What does it mean to be a successful woman, anyway?
I've been a good girl all my life. I was always motivated by doing what my parents and teachers asked of me. I wanted to please them. I worked, got good grades and then worked more to do whatever it was I was supposed to be doing.
Later, I was motivated to please the boss, boyfriends and anyone else in a position of authority.
But now, as a bona fide adult in my own right, there are fewer and fewer people that I'm motivated to impress. Nor is it really the position I aught to be in. Presumably, ultimately, the primary person I need to be accountable to, is myself.
Have you ever noticed that success for a man is pretty clear? Professional success, good father, athletic - mix and match, rotate, package, ship. It's all good.
Is there a similar definition of success for a woman? Is it static? Traditional? Biological? Biblical?
Because I set high standards for myself, it seems almost impossible for me to succeed. As an alternative to traditional success, I'm questioning what I'm trying to do. What standard am I trying to live up to? What are the rules? Wouldn't it be easier if there was some standardized test I could study for? Can I at least get a job description here, please? For my neighborhood book club, I'm reading, "Birth Control in America: The Career of Margaret Sanger", by David M. Kennedy. In it, two diverging descriptions of "the feminine ideal", as perceived around the turn of the century are described: (So little has changed!)
In one, the "Ideal Woman" is passive, submissive, dependent, innocent. She's described as having, "Single-minded devotion to domestic duties... marriage and motherhood. The highest, indeed the only successful career for women... was the only sure protection against the forces of corruption." "High-minded men protected their wives and daughters from the outside world by making the home a citadel against threatening influences."
The "New Woman" is described as a self-sufficient working girl, ambitious, with a point of view of her own and an interest in education and self-improvement. She was identified as responsible for smaller families - and divorce.
Oddly enough, even as an always-had-a-job and trying-to-work-hard girl/woman/mom, at the times that I was called "a working girl" (by my 90 yo grandmother) and "ambitious" (by a very successful ex-friend guy), I didn't take either one as a compliment, nor were they intended to be. Gee, thanks. Continued on the next page