What is the biggest problem our generation of women faces? What is it that we haven’t yet overcome? What is it that we’re barely seeing just yet until it pops up right in our faces?
Female infanticide, child abuse, rapes, sexual discrimination….we have these and we are working on them. We already have a vote and even equal opportunity (….well, we’re talking about it at least). What then is our problem?
One of my friends was a gold medalist in her final year in architecture college. Then she got married and is a mother now. She still has a job but it isn’t exactly a career. At least not the one she originally set out for. She’s a professional home-maker/mom.
Another friend quit a promising job in a multinational company to settle down in the U.S. where she couldn’t work for over a year. So she went back to college to get another degree. No, they don’t have kids because she says, there’s too much else happening now.
I have a career I feel quite good about. Also an active social life, hobbies and a good family. I don’t have a husband (and I don’t think I need one) or kids (but I’d love to).
Three people, the same age, nearly identical backgrounds and how our lives have diversified! And yet, they are alike. All three of us are part of the privileged class of women who have had access to education, financial stability and independent thinking. All three of us are living life by choices we have made.
Choice…that’s a good word. The key word for my generation of women. What sets us apart from the women who fought for a vote, the ones who burnt their bras or threw off their aprons and went to work? The fact that we have a choice. We are the ones who are enjoying the fruits of their labours, their sacrifices. As much as I crib about the state of things and how we are still backwards in our stereotyping attitudes, I know I’m exceptionally lucky.
I don’t have to have a career. I could just as well be a liberal-minded daughter-in-law and then a modern mum. Or I could be an independent businesswoman. I could be a professional, a social worker, a writer, a travel correspondent….anything at all. I could be any combination of all of them.
I think of our generation of women as having the Superwoman syndrome. This does not mean we are more capable or better than our earlier counterparts (or indeed, than men). It only means that we are so spoiled for choices that we want it all and we want it now. We need to be the best. It’s platinum all the way and we know how to earn it. Is that a good thing?
Last month I was at a conference and got to talking to a group of my women colleagues from around the world. All of them were in their late 20s, or early 30s, reasonably successful in their jobs, smart, attractive and well-spoken. Every single one of them…us…was in the exact same place in life. Of balancing our families’ desires to see us ‘settle down’ in matrimony, following our own dreams of success and also considering marriage, kids and ‘everything a woman dreams of’.
If it makes any sense, the biggest problem we have is that we have too much. And we want more. We want to be the best in our careers, not just better than men but better than anyone else. We also want to be good daughters, perfect wives and girlfriends and wonderful moms. We want to play both ‘career woman’ and ‘home-maker’ with equal aplomb. What’s more, we are our own harshest critics. Hence we don’t allow ourselves any weakness, or any vulnerability. Where does the phrase ‘cold-hearted bitch’ come from? From deep within us.
I can’t cry…Its not professional.
I can’t let PMS show on my face and ruin the perfect setting.
I can’t behave like losing a family member or breaking up will affect my work.
I can’t let my in-laws see how tired I am since they’ll want me to quit my job then.
Under no circumstances, can I ever admit that I was wrong.
I can’t be. I’m perfect after all.
I can do everything except admit that I can’t do it all. I am part of the Superwomen generation after all. And that is my biggest problem.