Women against women


I was reading a CNN op-ed on Jill Abramson’s firing. I agreed with the basic conclusion the poster made that Abramson was fired for being a woman who got things done, was abrasive, a ball-buster, so to speak, and that if she had been a man, would probably still have her job. It is really easy to claim sexism in a situation like this. I’m guessing that the truth is a lot more complicated than that. And in reading the latest about the cause of the firing, it most likely is NOT gender related.

Listening to a discussion about the firing on NPR last week, there was mention of Abramson’s disagreement with some of the directions that other upper management wanted to take NYTimes.com.

When I heard details on some of the disputed changes, they were practices on other news sites that I despised: my respect for Abramson soared.

I don’t want to sit through a video on a newspaper’s online version. I want to skim articles, looking for key phrases and vital information, deciding on my own whether I want to read an entire article.

I do NOT want to watch a 30-second commercial before being subjected to a poorly-produced video clip comprised of a sound-bite. I refuse to be held captive so that I can watch some Barbie doll anchor give me meaningless, biased information. (Yikes, that was snarky — I despise the hiring of only attractive women for on-camera jobs — it offends me. The same standards are obviously not applied to hiring attractive men for their jobs.)

I want facts so that I can determine on my own what they mean using the critical thinking skills that I possess.

When I visit a news website, I never, ever click on the links with the little video camera icon beside them. Never.

Back to women against women.

After reading about Abramson’s firing, some of the many varied responses to the news, and considering whether she would have still had her job if she had been a man, I wondered what really happened to result in termination. Women are judged differently than men in this world.

I recall occasions when I evoked a less-than-positive response from other women. Most men have no problem dealing with me, at least outside of my own family and the religious community.

Maybe it is because I sort of speak their language (not fluent, though) and respect their rituals: I enter a room, make eye contact and extend my hand in the male ritual of the handshake. I will offer a real handshake, not one of those limp things that I get even from some men these days. The handshake is designed to test the strength of men. It is observed every day, at least in America.

I don’t mind. I am a visitor to the male-dominated world of business, education, and bureaucracy. All women are. Our presence is fairly recent, really. Most young women don’t realize this.

100 years ago women were fairly excluded from any kind of meaningful contribution to the “real” world outside the home. Yes, there were some women who attended college, made contributions to science, medicine, education, politics, religion, literature and business. But they were anomalies. They were treated badly. They were not taken seriously, usually, during their time. We learn about them now because, in college, diversity is a required component in college courses.

I have realized something: women are harder on women than men, even. And I have some ideas about why this is the case.

I recall one situation about 13 years ago. It was the annual Christmas party hosted by my husband’s employer. I was a stay-at-home mom of many young children at the time.

One of the wives, a successful working woman in her own right (she is a brilliant woman), kept her back turned to me the entire time. She would not make eye contact, would not speak to me, and physically kept her back turned to me the entire night (it was a sit-down dinner in a room that did not allow much movement).

I recently experienced the same treatment from someone from the other end of the spectrum, an ultra-conservative who kept her back to me in a meeting a couple of weeks ago. Her body language was obvious.

I offend women regularly because I refuse to adhere to any particular standard of womanhood. I am in school, kicked my husband out of the house and refuse to reconcile, left my church, and am very honest about what I think of many biblical teachings.

I refuse, however, to pick up the banner of liberalism (because it feels too much like religious dogma to me). I refuse to return to the world of conservatism (because conservatives are completely out of touch on the real issues concerning Americans). I address issues individually and am all over the map when it comes to political opinion and beliefs.

I think I just piss people off because I say what I mean. People that know me know that I might be clueless on occasion and say something that I maybe should have left unsaid, but I am rarely mean. What is offensive to most people is that I will speak up when my bullshit alarm goes off.

For example, when someone is stating that arranged marriages must be good because the divorce rates in such marriages are low I will challenge that statement.

Arranged marriages take away a woman’s right to self-determination. That is NEVER good. Consider cultures where arranged marriages are practiced: Hindu cultures where women are treated like property and widows are discarded when their husbands die, or girl infants are killed because they don’t have boy parts; Muslim cultures where women are treated like property, are often held captive in their own homes, and prohibited an education equal to males; Christian cultures where strict adherence to certain practices silence women’s voices or they are rejected and shunned.

Arranged marriages rarely result in divorce because in such cultures women do not have the right to divorce their husbands. They are slaves. How in the world could this ever be good?

Women who have strong opinions and determined belief systems are criticized harshly by other women — I was emphatic in my disagreement with the issue of arranged marriage. Apparently, I can be quite offensive because of my strong opinions. I even think my re-examination of core beliefs is offensive to women. Why is this? Why must women be one thing? Why must we choose a camp and plant a flag?

A woman in business is labeled a ball-buster if she is a good manager: objective, definitive and determined. She is ineffective or a wimp if she tries to be feminine in the same job.

Then I think about how the Republican and Democratic parties treat women: the Democrats don’t think two women can run for president and vice president because it will alienate men. Huh? Republican women who are moderate, believe in a woman’s right to choose, and the validity of social programs just won’t get anywhere. Shame on both parties. We want to blame most of this on men, and we can certainly find reason to do so, but I think women are just as responsible for the challenges women face in this world.

When will women stop being so hard on other women? Probably never. In writing this post, I realize that I am very hard on other women myself. This is a dilemma for which I have no answers.

Then again, maybe this isn’t a gender issue at all. Maybe it is all about the human need for conformity. Hmmm . . .

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