Friday, June 4, 2010


This is my second try writing this post, which has been floating around in my head for a few days now (I've been moving so I didn't have the internet and couldn't write and post it earlier).  It was originally meant to a be light-hearted but right before I started actually writing it the first time I read this post over at Simple Gifts and started thinking more seriously about it.  It pretty much became a feminist discussion, much more serious than I had intended.  And while that's all well and good, I'm not yet ready to write that.  It'll come, but for now I just want to be light-hearted.

Here's a little anecdote about how being an empowered woman means you never get a break:

The fiance and I spent a couple of nights this weekend at my parents' house because we're in the midst of moving apartments and had nowhere to sleep.  (Post to come!)  One morning, up hours before the fiance, I heard some banging and cursing and wandered into my parents' bedroom to see what all the ruckus was about (yes, I know that sounds dangerous but my mom was in the kitchen and dressed).  My father was putting together a new frame for the bed.  Without so much as a good morning he said, "Help me with this box spring."  So, I helped him lift the box spring onto the frame.  All of a sudden, he disappeared and my mother appeared to spread a dust ruffle on the bed.  Now, it's a large bed and she's a small woman, so I helped her spread it out neatly and evenly.  The second this was done, she disappeared and my father reappeared.  I then helped him to lift the mattress into place.

The older generation who abides by stereotypical gender roles?  Much more well-rested.  Me?  I never stop.

Question: Do you ever feel that being an "empowered" woman means that you're expected to be a Superwoman and do everything?  Should it?


  1. Another way of looking at this is from the standpoint of privilege, a major source of disunity between white middle class feminists and feminist women of color. Gender roles of white women are more clearly defined. Many privileged women can choose whether or not they want to fit in the "superwoman" category or stay within traditional sexed behavior. Should I work and postpone a family, be a stay-at-home mom, or work and have a family?

    However, for most women who live in poverty, these are not questions they have the luxury of answering. Often these families are headed by one matriarch, who works, raises the kids, gives to her community, and acts as a figure of authority in her family. Being a superwoman is just what she does--no one asked her if she wanted the task. She doesn't have the choice.

    Since I'm supporting my family right now, my husband has already told me he wants me to take time off (if I choose) when his book is published and he lands a job at a university. So, really, my do-it-all lifestyle will someday, again if I want it to, slow down.

    Also, with generational gender roles, it IS very different. As a child of the 80s, my mom was part of the second wave of feminism, and raised me to be just like her. She worked and raised me in partnership with my dad. But traditional gender roles die hard. Most women of our grandmothers' age wouldn't necessarily approve of our "modern" way of life. But again, I don't know if that makes them happier. Most women feel their limitations at all times, and I think even though I've stepped out of my sex role, I'm more satisfied with my life than if I'd stayed at home and had children.

    I even have this frustration with my sister-in-law, who basically wants to quit her job and have a baby. Why? She doesn't know. She just...wants a baby. She expects her husband to stay at a job he absolutely hates to pay for the huge 4 bedroom house they just bought and support the children she wants to have. I feel like banging my head against a wall...I've been working two jobs, and here she is, wanting to give up because she isn't happy at work.

    Is this the same clash that working women and stay-at-home moms have been having since the 1970s. Yep. And it will continue until women unite together as one sisterhood, supporting each other. Black women in the 1960s did it; why can't we?

  2. I think that being an empowered woman doesn't mean you have to do EVERYTHING but that you're not afraid to try doing something just because it's traditionally a man's role. It also means not refusing to do something that is traditionally "woman's work" just because you don't want to be pigeonholed. For me, it's about being a strong PERSON no matter the gender.

    My mom is kind of this weird mix that was born during a more traditional time but grew up during woman's lib. She's all for working and independence and being equal to men, but at the same time she gets these weird phases of guilt for not being home with me more when I was little or making more home cooked meals. I guess it's all part of that question, "Can you really have it all?" and the answer is probably, no, you can't, but it has nothing to do with being a strong woman. It's simply impossible, male or female.

    Sometimes a woman has to hire a babysitter or ask a man to get something off a high shelf and sometimes a man can't change a tire or has to ask a woman to sew on a button, but it doesn't necessarily mean they aren't strong, hard working people or that they're setting gender equality back fifty years. It just means that they're doing what they can and asking for help when they need it.

    I may have strayed from the topic and possibly offended some grammatical sensibilities, if that phrase itself makes any sense.

    Either way, at least your parents are making at least a little headway in the whole gender equality thing. After all, if they really believed only a man can build a bed and only a woman can make it pretty, your dad wouldn't have asked you to help lift anything in the first place, right? That's a start, even if it does leave you exhausted and sweaty.