Posted by: minnow | May 3, 2010

CHARACTER FLAW

What are the obstacles that derail you?  Are you a goal setter, a planner?  When you were in your teens and twenties did you know what you wanted to become?  How did you decide?  Did you get there?

I grew up in a family where education was highly valued and going to college was a given.  So, when  the time came for me to pick schools to apply to I picked places as far away from home as I could imagine myself going, privately thinking my mother would never make me go.  WRONG.  I ended up at Hope College in Holland, Michigan.

Without me changing a single political stance I went from being the most conservative (AKA only Republican) person my friends were willing to hang out with to being the most liberal (AKA You’ve got to be a closet democrat) person my friends (in the political science department) would talk to.   while I saw that my environment changed dramatically I did not fully understand the ramifications of that change until much later.

In my first two years of school I took nearly 18 credits of 300 level political science classes and had my sights set on a semester in Washington D. C., graduating near the top of my class, going to law school, and eventually pursuing a career in politics.  The spring of my sophomore year I was in my advisor’s office planning my next two years of school when he said to me, “You know, some day you are going to make a great politician’s wife.”  I was shell-shocked.  I walked out of his office and never took another political science class.  I did not go to Washington D.C.  I did not graduate from Hope.  I did not go on to law school.  And, I never pursued politics. 

I allowed one sexist remark derail my dream.  Now thirty plus years later I wonder why.  What flaw in my character allowed me to be so easily defeated, deflated.   I always loved to debate, to stir the pot, even to play the devil’s advocate on occasion so why did I not just stand up to Dr. Holmes and tell him to start living in the 20th Century?  My parents certainly never made me feel like my gender held limitations.  In fact my mother’s attitude was pretty much the opposite.  A little more than a year after the Dr. Holmes comment I was at the center of a brouhaha that called the college administration into account, so it was not that I lost my desire to fight a good fight.  At the same time, I did not continue that particular fight, either.  Instead, I willingly gave in to the only condition the president set for continuing to work with students–that I not be part of the student committee.  Another indicator of my flaw?

Perhaps.  But, as I look back on the past 30 years, the choices I have made, and the direction I have taken, I believe what more accurately comes to light is a character flaw in our society as a whole.  While my parents did not raise me with overtly sexist attitudes–women should be blah blah blah and men should be blah blah blah–many of those attitudes are a part of the fiber of our society.  We expect to see men in certain roles and women in certain roles.  When roles cross over the men or women who are the exception are often greeted with hostility, negative imaging, distrust, and rejection.  And while I realize that the prejudice and stereotyping go both ways (both genders are negatively impacted) I believe women have endured a greater hardship.  Their lack of political power has made it more difficult for women to overcome the social and economic inequalities which in turn impact most every aspect of life.

Truly, I made choices.  I walked out of my professor’s office.  I bowed out of a fight that began when I exposed a lie.  I got married, had a family, home schooled, avoided daycare, and did not pursue a career.  Yet no where in the world would a man be told he would make a great politician’s husband.  It simply would not happen.  And, if by some stretch of the imagination it did, the rest of society would rise up behind him and shout on his behalf: NO!  Unfair!  How dare you?! 

Those kinds of voices of support do not exist for women.  They should, but they do not.  I have two daughters.  I believe they can do anything they set their hearts to doing.  But, that is not enough.  My daughters deserve, our daughters (and our sons) deserve more than my single voice.  They deserve a society that wants their best because if. it. gets. their. best. the whole society will benefit.

In a recent episode of Parenthood  Adam, one of  the fathers, justifies his parental inconsistency between his nephew and his daughter, Haddie, by telling her, “You’re my daughter.  You’re not wrong.  It is a double standard.  And it’s not fair…Then again, neither is the world.”  Haddie responded, “Well that’s ridiculous.”  And Adam replied, “Well that’s the way it is.” 

Even though I am a parent and I understand all about keeping our children safe I knew exactly how Haddie felt.  I agree, it is ridiculous.  Gender based inequality is ridiculous.  And “that’s the way it is” may explain a situation as it exists but it is not a reason to remain static.

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Responses

  1. It might be way it is … but it it is not the way it is meant to be …

  2. Wow, Meg. I never knew about that Professor’s comment. I’m flabergasted by the timing just as much as the ignorant words. At a time when you are striking out on your own, feeling-out who you are, and considering who you want to become, I can understand how an authority figure like that could shoot those arrows right to the center of your confidence. Ouch.

    And, honestly, I hadn’t thought about you as a politician, but as I was reading, it all fits. Of course you are! I wonder what’s coming down the pike for you, since you are gaining all of this awareness now. Hmmmm. I would love to see you reconnect with this part of you, and use it for our community’s benefit.


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