Tuesday, March 08, 2016

being just enough woman - IWD edition

There's a word in Swedish: lagom.

It can be translated to "just enough", "just right amount" or "average/run of the mill/middle ground". It's the answer of "how much food do you want", or explained on "how you should look to not cause a ruckus", or "how to answer all those questions when going on the first date not to overwhelm".

In short, it's used a lot for everyone - but as I think mostly, for women. Especially women. It's important to stay 'lagom' and not aspire for too much. It ties into the Scandinavian "Jantelagen" quite well. Although, for the sake of this post - let's not get bogged down into the Nordic "humblebragging" or "love of being middleground and neutral".

I could make it into a "class concept", which might be more appropriate considering the origin of this day March 8th. I mean, the International Women's Day does come from a socialistic idea originally and was called International Working Women's day.

But I'll try and stay focus and write about what has been floating around my head last couple of weeks in the context of women in science (read this article by Hope Jahren) or any other female blogger who writes about her experience in the work place, high school or at home in family.

It's like being in grad school and getting a lecture about career planning and the single biggest advice was "be careful when you chose your partner, they will be the most important factor on if you are to succeed in your career and do what you want". It could of course be said with more nuance, your professor, your mentor, your future network will be pivotal to get you where you want to go. However, if history and looking around myself will teach me anything I'd say that this is pretty spot on.

All the data point to the same thing. Women (taking the stand from the Western culture) have an opportunity to succeed as men, and do so quite similar until one big thing happens. Yes, you know this one. I'm not reinventing the wheel here. Until the children comes. Then, for some reason, their careers and life choices become more limited. Their focus turn towards the family unit, regardless if they want to increase the career - it starts to be more limited. It can be as easy as herself saying "I want to focus on family". It can be as easy as the boss saying "well, let's save her from the choice and take this man or woman-without-a-child and promote them instead". (They will be more focused on work anyway.)

And the lag phase isn't just those few years when the woman (and man imho) are focused on their small children. Nope. This is shown over and over again that you don't regain from this.

"Why am I writing about this though? I don't have any children, yet".

Well, it's because even if I don't have any children I get judged as if I "could" have children. It's a constant factor in when I apply for jobs (take my word for it here, I'm not just talking about me, it's pretty constant notion that comes from my female friends).

Leaving the children issue aside, there is one other thing I constantly think about. It could be class related since my grandmother taught me from an early age "a real lady knows her place and doesn't become vulgar". Of course, I was the overachiever in school. I got detention from speaking out too much in class. I got bullied for being loud and taking place. When starting to date you realize that most of the dating advice to women is "listen to him and let him talk, make him feel special". It's from those times at the pub when I don't care about it and talk and behave as I want to. And the inevitable comment later on "I think you should listen to me" or "when you talk that much no man will like you".

Newsflash, I'm ok with being a bitch like that. Maybe I wasn't interested in getting "all" the men to like me when I'm out having a beer and watching hockey? Maybe I wasn't there to entertain you and your ego?

However, getting back to the point. Every time of the year when this day comes around I wonder if men really understand how many limitations are put on women every single day? From the moment I wake up and think "what should I wear today", "how much makeup do I need", "what's for dinner today", "can I walk this way without any issues" to going eating lunch in the work cafeteria or walking in the grocery store, seeing magazines with all of their judging questions on bodies, faces and choices. Not to mention how lucky I am that I've lived to being this old AND gone to school and not being forced into marrying someone my family said so, or being captured or raped by soldiers. And that I can fall asleep at night without wondering if I'll wake up in the morning or someone entering my home during the night assaulting me.

In the light of women all over the world, I have a pretty sweet deal. Comparing to men in general though, I'm not sure I should be all that grateful. Life is still extremely unfair, class issues aside.

Time to go to work. Today I might skip the lagom and go all out woman. No excuses. After all, today is International Women's Day. Maybe one of these years in the future, it won't be needed as much? Here's to hope (and hard work)!

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