This year I participate for the second time in a project my town’s municipality organizes yearly on the occasion of the international women’s day. A group of local artists creates a piece of art that reflects or represents their view on equal right between men and women in our society.
Always and everywhere this subject is relevant. Since I was just a little girl growing up in the Netherlands I have been exposed to the subject due or should I say, Thanks to my mother.
My mother would call herself a feminist but as I see it now she was just clever enough to understand that women should stand up for their selves no matter what and I don’t think this automatically defines a woman as a feminist. My mother always made sure to tell me and my sister that we had to be able to be in depended and not to be counting on any partner to take care of us. She insisted we would get ourselves some decent education, a profession and our own source of income. I value this very much and though I myself have no daughters I try to bring up my boys with the knowledge that women are no less than men in any way. I simply never refer to anything as a typically man or woman task.
For my sons the word feminism means nothing because they do not even consider there is such a thing as not being treated equally. Just like they never ever even thought about one sex relationships to be uncommon. I am proud of this. I am proud of the fact that my boys never ever thought something to be a woman’s or men’s thing to do.
I came from a culture where the women I knew where in depended and not seen as weak or incompetent. My mother’s fight during my childhood was for the Jewish women in our community to get voting rights for the community’s elections which were then a men rights only thing. It seems strange that in the 1980’s this was still the case and it wasn’t such an easy fight to win either. They succeeded in the end but it took them a lot of time to get it done and they never gave up and it created many valuable friendships for my mother.
I think it was brave, important and I am proud she never gave up on the cause she was fighting for.
In 1993 I immigrated to Israel and as much as Israel likes to think of herself as a Democratic Western culture it is in deniable that Middle East mentality made its marks her intensely and among them lack of equality between men and woman. Women do serve the army here in Israel but there is still a lot to be said about women’s place in society.
Women get paid less! Same job, same degree, same experience and a woman will get payed less. I hear children the ages of my boys mentioning chores to be women tasks or men tasks. Also many families still raise their sons to be providers, fighters and leaders while their daughters are carefully taught how to be a homemaker.
Not only here I realize that there are certain stereotype roles applied to the different sexes even in the Netherlands there are still many footprints in society that do treasure this. I hate it and I understand.
Let’s take a closer look at something we have not been able to chance since mankind. Women can have children men not! As simple as that! It is also the basis for the never ever ending discussion around the subject “Equal rights”. We were not created equal, end of story! It does not mean we shouldn’t have equal rights and it doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do about it.
Here is what it means!
Accept the fact we are physically different. Accept the fact this is what makes our road different. Then make sure both sexes are exposed to the required adjustments in order to ride their road in the most pleasant and efficient manner. It isn’t that it isn’t done yet, it is just that we have not yet applied it where most needed.
An example of what I am aiming at is the fact that in some countries men are entitled to take maternity leave instead of their female partner. This is a wonderful thing because it also enables a mother to get back to her career if she pleases. From my experience most mothers do not want to miss out on maternity leave. When I had my first child I was entitled by law to 14 weeks of maternity leave. I was breast feeding and it seemed to me that it was too soon to go back to work. I took another 2 months without pay and only then got back to work with mixed emotions. I never imagined how hard it was for me to leave my baby in the mornings. I went back to work 80% instead of full time and I was not less efficient at all. I made sure to finish my projects in time because I wanted to be back home in time.
I earned less, worked harder and on top of it all it was considered as a favor that they let me work less hours. I left my job due to me being needed with my child when he suddenly became very ill and had to be taken care of 24/7 for almost 6 months.
Once I picked up my career again my son was a year old and I was working crazy hours but made good money. I was exhausted when I came home and hardly enjoyed my child enough. I wanted to have another child and stress plus 2 miscarriages one after the other made its marks on my mental wellness. After the birth of my second child I decided not to go back to my job but start something for myself. It didn’t take so much to understand I was not cut out for my own business and soon had to get myself back on track. With my children I didn’t want to travel anymore and so my options were limited. I dealt with guilt feelings all the time. I always felt I wasn’t a good enough mother because I wasn’t there enough and when I was I was just tired and at work I always had to apologize for not being able to make it at evening meetings due to me being needed at home also. Besides all this being a mother limited me in my choice of jobs and I couldn’t find a way to move forward in my career which felt very frustrating.
On top of it all my older son was diagnosed with ASD (Autistic Syndrome Disorder) and that also took some adjustment and organizing. Overall having a career was a huge challenge and it was definitely harder for me then it was for my husband. Different things were expected from, him and home making wasn’t one of them.
Today I would love to get back on track and continue my professional career but I have been out of the scene for a while and it makes my chances of finding a job of my liking way more challenging.
I think I am just one of many women living this screenplay. It could all be different if we would have society not only recognizing our differences compared to men but if certain changes were applied in how we work and how we treat men and women differently when it comes to working spaces it would make such a huge and positive effect on our well being
If job sharing and part time jobs would be more encouraged many mothers would not have to severely interrupt their careers. If breastfeeding really is as important as claimed to most then maybe the first thing is to make maternity leave longer and payed for or have more companies add children day care facilities to their working spaces.
These are just some simple ideas that can make a huge change on society. If you want is to function equally first help is to overcome our obstacles and then encourage us to achieve just like men. We can do and we are good, smart and strong enough just adjust our road and we will be able to drive in the left lane as well!
If our children can see both parents having equal opportunities maybe the whole ancient role model will seem like not relevant one day!