Women’s increased participation in the workplace is seen as evidence that with every passing day, women draw closer to fulfilling their potential. Yet the cheering and applause drown out the reality: this is not what women want. Most women don’t aspire to the kind of lives that their supposed champions are busily engineering for them.
I stumbled upon Cristina Odone’s report What Women Want the other day, and it raises some interesting questions about how we find fulfillment in today’s environment of career culture. The report claims that the overwhelming majority of women would prefer to opt out of a career and being financially independent. It’s never ocurred to me to aspire to anything other than become successful, work my way up the career ladder and earn my own money to dictate my own life. So I was really surprised to read in this report that, actually, most women don’t buy into the philosophy that we should aspire to a successful career as well as being mother/wife/homemaker. If anything, the more I read about the topic the more it seems that actually, NO, if you’re a woman you cannot expect to bring up a family, run a perfect home and achieve highly in the workplace all at once! Rather, you must make a choice between one or the other role, as it’s nigh on impossible to do it all simultaneously.
I don’t know many women whose sole life goal is to become a housewife, but then again I don’t particularly know many women who are ruthlessly driven to climb the career ladder at the expense of other areas of their life. The consensus around reports such as Odone’s is that women cannot expect to have a perfect family life and career simultaneously. I want to have a successful career and have a family one day, but are they mutually exclusive?
Maybe this isn’t a gender issue, but more of a lifestyle issue for both men and women. After all, who wouldn’t want the perfect balance between a fulfilling career and a home life as well? For me, I think building a successful career at the expense of having a family is just as scary as giving my life away to have children and never achieving anything else outside of that. I can’t wait to have my own family one day, but at the same time I know I could never be content to merely live my life as a homemaker.
I’m currently reading Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything and there’s a section which goes right to the heart of how women find a purpose in life these days; if not, through children, then how does one find meaning?
What if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? [...] How do you mark time’s passage without the fear that you’ve just frittered away your time on earth without being relevant?
Ironically, I read another article this week which seems to declare that it’s not just the pursuit of a career and a home life that’s impossible to attain. Apparently high-achieving women are at a bigger disadvantage than ever when it comes to dating and relationships as well:
Women [...] outnumber men in college and they are out-earning their male peers when they first enter the work world … This success has come at a great cost to women’s sexual bargaining power. When it comes to relationships, they say men are calling all the shots — which means less commitment and more sex.
Wow. If you believed all of these opinions about what today’s women can realistically aspire to, it all seems pretty bleak. The article mentioned above seems to suggest that the only way for young women today to end up with the right guy is by curbing your sex drive and holding out just so you up your market worth among the ‘good guys’.
The article goes on to say that: “Presuming that people are attracted to people who are like them educationally, it means looking for secure relationships becomes challenging because the sex ratio is so imbalanced.” The main gist of it seems to be that women can only get the type of relationships they apparently crave if they keep their legs shut, and men only want sex but will commit to someone ONLY if she shows her self-respect through abstinence. It’s definitely a controversial but not entirely unfounded point if you read the various comments of the article!