I remember as a young woman feeling part of something great. My generation were the beneficiaries of the women who had gone before, who had fought for an equality which we simply took as our birth right. Women it seemed back then could do whatever they wanted to do and I was surrounded by strong, intelligent, independent women. The kind of women who used to utter drivel about not liking other women or preferring the company of men were seen quite rightly as a joke.
College and university seemed like a heady time when we had finally thrown off the shackles which had denied our mothers a sense of purpose other than fretting about their husbands, children, dieting, what the neighbours might think blah blah blah. And it really did seem as if our generation had it sussed.
Somewhere along the way, however, as I creep into middle age, I am noticing a shift and I worry if we are not careful we are going to come full circle and ensnare ourselves in chains of a different kind. As I look around I am starting to fear that a lot of those strong, free-spirited and supportive women of yesteryear are losing their way.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the workplace where new types of behaviour have replaced previous ideas of sisterhood. As more and more women achieve positions of power, instead of redefining how they want it to work, they seem to be going all out to prove that they can be just as competitive and ruthless as men. I’m guessing that they are trying to prove to their alpha male cronies that humanity and any perception of weakness is not in their lexicon.
Possibly worse than this are the women who go to the other extreme. Capable, competent women who decide for whatever reason to play dumb and choose to run everything by male colleagues as though their girly brains might not be able to cope with anything too demanding. These same intelligent women have an almost compulsive tendency to fuss, which in turn generates endless pointless work for both themselves and everybody else. What happened to these women because I’m guessing a few years ago they were as happy and thankful to be women as the rest of us?
Another potential source of regression for women seems to be child rearing. Lots of women have children who are a source of great joy for them but are still able to see themselves as a separate entity, with a life of their own, in a way that perhaps our mothers weren’t allowed to. However it seems to me there is the increasing emergence of Nazi style mums whose very existence is tied up with their children and who turn on other women like feral cats. There have been attacks on working mums, mums who choose not to breast feed and God forbid women who might decide to be childfree. I have witnessed otherwise rational women not only taking the quite natural delight in the achievements of their own off spring but gloating gleefully at the shortcomings of other children, who they see as being in competition with their own.
The future I fear is going to be even worse due to the common misconception pervading our society that girls need to be loud to be heard. The principle of “girl power” in my opinion put women back years. The idea that power comes from shouting the loudest or that emulating boorish, previously male behaviour, somehow equates power, leaves me incredulous. Power surely comes from education and informed opinions preferably not bellowed out at a thousand decibels.
This has all made me feel rather depressed and un-sisterly but it comes from a good place. I miss the certainty of knowing that I like women because I am meeting a fair few these days who I don’t like very much at all.