our lives.