A few months ago I came across an article on the ESPN website about a high school girl who was the starting quarterback for her school’s football team. This article was extensive and took me probably over 20 minutes to read. I think it’s fantastic that this girl was a pioneer in her town, excelling in a sport that historically has been performed and targeted by and for men. However, as I read this article I thought about where we place our value in our society. Why aren’t there extensive articles about a high school girl who was a magnificent knitter? Why are athletics, something that is traditionally male dominated, thought of as a venue where when women get there, they have “made it?”
Yes, (predominately white) men have been the most powerful demographic in our country. As women work for equality, we do work for power. However, should our standards of what power means simply be what power has been historically? Are what have typically been male “characteristics” and “values” be what females also strive for? Are female “characteristics” and “values” truly valued? I would say no to both of these things.
Female dominated work fields such as social work, education, waitressing are underpaid and undervalued. In the business world, compassion and empathy is often seen as negative and vulnerable. When women are aggressive, maybe they’ll be able to make it in a cut throat man’s world.
Personally, I value assertiveness in myself, in women, and in men but I don’t think assertive and aggressive are the same. Assertiveness is saying how you feel, what you want and what you think, that all sounds good to me. Aggressiveness has been deemed masculine and therefore maybe perhaps what women strive for?
The ultimate aggressiveness for the symbolic equality of American women was achieved this past week when the Pentagon changed its military policy to include women in combat. As I heard the news, I felt no excitement, just confusion and an icky feeling inside. I’ve never called myself a pacifist, don’t know I ever would. However, women being included in the right to shoot, bomb, and drop drones didn’t strike me as the equality I work for every day. I didn’t know how to articulate these feelings but this Atlantic piece, summed it up pretty well for me. Seemingly male characteristics have fallen into the default category of the place a woman’s end-all goal should be but are all male characteristics really something even men should want to achieve? Is violence and aggression really what I want to excel in as a woman?
I’ll end with a little something Gloria Steinem said, “we’ve begun to raise our daughters more like our sons..but few have the courage to raise our sons more like our daughters.”
Written by Sarah Brammer-Shlay