And then there’s that ceiling. The one made of glass.

In Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Originally posted at BlogHer on September 10, 2008

My generation is known for being lazy, selfish, needy and good at talking the talk but not walking the walk. Though I suppose that’s what happens when you grow up with the world literally at your fingertips. When you want to know something, the answer is there in a matter of seconds that is if the wifi hasn’t suddenly gone out. I am of a generation of people who have been very, very lucky.

With that luck though comes the cost of forgetting what happened prior so as not to make the same mistakes over and over again. We don’t want to relive history and we try to be anti-establishment and set our own pace because that’s how most of us have been brought up. That we – male, female, black, white – can be whatever we want to be. For this particular generation we have never been told that we can do something based on a specific set of caveats and presets but instead hat we can do something based solely on our willpower and working hard. While idealistic and possibly naive, it’s still how we were raised: If you want it, you can do it.

The way the triteness drips off that last statement is causing me physical pain and yet it’s the truth. I was brought up as an black female with parents that never emphasized that I am a double minority. In fact it was rarely an issue. My parents – one from Birmingham circa the Civil Rights Movement, the other circa Queens in the 1960’s – never started off a sentence with “Because you’re a girl…” When I told them that I wanted to run for Congress and that I wanted to pack up and move to Washington, DC because I saw some other woman do it, they were all Go for it! And in Washington I encountered a slew of other young women just like me. The kind that were raised by parents – mothers specifically – who helped fuse the backbone of the Feminist and Civil Rights movements and so it was automatically ingrained in us that with that basis we can and should do what we want to do.

It was in Washington when the ‘feminist’ bug bit me. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist necessarily and the definition of such is fluid but how my mother raised me has a lot to do with the woman that I am now. The woman who when she wants a job goes after that job and will negotiate the hell out of a salary. A woman with strong beliefs on birth practices. A woman who isn’t necessarily ant-patriarchy but one that doesn’t feel that marriage is a necessity for happiness and that if married couldn’t be paid enough to change her last name. Obviously all of this could change but the beauty of being in your mid-20’s is that you get to be a little credulous. And I was surrounded by other women my age with the same beliefs of what a woman can do (EVERYTHING) and that we should go forth and take over the world. We were all supported and inspired by our parents, peers and professors. For me college resembled this New York Times article by Hannah Seligson:

I WAS born in 1982 — about 20 years after the women’s rights movement
began. Growing up in what many have called a post-feminist culture, I
did not really experience institutional gender bias. “Girl power” was
celebrated, and I felt that all doors were open to me.

When I was in college, the female students excelled academically,
sometimes running laps around their male counterparts. Women easily
ascended to school leadership positions and prestigious internships. In
my graduating class (more than half of which was female) there was a
feeling of camaraderie, a sense that we were helping each other succeed.

The above is one of the onslaught of articles that have popped up in recent weeks where women have to be reminded of their place and that while we’ve come so far we still have far to go. Perhaps they’ve always been there lurking but with the “equal pay for equal work” mantra during the Democratic National Convention and the Palin – Is She a Feminist or Isn’t She – factor at the Republican National Convention it seems as if all that can be discussed is that there are cracks in the glass ceiling. 18 million cracks to be specific and we women need to fight and stand up for ourselves and thrust ourselves into the debate of where a woman should be if she has young children.

These articles and arguments are mostly coming from people a decade or more older than I am. These people are far wiser so who am I to protest what they’re saying and yet they forget one thing: They forget that there is an entire generation of women, like me, who were raised to believe that women as leaders in the corporate or political world is a natural thing. What has been happening as of late is a big deal and yet it isn’t. It feels like it’s time and yet there’s that feeing from many young women that it’s an obvious ‘DUH’ to have a woman as vice president so what’s the big deal and she doesn’t win there is more time. We work for women who could be us. I’ve spent the majority of my fairly brief career around other black women so the assumption that someone like myself can have the job that I have and do what I want to do isn’t all that far fetched. Again, basing this all off of MY personal experience. Yet Seligson points out again that in this day in age things are still strikingly imperfect and imbalanced:

But outside forces are only part of the story. I have also seen
young women — myself included — getting in the way of their own
success. I have found that we need to build a new arsenal of skills to
mitigate some of our more “feminine” tendencies. Having lived in a
cocoon of equality in college, we may have neglected these vital,
real-world skills.

In my own case, I realized that I needed to
develop a thick skin, feel comfortable promoting myself, learn how to
negotiate, stop being a perfectionist and create a professional network
— abilities that men are just more likely to have already.

There’s this odd dichotomy and I am quoting a simple statement from American Princess who said “In this day and age, I tend to believe (or at least wish) that women
are recognized as the equal of men. I know that’s not true all of the
time…” I’m not that starry-eyed and fanciful and yet in the back of my mind I’ve never had to think or say Why aren’t women allowed to do this? It’s more like Why not? Lately though, I keep being brought back down to Earth where most everyone else lives. Based on response from the pundits and the public that we’re still debating the things we’ve always been debating and that there have been giant leaps yet more steps need to be taken. It’s almost like every time I feel ready to stand up and for every time that I have stood up, the second I raise my head, it’s met by this hard surface. And when I look up to see what’s above it’s just that stupid glass ceiling always in the way. Yeah, it’s got a few cracks but perhaps if I bang my head a bit more, I’ll finally be able to crash through.

Heather B. also blogs in such obviously complacent fashion at No Pasa Nada. She apologizes in advance.


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