Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Strong women in society: Why does it have to be so hard?

In one week, I’ve heard women who have stepped 'outside of the box' described as “mad,” “witches, ” and in for a challenge when in comes to having too much.

In an episode of The View, last Friday, the hot topic was about women having a successful career and marriage at the same time. This was a hot issue, with the suggestion that we can’t have both simultaneously.

As disheartening as it is to hear such a statement, I can relate to it. Currently, I’m in a position where part of me wants to stay away from relationships, so that I can keep my focus on my career and on being a good mom, without any more demands on my time.

Even though I recall the ways relationships have enriched my life, I understand the difficulties of having both. I’ve experienced relationships that command more from me than I could give (and having partners upset with me for it), while working toward my goals. It can be hard trying to give so much of yourself, especially if you don’t fit into that neat little box of societal expectations.

Years ago I was told that my chances would be slim for finding a man because of being an independent woman. And it’s true—more men than not seem threatened by that (especially if you make more money than them). As women, our challenge has always been stepping out of our roles.

A couple of days ago, I read an article called “Were The ‘Mad’ Heroines of Literature Really Sane?” The reference was to women of classic Victorian fiction, with an analysis about whether they were actually troubled. “But were they really mad? Would we today recognize them as mentally ill or were our heroines merely misunderstood, not to mention a tad inconvenient?” asks Vivienne Parry.

My comment to this piece suggested a little of each. Some women (along with men) probably started out mentally ill, and others maybe went mad from being chained up—if not burned at stakes—for being too eccentric for the times. But fiction or nonfiction, some things never change… When we step out of our traditional expectations it’s not without a cost.

Kate Gosselin was ripped apart in The View’s Hot Topics online comments section, regarding her working on Dancing with the Stars. Viewers called her a “witch” and “horrible” to name a few things said. I don’t get it—shouldn’t we be supporting our efforts in this world as women? Would they be happier with her on welfare, with society supporting her, or trying to collect donations from a website…? She is trying to be responsible—working to make her way, and that of her children. Isn’t that a good thing (regardless of whether she’s in the spotlight or not)?

One viewer suggested she isn’t trying to improve herself...Isn’t that exactly what she’s doing? She’s definitely not a dancer, so, she’s stepping out of her comfort zones and learning new things (and—God forbid—maybe she’s even having some fun while doing it). She’s working with what she can to get by, and I don’t see what’s so wrong about that.

But, as is often the case, it’s easy to judge others whose shoes we haven’t walked in. The bottom line is that we all do the best we can with the resources we have. And I believe the degree of resentment we have for others (such as the comments toward Kate) shows more about ourselves… But that’s another story…

It’s funny how when men are successful, they’re not ostracized the way women are, and it’s easy for them to find relationships (especially with younger women), but for women it remains a challenge (and if it’s a younger man, we’re labeled a “Cougar”).

The good news is that society is changing in a lot of ways. And we’re all trying to adapt—as women, to our strengths, and as men, to stronger women. It’s our reality now and we have to get used to it. Confident women are a large part of the world we live in today, and it’s certainly not about to revert back.

Both men and our female counterparts have to adjust to the fact that the world is changing—women are growing—and that is a wonderful and blessed thing, to be able to contribute to the world in a position of growth and strength.

I support any woman who strives to step out of her comfort zone, role, or external expectations, toward a position of increased strength, individuality, and success (as long as her consideration for others remains in tact), and I look forward to hearing more about others who support the same.

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