The Feminist SAHM

When Gloria Steinem appeared on “Oprah’s Next Chapter” a few days ago, I started thinking about what’s next for women? Times sure have changed.  And, although we have seen small steps in the women’s movement over the past decade, we are still far away from where we need to be.

Believe it or not-Gloria Steinem has become a household name here at the Vaughn residence.  Rather I am giving my oldest daughter a mini-history lesson or the hubby sighing, “Alright, Gloria,” after each lesson. Our family is well-versed on who Gloria Steinem is and the work she has done to amplify the voices of women.

Today, many of the societal and political issues are the same.  With the elections just around the corner, women’s issues are at the forefront of many conversations.  Presidential elections are no strangers to women’s issues. Women’s rights were discussed in the 1960s and 1970s, and 1992 was named “The Year of the Woman” after a number of female senators were elected.  So, how about 2012? Where are we headed?

I hope the media frenzy around “mommy wars” is no indicator of where we are headed. Being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom is often tied to issues of feminism, and women judge each other harshly according to which path you take. Working mommies will accuse the stay-at-homes that they have lost their identity and are supporting a patriarchal and archaic system of females being slaves to the family. Stay-at-homes will allege that working mommies don’t have enough time for their families and are prioritizing their own ego through their career over their child’s needs.  Keep in mind, these are STEREOTYPES people.

What is un-feminist is the endless scorn that we expel onto other women, not the personal choices we make.  Women attacking women about how they choose to parent has a certain irony, because it goes against everything that is feminism and the progress we have made as a gender.  From this seriously struggling SAHM, I prefer to support the choices that my female friends, co-workers and peers make.  If you desire to be a stay-at-home mom and it works for you, I am behind you 100%.  For me, I am actively pursuing my next career step, because I prefer the career route.  Well, that’s okay to.  By working together we can conquer, but quibbling against each other will only set us back.

There is something powerful about multiple generations of women fighting together for the same cause.  Each generation comes with its own set of history and wisdom that knits together a story on where we have been and where we are headed in the 21st century.  So, even though the steps might seem small and the change slight, significant change and a movement that spans generations and centuries doesn’t happen overnight.  The internal optimist in me wants to believe that we are making a difference.


She Wins, You Win

The weeks fly by, minutes turn into hours and hours into days.  Before I know it, I realize that I have not posted in over a month.  With that said, I think its time to get back to it.  After a long day yesterday, I finally had a few minutes to start thinking about one of my favorite pastimes.  Soccer! Despite many broken bones and yellow cards, I have loved soccer more than most women love shoes for as long as I can remember.  So, I can’t help but be a little excited about our oldest daughter taking the leap into soccer mania.

I am signed-up to be a soccer coach for this coming season as well as a proud soccer momma.  I am stoked to see our daughter start to explore the wonderful world of soccer.  And, who doesn’t have secret dreams about their daughter growing up to be the next Mia Hamm? But for me, the most important piece is watching my daughter build confidence, independence and self-esteem on the field.  No matter how we want to look at it, our little girls will one day be women who have to learn to live and function in an imperfect world.

To me, sports and girls go together perfectly.   Our little ladies are building their identities and figuring out who they are.  What about boys? They are taught and socialized from an early age to be little athletes.  With dreams to be football stars and pro wrestlers, they trek their way through childhood playing touch football, play-fighting and ignoring scraped knees and bruised elbows.  Once these little men venture into manhood, there is an expectation that they will become confident leaders and successful professionals in their field of choice.

So you ask, how are boys and girls any different?  Well, in the professional, business world, men tend to be more aggressive, assertive and successful.   They typically reach past the glass ceiling and are more likely to be promoted and have larger salaries than women.

How can this be?  In a society that claims to promote equal opportunity and gender equality.  In 2008 the OECD found that the median earnings of female full-time workers were 17% lower than the earnings of their male counterparts and that “30% of the variation in gender wage gaps across OECD countries can be explained by discriminatory practices in the labour market.”  What is causing such disparity?

Some suggest that the glass ceiling is self-imposed by some women. For example, women may choose to work fewer hours than men in order to spend more time with their families. Women also measure success in the workplace differently than men. Men tend to measure success by high salaries and important job titles whereas women place a higher value on their relationships with colleagues and community service. Others suggest that ingrained stereotypes and socialization cause the glass ceiling. In some organizations, the good old boy network is still pervasive. When deciding who to promote in these organizations, women are often not even considered.

This is such a big issue with so many different internal business and societal factors at the root cause.  I believe we need to focus on today and on the small things we can do to make a difference.  In the workplace and in life, we as women need to start working together and helping one another.  Gail Evans, CNN’s first female executive vice president had it down when she wrote She Wins, You Win.  This book offers some great tips on how women can work together to be better mentors, bosses, teammates and networkers.  One woman’s success will ultimately lead to the success of other women.  Let’s create an “old girls network” that empowers our gender and creates a future for our daughters.  Come on ladies!

As a “soccer mom” I see that it is my responsibility to help raise a generation of girls who understand that they are capable of achieving their dreams and goals.  I want our daughter to know that she has the smarts, talent and heart to reach for the stars and make anything possible.  Gender, culture, ethnicity and background are all important factors in shaping you into the unique person that you are.  However, they are part of you and not barriers that can keep you from achieving the best life and career for yourself.  It is up to us to help our little girls grow up to be courageous and confident individuals.

For funsies and memories, I pulled up the old Gatorade commercial with Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan. Can’t wait to share this with Kylah someday.   Even if you aren’t a MJ or Mia Hamm fan, this advertisement makes you want to get up and do something.  Another cool tool for moms of daughters to check out is the “Girl Power Toolkit.”  This kit is designed to help raise our ladies to be superheros of their own kind.