As a child of the 70’s and a young woman of the 80’s, I grew up hearing about equality and women’s rights. The momentum that had begun in the 50’s and 60’s was now coming to life in very noticeable ways by women like Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinen and Nora Ephron.
By being surrounded by independent women in the news who were breaking through previously perceived barriers, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do as a grown Real Woman. My mother, who was a stay-at-home mom, never once seemed weak or submissive. She ran the house and family with strength, intelligence and dedication. All of the role models we had in those days built the Real Women we all are today.
Granted, it hasn’t always been a piece of cake in the world of equality, and a lot has thankfully changed in the past 30 years. For example, sexual harrassment in the workplace was something you just handled on your own — before there was actually a term for it, or divisions of Human Resources Departments dedicated to its prevention. In 8th grade, I was on our school’s first ever girl’s soccer team – we just didn’t have one before that. And one of the shocking elements of the hit movie Flashdance in ’83 was that the female lead was a Welder by trade – gasp, not a secretary!
Belief in equality is of course ingrained in me as a sort of “no-brianer.” Of course if I’m doing the same or better job as my male counterparts, I should be treated, and rewarded, equally. If I’m in a meeting, I expect to be listened to with respect for what I have to say – I’m not there simply to take notes on the eloquence that falls from other’s lips. And after all these years of busting my butt exercising and strength training, don’t treat me as if I’m a fragile flower that will break in a strong breeze.
And yet…. all that said….is it so wrong to still enjoy being treated as a “lady”? Last week a Real Woman co-worker and I stopped at a sandwich shop to pick something up for lunch. A man reached the entrance at the same time as we did, yet he opened the door for us, and let us go in and order ahead of him. We thanked him, it was a very nice gesture and appreciated. Similarly, I completely appreciate that my husband takes on some traditional “manly” duties around the house – like taking out the trash, washing the car, and doing various home maintenance chores. Could I manage those things on my own? Of course I could. But do I love that I don’t have to? Of course I do.
If a man wants to step in and remove the ugly gross bug that may be crawling up the wall next to me, feel free. If a man offers to help me when I’m struggling to carry something heavy, he’ll have my gratitude. And if sometimes, when as a Real Woman I’m on tilt-overwhelmed mode, it is really nice to have my husband’s strong shoulder to cry on.
Perhaps Gloria and Billie Jean would be shaking their heads in dismay at me (but not Nora, I think she would of understood). And it is no wonder that men proclaim to find us women confusing – in one breath we are scolding them for not treating us like one of the guys, yet in the next we are hoping they will hold the door for us with a smile. Perhaps to clarify for them, I’d simply point out that there is a line between condescending and chivalrous, and they just need to know the difference.
So for the record, yes, I am a strong, independent, educated Real Woman….and I still really like moments of chivalry.