On Women and Work

I’ve been busy organizing and running a conference the past month (more on that soon), and so have been remiss in my blogging, but that doesn’t mean the world stopped or the ol’ wheels in my head ceased turning.

Lately I’ve had a string of encounters involving women of all ages, that has made those wheels work overtime:

1. There was the women writers evening I felt got a little too man-hatey for my taste, especially when one woman half-kiddingly told me I was complicit with men for writing about aviation history. I “half-kiddingly” told her to back off and get to know me and my work before making such statements. Oh, and that maybe she should remember the incredible women who have been involved in aviation as pilots, engineers, mechanics, etc.

2. Then I was chatting with a young woman around the 3o-year-old mark who did not obviously belong to a religous cult who said, when I asked what she did, “Oh, I’m a wife.”

3. Finally, this morning at the dog park I was chatting with two women approaching 50 who felt they had lost the opportunity to pursue their dreams (police/RCMP officer in one case) to raise children and support their husbands.

These encounters and the books I’ve been reading lately (Doris Anderson and Myrl Coulter’s memoirs; Margaret Atwood and Margaret Laurence’s bios; and various other titles), are still swirling around in my mind, and I don’t have fully formed thoughts yet. But I know that I’m deeply uncomfortable with anyone defining herself solely in relation to someone. (And I use the feminine pronoun because I have rarely heard a man say “I’m a husband” or “I’m a stay-at-home dad” without some qualifier.) What happens if you get divorced? What happens when your children leave home?

As a third-wave (anti-racist) feminist, I think it’s important to explore inequality between the sexes, but that it’s also critical to show how these roles/definitions affect everyone in society. For example, I think the 1950’s model often leaves retired people in the dust, even though they can be the most active volunteers, mentors, and knowledge-holders. It also ignores the tremendous domestic labour many women perform outside the paid workforce that allows our society to function. And it boxes men into a definition of masculinity based on bread-winner status or a particular profession.

One of the things I like best about our online world and social media is the way people are identifying themselves. On Twitter, for example, I follow two people with the following “taglines”:

Dave: “Retired. Married. 2 grown children, 2 grandsons. Chairman and 2 TAF Medium Bombers Ass’n Cdn Wing. Frequent volunteer at Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

Cerina: “Motivational small business advisor, writer, speaker, editor, fitness coach, entrpreneur, mom. My Gemini soul loves books, dogs, learning, teaching.”

Let’s stay complex, keep our identities and relationships multi-faceted, and always strive for self-actualization. It’ll make for some interesting future encounters.

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© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.