Monday, February 28, 2011

Sometimes It's Hard to be a Woman - by Diane Kelly

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Not that I’d want to be a man. I don’t have penis envy. Frankly, lugging one of those things around seems, I don’t know, cumbersome? The thing I find hard about being a woman is that what it means to be a woman is a very personal thing, a dynamic thing, a concept influenced by societal norms and expectations that are in constant flux.

When I took my first job with an international accounting firm in Houston in the early nineties, policy prohibited women from wearing pants to work. Skirts or dresses only. And this was back in the day where if you were dressed in a skirt, you had to wear panty hose. And, sheez, as long as you were going to wear panty hose, you might as well go all the way and wear heels, right?

So every morning I’d make a clattering dash through my Texas-sized apartment complex, hoping to catch the 8:02 bus into downtown. Not an easy thing to do in the Houston humidity and three-inch stilettos.

Sometimes I’d make it.

Sometimes I didn’t.

Had I been permitted to wear pants (and thus loafers rather than heels), my punctuality would have been better. Also, I would have been more focused on my research into multi-billion dollar mergers and acquisitions if I hadn’t been distracted by my itchy panty hose or - God forbid! - the threat of a run.

Of course the partners and managers in the firm were, by and large, middle-aged men. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they enacted the policy to ensure the female employees looked well groomed, though it’s entirely possible they simply liked to catch an occasional glimpse of young female leg.

I worked for the same firm two years later in San Diego. Entirely different story there. Pants were allowed. More of the managers were women, too. I’m not sure if the firm as whole had progressed or if it was simply a difference in office culture among the two branches, but I have to admit it was nice to ditch the panty hose.

It’s a difficult dichotomy. We women want to be respected for our capabilities, our skills, and our minds. But I have to admit, it’s fun to occasionally get all dolled up and girlie, too. Who says we can’t be professional, smart, tough, soft, and feminine all at the same time?

When I create the heroines for my stories, I find myself facing difficult choices. Who should this woman be? What are her ideals? What does being a woman mean to her?

In my upcoming “Death and Taxes” series, my heroine, Tara Holloway, is a smart, savvy IRS agent who can handle a Glock as well as a calculator. Yet she’s drawn to Brett Ellington, a landscape architect, in part because he provides a safe, secure refuge from her dangerous job.

What does being a woman mean to you? Was there ever a time when you were forced to conform to someone else’s idea of what a woman should be?


TerriOsburn said...

I'm actually dealing with this a bit right now in my day job. My company is a military contractor and very much a male dominated environment. When I get frustrated or irritated about something, I'm often told it's just because I'm a woman and I'm making something out of nothing.

Which, of course, just makes me more frustrated. I'm on the track to move up through the ranks though, and I look forward to the day I have a little power against these stupid boys. :)

catslady said...

Oh I remember the days! Not only did we have to wear skirts or dresses for the longest time (eventually pants suits were allowed but the tops had to be a certain length) but I had this vp who insisted women had short hair!! I had very long hair so for 3 years until he retired I had to wear a wig. I hated that thing but I'll be damned if I was going to cut my hair for him. He also was allowed to ask what kind of birth control I used - can you imagine that today!!!

Christie Craig said...

Love the post Diane. I know I want it all. I want to be respected, and desired. I want to be depended upon, needed, and if needed, I want to feel protected. My heroines want the same thing.


hatfieldtiffany75 said...

I would never conform to someone else's beliefs. I love being a woman even the horrible mood swings during the dreadful PMS or the most horrible putting up with MEN. I feel like being a woman is such a wonderful gift. God gave us women the best gift of all; the ability to bear a child. However, I do not have children but I long for the day I do. I think my circumstances, being challenged to conceive, has made me outlook on things differently than most women. A lot of women take advantage and granted of the fact they can bear children. Some see it as a way to get more money while some others complain constantly about being a woman or being pregnant. They should consider themselves blessed to be given such an amazing gift.

The next best thing about being a woman is how much we can do. You think most men could handle the things most of us women have to go through. I may not have my own children yet but I have step-children and I am raising one. He is now almost 17 and getting ready to have his license. When we got custody of him, my husband was working in a factory, of course we all know how factories can be it is forbidden to take off for your own funeral. So, while I finished my student teaching, working a full time 40 hour preschool teaching position, which I spent my own leisure time developing lesson plans, I still managed to take care of my house, take my step-son to communicare twice a week and go to my other four classes and still graduate with 3.0 GPA.
There are so many more women out there that have done this same thing and the only difference is they have been doing it a lot longer than I. So, here is to the Strong, Beautiful, and Talented Women in the World.

All Of You!!

Diane Kelly said...

Great comments! Women rock! And not only do we do so much, we do it without complaining or expecting a trophy for it!!! : ) Thanks for stopping by, ladies!

Anonymous said...

im not lugging my penis around. its YOU that lugs those big baloons around everywhere. and if those baloons are BIG? how do you sleep. you cant run because they jiggle. you bleed evry few weeks. your weak, phsycologically and physically. you cry. and you are inferior, you arent equal. men take the first place. women are lower down. you arent equal. face it.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap!! This must have offended someone, huh!!! It sounds as if may be struggling with a powerful woman or YOU maybe a woman beater (which is it). I think YOU are the one who needs to face reality, women are equal and we will continue to be equal and if you or someone else doesn't like that I dare you to try and do something about because the women of this world today won't stand for your sexist, egotistical, pigist act and will chew YOU up and spit YOU out; and any other man that dares to try.

Tell me this, if women are so weak please explain why more men go through a mental breakdown, midlife crisis (whatever you want to call it) than women. Tell me, why are women so much more successful than men? Why are women more educated than men? It is all statistics, look it up if YOU dare.
I absolutely feel sorry for you because by your poor pitiful statement it shows how uneducated YOU really are.

YOU also might want to watch what YOU post on public on social networks because your statement is very much illegal.

Cipri said...

The comment above from the russian guy apllied only to east european women.I'm from East Europe too so i agree with him. His comment does not apply to western germanic-anglo-saxon women who are more masculine in their attitudes. East european women are more lazy, but more feminine than their western counterpart and they just want to be kept. They will search a rich guy to marry and make some kids so if he leave her she could have alimony from him. If they can't find a rich guy they will choose to be one of this profesions: fashion model, actress, tv presenter, pornstar or prostitute.
And that profesion they do until they found a rich guy or a football player to maryy and then she will leave her proffesion and be a kept woman.Of course all of this aplly only to beautiful women but here in east europe they are plenty.