When Discourse doesn’t match the Social Drapery: Expectations of the Modern Australian Woman.
As an educated, professional, Australian woman – considered by some to be well past marrying age at the ripe old age of 39 and by others as just entering my prime;
Ironically, I find this Open Letter to the Editor of the The Princetonian a revelation.
Titled, ‘Advice for the young women of Princeton: the daughters I never had’, Princeton alumna and mother of two (Princeton-educated) sons, Susan A Patton, set the US media and gender debate alight back in March 2013, with what some have deemed a ’70s view’ of what a woman should hope to achieve from attending a University: A husband.
Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate.
Many have been outraged that a woman, known for her feminist perspective on campus during the 70s would recommend Princeton’s female population look for a husband on campus…
On close reading of the article, that is EXACTLY what Patton is saying, but not necessarily how she is being interpreted.
This article prompted me to ruminate the perceived role of women in modern Australian society.
Women are hardest on other Women
Not surprisingly, I started this post on 29 March 2013 in direct response to the barrage of abuse directed towards its author.
The minefield that is the gender debate has ensured I’ve tiptoed through my own ruminations for nearly four months in search of ‘acceptable’ prose to place here.
However, the fact remains, I am a feminist in practice, not theory.
I’m a woman who has been raised to believe that a good education is the requisite foundation for the freedom of choice.
A choice for me to be and do whatever it is that drives me.
A choice to choose my life professionally and personally.
To me, that is feminism.
So much of what is expected of women today is proportedly housed in a dialogue of equality for women in all things.
If that’s the case, shouldn’t it be a woman’s right to choose what she pursues and when?
Let alone express the views out loud without recourse from anyone, let alone those of her own gender?
After all, the most ferocious opposition a woman will ever face, is more often than not at the hand of a murder of other women.
I use the term for crows, for these women, as I’ve seen first hand the ferocity of these swarms of women, who are usually the ones screeching the loudest as the proponents of opportunity creation for women to thrive beyond expectations, in order to enhance their own career options.
But back to Susan A. Patton and her open letter… and the power of context.
The Power of Context
The danger of being published ‘out of context’ (read: outside of intended audience), may play a large role in exposing the debate to a broader audience, horrorfied at its existence, but isn’t that the point of educational institutions, to push the boundaries intellectually. To fly in the face of social censorship, in search of a higher (and hopefully more robust) truth?
The real benefit of such prose, is in its global context and the University’s intent to take an Op ed piece from a student-run newsletter and as the below RT by @WomensColl says, importantly continue the debate.
— The Womens College (@WomensColl) April 3, 2013
The Debate is also an interesting concept in this context. Is there a Man’s debate to counter the so called Women’s debate? Or is it the inherent nature of a patriarchal society that is modern social democracies that shapes the need for a counter debate?
As a woman who has had the privilege of growing up and working in a predominately testosterone-filled environment for most of my career, I am not only comfortable with the differences of men and women and more importantly the variant expectations on women in our society to find a man, get married, settle down and have children. Not forgetting for a moment, that the same expectation also lies heavily on the men as well.
I know many a young man, who having started hitting his corporate straps has hastily chosen the cardboard-cut-out ‘perfect wife’ that is neither his physical or intellectual equal, only to wonder in his approach to 40, where it all went wrong.
The pressures to settle in modern Australian society are vast. But is the debate about the roles of men and women, the inherent inconsistencies within the framing of the debate about a woman’s role in various parts of our thriving modern, commercial, democratic society, or is the real bugbear, that our grandparents might have been right all along?
I think Patton’s point about an intellectual equal is spot on. Afterall, marriage (heterosexual or GLBT) is a long term committent and there are many silences to plug with discussion.
Men Dialogue, Women Pass Comment
There’s something else us women could learn from our opposite sex and it has the potential to turn this debate on it’s head.
Men discuss things with other men. Women discuss some things with other women and then pass comment.
The nature of men’s discussions is conducive to dialogue. The way women ‘talk’, in my experience, is not neceassarily so thanks to the ever present punch of emotion.
Now before I am accussed of generalising women as emotional beasts void of the ability to reason, I will place my stake in the ground by acknowledging the biological as well as social anomalies that differentiate responses of the sexes.
I’ll leave it up to you to prove me wrong …