Editor’s Note: This article was first published in Inter-Global Media Network’s social network LetsBSocial, 7.15.12, @10:25am.
A conversation I had with a woman the other day made me really think over the weekend. It was about all women networks vs. women’s networks that focus on women, but don’t exclude men. Inter-Global Media Network is by women for women (but not excluding men), and it also extends to LetsBSocial. Our thinking here is why would we want to exclude the other half of the population when, at the same time, we are working on being fully INCLUDED in the conversation?
But I digress. I found myself telling her (and it’s true), that in certain cases I have placed myself in the background, because I don’t want to stoop to the level of bullies who are very much against the advancement of women. It’s not that Inter-Global Media Network or LetsBSocial are not a strong voice for the empowerment of women. Quite the contrary. It’s that one has to pick and choose one’s battles wisely. Why waste one’s breath on people who will never EVER change? It’s important to find those that want to share in one’s cause(s) and beliefs and establish a presence there. Solid foundations are the key to expanding spheres of influence and changing power structures. In addition, the conversation should be with those that have the power to effect change. And MOST important, the presence must be an all inclusive one. Our focus is on women of course, but we would like everyone to turn their focus on them more, instead of ignoring their powerful contributions, invaluable strengths, and undeniable successes. But then we know that such bad behavior all boils down to one thing – fear.
This brings me to an article that was brought to my attention recently. written by Tanvi Gautam, Ph.D. for Forbes Woman, entitled “Real Men Don’t Need Work Life Balance”. Dr. Gautam speaks of an experience she had when giving a talk on “work-life integration and gender roles”. It began with
“To all you women you think you don’t have a choice, it is really us men who don’t have a choice. I have to go out and make sure I earn a living and provide the security for my family. There is no flexibility!!”
Women didn’t seem to understand what he was talking about, but of course the men seemed to get where he was coming from. Dr. Gautam had an “aha” moment. The man was middle aged, and therefore from a more traditional generation. Men were expected to be the bread winners, and women to stay at home and take care of the family. There “was no choice”, and if one was made, it came with a high price. Dr. Gautam understood what he meant. She was able to put herself in his “shoes”. She saw the inflexibility that a more traditional lifestyle imposed upon so many men, not only women. Even though we have made so many strides as a society today, it’s still very difficult for many people to rid themselves of millenia of behavioral blue prints. It’s important for us to be more self-ware in our behaviors, so that we may better implement change from within.
The biggest problem is that neither women nor men want to put themselves in the others’ “shoes”. We all only want to see what we want to see, and not take into account the other side’s perspective. It’s only with give and take from both sides that gender “imprisonment” can be eradicated.
How does Gloria Steinem describe traditional society? In an episode of “Need to Know” on PBS with Stacey Tisdale, she states,
“It probably was the general idea that every person had to live a very similar life.”
What did the women’s movement (and others) have to offer?
“What the women’s movement and other social justice movements brought, was the whole idea of uniqueness, combined with community. But you didn’t have to play a role. You could actually be an individual.”
How does Gloria define feminism today?
“I’ll go with the dictionary. It just means the belief in the whole social, economic, political equality of males and females. I would add acting on it as well as believing in it. But other than that, I would go with the dictionary.”
And the woman’s movement today?
“Now we’re in a more difficult and slower phase of trying to actually change power structures. The way that political decisions are made; the way that economics operate; the way that families actually do and don’t raise children. Clearly the structures of life.”
Women have proven that they can do things that men can do, and so many still want to “have it all”. They want to rise in the ranks, but they also want to be given flexibility in their work schedules, if they have families. Small wonder that such desires are met with opposition when men aren’t used to being presented with such “choices”. Again, there is resistance to inevitable change, as presented by advancements in technology. New technologies make it possible for both women and men to work virtually. There is less of a need for them to be physically present in a centrally structured space. They can create their own structured environment wherever they choose! Take the company Loose Cubes. Loose Cubes is
“a global office sharing community. We connect people who have great workspace with people who need it on a daily basis.”
Essentially, Loose Cubes matches people with extra available work space with those that need it, on a daily basis. They also make sure that their matches are based on “location, vibe, and industry”. This radical approach to work space is an indication of things to come. it challenges the whole concept of corporate environment. Better yet, it challenges the whole concept of gender roles imposed by society. There is no greater challenge to power structures!
As Gloria Steinem put it recently when referring to various social movements at a speech she gave on gender equality at Stanford University earlier this year,
“Once we see that linkage, we become each others’ allies, and we become much more effective.”
Why can’t this be applied to the ensuing battle between men and women? In the end, we all want the same thing: to live well and prosper, don’t we?
Dr. Gautam ends with
“Will the “real” men (and women) please speak up and join this conversation?”
Yes, please do that! What do you think? I would love to know!
Real Men Don’t Need Work Life Balance: May 23, 2012, Tanvi Gautam, Ph.D., for Forbes Woman
Gloria Steinem at Stanford: The Feminist Struggle Continues: January 26, 2012