Saturday, November 12, 2011

21st Century Women Revisited

I've often made the point to my students that revision is writing. I knew that when I posted my last blog, I'd need to add something. There was just some point I hadn't made, some note that didn't ring the right note. Hmm. So I talked to my editor about it and bounced some ideas off of him about what I'd written. Grey is my editor/boyfriend/collaborator/friend. He observed that I had written something about what did not qualify me a 21st Century woman, but not much on what it means to be one. How would I recognize other members of this tribe? What, if anything, did I think of as "woman's work"? To put it differently, is there anything a man might do that would make me feel as though he was infringing on my domain?

That made me think. I guess there isn't much. I think men who clean house are pretty sexy, and since if I'm ever going to live with a man in an egalitarian sense, he should probably do his fair share of cleaning. In the home, I do prefer to be the one who cooks breakfast most of the time, and the one who cleans the bathroom. I suspect, and perhaps someday science will fail to rebuff my theory, that men do not see dirt the way that women are able to do so. Women always love it when men do dishes and to tell the truth, I have one more dirty little secret: I hate dealing with finances. I would clean every toilet every week for eternity if I didn't have to worry about money and what we do and do not have. I care that if I want a new dress, I can just go get one. I care that I have reliable transportation and money for food and maybe something shiny once in awhile. That's it. Seriously, I couldn't give two shits about money unless I didn't have any. But I'm pretty sure that this is much more about laziness than it is about gender roles.

Likewise, I think my upbringing wasn't really so much about gender roles than it has been about necessity. Women and men both can hunt and fish and work like dogs on harvest crew. It's more likely to find men in jobs that require outside work or dangerous work, but it's still pretty common for women to be in those roles too. I have snowmobiled quite a bit, jumped off of cliffs, spoken to audiences of over 2,000 people and stepped into a prison to try to make a difference there. And yet, nothing about me is particularly manly.

Maybe the things about being a woman that I like best is the ability to slip into a nurturing role, a mom-type of role that offers comfort, guidance, support and help. I usually can tell when one of my kids is upset or hiding some emotion. They don't seem to mind speaking to me about personal issues or asking advice. I like being a care giver. I dislike that Grey is sick and hope he feels better. If he isn't better when I get home from Louisville (I'm here for a conference), then I will bring him some cold remedies and cluck over him like a chicken until he either passes out or pretends to feel better so that I will go away.

Speaking of conferences, I happened to end up in a workshop with the Assistant Superintendent of the school district where I teach. I stepped out to take a phone call, and in my absence, my assistant principal told her we were having difficulty implementing the America's Choice curriculum. When I returned she asked "What do you think of America's Choice"?

In my defense, I was far more polite than one might think. I strongly believe that as a for-profit company, Pearson does not have my student's best interests at heart. Their curriculum is for 1 hour classes and I have only 45 minute classes. Furthermore, this year none of the grade level teachers have ever seen or had training on the curriculum. We have since had a one-day workshop wherein there was a group grump session at the organizers. They suggested implementing adaptations tot he curriculum that the teachers in the district often were gotten in trouble for doing. In fact, the Pearson "coach" for my school threatened me several times by telling me that her report would go to the very woman who was standing before me, asking for my input. I almost quit over the unsupported mandates and the coach barging into my classroom, writing reports about me that I was not privy to, reports that did not cast me or my teaching practices in a positive light. This from a non-district book company. A corporation.

But I was polite and I was diplomatic. And at the end of our long discussion- I think it was productive- the Asst. Supt. decided to come visit my school in the next two weeks. I offered to create an instrument to help gauge district teacher's attitudes towards the curriculum and immediately went back to my hotel room to construct a survey. As I exited the workshop and overheard my assistant principal exhale loudly and say to his friend "Well, the Assistant Superintendent *did* ask. What was she expecting?"

This guardianship of my students, fighting for what I believe is their best interest, and being willing to speak my truth and not back down- this is what a woman does in the 21st century. I could get fired. My principal may get into some trouble and life could become more uncomfortable than what it is right now. It's a risk I am willing to take. And man or woman, you had best step aside when in that particular arena.

I am a 21st century woman; articulate, adventurous, athletic and sometimes brave. I am not good at mopping floors or mowing grass, but I can split an infinitive or demonstrate the correct of the pluperfect subjunctive on short notice. Usually I'm ok for a laugh. My very romantic relationship is multi-platform and highly engaging with a man I like, respect and find to be more than qualified to handle a woman such as me. And handsome. Perhaps that's what I like best about being a woman. Maybe It's as simple as great sex and emotional connection; feeling safe and cared for and knowing that the one you care for in a healthy relationship also cares for you. Yeah. Glad I'm a woman.

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