This is actually going to be a three-part post because it would be entirely too long for a single one. Let’s begin with the admission that as a Baby Boomer, my life view has modified since I was eighteen. I had a life plan laid out that was a good plan and it’s difficult to know how things might have been for me had I kept to the plan. In reality I had two plans, neither of which I followed, although both had me remaining in small towns in Louisiana in a professional capacity. I was in that generation of women who anticipated having a career outside the home and balancing all that came with that – the “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar” of the Helen Reddy song, and I indeed embraced the sexual revolution. No drugs other than alcohol, but I am straying from the point.
I set upon a different path though, one that caused me to be an inadvertent pioneer in the Army. While my “groundbreaking assignments” seem mild now compared to what women are doing, I can genuinely claim to have mentored some of those women. Along the way though I have encountered women who are so stridently feminist that they cannot see accomplishment unless it falls within their narrow definition, and on the other end of the spectrum, I do know women who are convinced that women have no place outside the home.
What I have come to embrace is that liberation in this, as in so many other things, is about choice – genuine choice. Are there still people who perpetuate a “glass ceiling”? Sure, but from my personal experience, they have significantly diminshed in number. Girls and women today have extensive opportunity from a career perspective if that is what they choose to do. On the other hand, if you look at childcare, commuting, and other work-related expenses, it sometimes makes economic sense for a woman to choose to be a stay-at-home mother rather than having/continuing/returning to a career, if that is what she also wishes to do from an emotional aspect. Neither position is intrinsically superior to the other, and it is when we try and claim so that causes acrimony among “the sisterhood”.
Genuine choice from my definition is that girls and women recognize the incredible range of options they can pursue. Some will be vastly more difficult than others, some may well run counter to cultural, familial, or social expectations. I firmly feel that it is my role as an older woman to help show girls/younger women that it is okay to step outside those barriers if they wish to do so. If they prefer to remain inside those expectations, that’s okay, too, as long as it is a choice freely made.
So here is a salute to women through the ages who have been warrior queens, who have made leaps in science, who have made aviation history, who have served as prime ministers of countries, and those who have cared for scraped knees, baked cookies, and kept a household together. Let us remember that there is room in the sisterhood for us all.