A Woman’s Admission
Living and working in the nation’s capital seem to be a synonymous venture for many women. We work long hours, attend endless networking events, and all too often define ourselves by a business card. The number of starry-eyed girls that flock to this city during election cycles is directly correlated ten years later to the number of flinty-eyed women that run this city on sheer ambition. The transformation from naive co-ed to hardened powerhouse seems to be inevitable in a city where men run Congress, associations, federal agencies, lobbying firms, and investment corporations. To many women, the competition makes it a necessary hurdle – divesting yourself of traditionally feminine qualities allows you to play hard ball with men who still play squash on Sundays at “the club.” You can hardly attend a happy hour without being aggressively approached by women whose handshakes leave you feeling slightly violated.
It’s a strange sisterhood that reigns here, based on the shared camaraderie of missed holidays, neglected social lives, and nervous breakdowns. Within the sisterhood, it’s acceptable to complain endlessly about the misogynistic boss, who, I might add, is often a woman. It’s expected that your 80-hour work week is going to be dissected over brunch on Sunday – if you managed to avoid the office. It’s totally understood when you crash on a girlfriend’s couch with a bottle, or three, of red wine, and over-analyze the project that earned you a devastating satisfactory on your performance report.
So why is it unacceptable to admit that being a high-powered career woman is not all we want anymore?
The feminist movement taught us we were worthy competitors of any man in the workplace – it didn’t prepare us for the desire for a different life. What if, after all our hard labor, our sacrifice, our stress-induced shingles outbreaks, we want to be mothers, wives, or even, God forbid, part-time guest bloggers? Why is it such a breach of the covenant within the sisterhood to admit the toiling of our youth has lead us right back to the origin of our rebellion – our mothers may actually have been right.
It’s a story often heard – women derided by men for losing their “edge” once they’ve had children or gotten married, women given ultimatums to return to a level of productivity that sleepless nights and childrens’ sick days prevent. But less heard and more hurtful are the comments made by other women in the workplace, the women queuing up behind the wounded gazelle in question, ready to mock her choice to elevate dance recitals and soccer games above fundraisers and award ceremonies.
And yet, so many of these derisive female colleagues are insensible to their own complicated feelings. Envy. Jealousy. The state of denial in which most women operate regarding personal lives is a necessary defense mechanism in order to remain competitive within the job market. Is it any wonder, then, that with the number of women growing exponentially in the workplace, the average age for marriage in rising? That it’s taking longer for women to come around to marriage is not surprising, but it’s interesting to note that while education is often cited as a factor, women’s relationships with one another is hardly ever mentioned. Are we keeping each other from earlier family planning with workplace politics?
The admission that we want more from life than a career is a difficult pill to swallow for many young women raised to believe that a position of power was something to be envied, striven for, and attained. Those goals, however, come from a generation of women who only had two options – to be a career woman, or to be a housewife – and from a generation of men who were only required to be providers. And those are no longer our only options. It is possible to be both successful business woman and mother, the challenged ideal is that neither role has to suffer from the others’ demands anymore. The sooner this generation of women comes to realize that one doesn’t compromise the other, the closer we are to a sisterhood based on reality, not the world others have created for us.
Image from http://sophiaassociates.wordpress.com/2012/02/21/inforum-sphere-trending-unveil-report-focusing-on-women-in-the-workplace/