by Tanja Pajevic
Ha, ha! No, I didn’t write that essay back then, but guess what? I’m going to write it now!
You might be wondering what prompted this topic today and/or why you’re being subjected to reading it. (Although you’ve probably just mistakenly subscribed to my posts or are being tortured by militants in some overseas prison.) For everyone else, let me tell you what’s got my undies all bunched up over here–it’s that I AM documentary that I hyped in my last post. Yes, yes. Because while there was a lot that I loved about that film, something’s been gnawing at me since I saw it, and I just figured out what it was. Director Tom Shadyac doesn’t give the whole story when he highlights the perils of how inverted our culture is, particularly in the way we prize competition over collaboration.
He forgot to address perhaps the most important part of the equation, which is this: we women (mostly) work together while it’s really the godawful Men in Charge who continue to maim and kill (not to mention destroy our planet) in their quest for world domination.
Yes! Another cutting-edge post free from vast generalities and gender stereotypes!
(For those of you unfamiliar with this line of thinking, it’s known as the Patriarchal Chip-On-the-Shoulder Bandwagon! I highly recommend it.) Because what I’m thinking here is that perhaps what’s really wrong with our world is that too much of it follows the traditional, hierarchical (and often-patriarchal) business model where information only moves from the top down (Do this or you’re fired, you silly minion!), and where you’re always trying to fight your way to the top. Kinda like patriarchy itself, where those of us who aren’t Top Alpha Male are either a) screwed or b) screwed and trying to become Top Alpha Male.
But what about other models out there? What about the horizontal business model (that most women-owned businesses follow, incidentally) where information is shared laterally with others, where the leaders are in the trenches alongside you, and everyone is working together for the greater good?
Ahh. Bliss, right?
So why is our society still so ass-backwards?
Ken’s reading a book called The Opt-Out Revolt: Why People are Leaving Companies to Create Kaleidoscope Careers (by Lisa Mainiero and Sherry Sullivan) which slams the corporate ladder and addresses how and why we need to change corporate life if we’re ever to achieve any kind of balance in our work and professional lives. One of their main premises is that, yes, men and women are different and approach their careers, um, differently. “To some degree, we found men and women to be polar opposites in terms of the compromises they were willing to make. (Mainiero and Sullivan, 108).”
Men’s careers are characterized by…
* Linear in nature
* Jobs held in the same industry for several years. Lateral careers are a new phenomenon due to changes in information and technology.
* Sequential in nature
* Family responsibilities are separated from work responsibilities.
* Remaining in traditional careers and leaving the workforce only if circumstances such as layoffs or downsizing require it.
Women’s careers are characterized by…
* Nonlinear in nature.
* Frequent interruptions, opt-out periods, and change.
* Relational in nature
* Family and work are integrated; if that is not possible, women opt out.
* Leaving the workforce and forming alternate careers by choice to achieve greater balance with family needs or to resist discrimination. (110)
And that’s just talking about the compromises we’re willing to make in our professional lives. What about our personal lives? What about all the ways we help our friends and neighbors on a daily basis…or all the ways we don’t?
Here’s the thing: I fully believe that we’re all born to be loving, caring individuals. So why is that our society breeds the life our of our men, telling them to suck it up, be a man, and don’t cry?
(Or as the lab tech told Gabriel the other day as he was drawing blood from his arm: “Be a man–it won’t hurt.”
Excuse me? My kid is two years old and you’re telling him a needle in his arm isn’t going to hurt? Fuck you, pal.
I leveled him with a look of disgust before telling Gabriel that yes, it would hurt and it was OK to cry and I was right there with him and we were going to just do the best we could to try and get through it. Capiche?)
There’s a great book on this topic called Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Lives of Boys, by Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson. This book rocks–if you have boys, you have to read it. (They also made a PBS documentary that I’ve yet to see.) After all, how do we expect our boys to become fully rounded individuals if we keep trying to stuff them into the dominant stereotype of the (emotionally dead) macho male. I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather raise a successful, emotionally-cognizant, empathetic, loving and well-adjusted human being.
Which (kind of) brings me back to my earlier proposition: Why Women Need to Rule the World. Because, for now, at least, we’re still the main nurturers, the emotional heart of the family, and the ones who continue to do the majority of the work when it comes to raising the next generation. Otherwise known as those tiny little human beings who will grow up to one day become the (hopefully more compassionate) Women and Men in Charge.
There’s at least a whole other post in here about how we mothers and fathers need to be responsible for the human beings we raise, including all the character traits, family patterns and future expectations we encourage in them. For now, just let me say that I’m taking a ride on the Women Rock bandwagon today, lauding the myriad ways that women continue to collaborate and help each other out on a daily basis. Let’s encourage our menfolk to do the same.