Thanks to everyone who came out last night for our lively discussion about feminism, work, and the economy. The 92Y people made us feel right at home, creating a beautiful event complete with fun music and seamless visuals. There were so many interesting points brought up, both by our panelists (if we do say so ourselves) and the amazing audience--which was refreshingly intergenerational with plenty o' great men representin'. Here are just a few of the things that I (Courtney) will be chewing on for awhile:
* There is an opportunity, this economic downturn, for all sorts of gender shake-up. When we're forced to recognize that old styles of leadership and assumptions about gender roles are no longer valid, we can get even the most reluctant folks to try a more enlightened, equal approach. The media coverage of this phenomenon has been totally unsatisfying (dads who cook! women who work! what a revelation!), but in truth, there is something interesting going on.
* American workplaces won't change--in policy or culture--until men take this on as their own issue just as women have for years. If they can't do it under this big tent movement called feminism, maybe they can invent their own way of owning the issues. I recommend John DeGraff's Take Back Your Time organization as one way for men to test the waters.
* When older women are happy with younger women, they refer to them as empowered. When they're irritated, they call us entitled. The real meaning of entitlement is "a belief that one is deserving of certain privileges or rights." Sounds like what feminism had in mind all along, no?
* The word "choice," as you might imagine, came up an awful lot. Gloria Feldt, who is part of the ungeneration and has been through a lot of life, gets irritated when women lament how difficult it is to have so many choices. Debbie Siegel, 40-years-old and facing lay off woes with her husband, talked about men being in a unique position to choose how they want to remake masculinity in this age of uncertainty. Elizabeth Hines, in her early 30s and 9 months pregnant, talked about how it never seemed like there was a "choice" to be had in her family. Women worked through motherhood, no question about it. I am really interested in the idea that feminism is too often cast as heroism instead of self-respect. In other words, it's been perverted to meant that you choose yes on everything, rather than carefully choosing autonomy, health, fulfillment, and yes, family, if that's what you want. I think our outlandish expectations for ourselves mixed with that sense so many women have that only they can make the dinner, have the talk with their teenage daughter, clean up the living room etc. well enough, perpetuates this sense of never being enough, either in work or family.
We'd love to hear if you attended--what were your take-aways?