Women in High Places

Poster of woman making a muscle. Caption bubble reads, "we can do it."

Poster from WWII

I have just read an article on The Telegraph by Isabel Hardman about the obstacles women are still facing in the workforce. I don’t disagree with anything Isabel Hardman has said, but I would like to add a few more dimensions to the argument.

The article asks why, nearly 100 years after the first female MPs were elected, there are still so few Angela Merkels and Theresa Mays. It then goes on to point a finger at the crippling cost of childcare in the UK, causing women to drop out of the workforce when they reach their childbearing years. The cost of childcare is, indeed, a serious factor to this, but I believe the problem is much deeper and more convoluted.

One must first ask the question, how feminine are Angela Merkel and Theresa May? I don’t mean their look or their sexuality…. but how do they behave? Do they behave as women, or have they merely engaged with aplomb that ability all women possess? The ability to adapt. You see, I don’t believe that the majority of the women who have risen to power have done so because of changing attitudes towards women but because of their own abilities to be one of the guys and function as men function.

I have spent most of my life in the music industry. When you take into consideration all of the behind-the-scenes activity, it is vastly made up of men. I was only the third woman to graduate from my university with a degree in music recording. I became a fixture in the music business, and I gained a lot of respect, but how? By being one of them. By laughing at crude jokes, by acting completely un-offended when a rap artist was recording yet another song derogatory to women and condoning domestic violence…. by even singing on such tracks when I was asked to do so. I was called a lot of names and very nearly sexually attacked on two different occasions. I suffered marital problems with my first husband who could not cope with my constantly spending time with “other men.” Looking back, there is no other way to put it…. I went through a lot of shit, just because I was a woman! But that was ages ago, right? No. I’m 31 years old! How did I persevere? Honestly… I never found any of it daunting, because I was so completely focused on my goals. I adapted a “when in Rome” policy and rolled with the punches.

Another factor is Queen Bee Syndrome, where a woman in a position of authority views or treats subordinates more critically if they are female. This doesn’t just happen with women in high places, but women in any place. We see successful women, and we react by tearing them down rather than aspiring to be like them. Whether this may be a biological or sociological reaction, I don’t think it’s without hope. Recognising that we – as women – have a tendency to do this is the first step towards not doing it and instead trying to help each other in a common struggle.

The cost of child care is a big factor for a young woman with a career who wishes to raise a family. But whilst everyone is trying to treat the symptom, they are completely overlooking the cause! Why – in a liberated equal society – is it only the women giving up their careers to look after children? There are lots of stay-at-home-dads these days, but they are not getting the respect they deserve. Parents should be treated as equals with equals rights to maternity/paternity leave and equal considerations for those times when children must come before work.

The other half of the symptom is a relentless work culture that has no time for parents or their “excuses.” Sometimes your child is sick. Sometimes you are late, because your child spilled a bowl of cereal all over you, and you had to change your and their clothes last minute – then they needed a nappy change. Sometimes that meeting that wasn’t scheduled yesterday is just going to have to go on without you, because your child’s recital is today, and you need more notice than that in any case. As any parent knows, we – the parents of the world – have acquired a skill set that can be put to good use in our careers…. the abilities to multitask and delegate, to function under incredible pressure and “get on with it” no matter what the circumstances. Yet our status as parents seems to be overlooked as an asset and treated as a liability.

Last, but certainly not least, I would like to address the idea that mothers with careers only chose to abandon their careers, because childcare would be too cost prohibitive. Some do, but not all of us. In fact, I think if you thoroughly evaluated the women who sacrifice their careers for their children, you would find a bottomless well of leadership and potential.

I work part time, but I mostly stay at home with my son, and I become a fairly nasty specimen to anyone who suggests that I should have him in nursery care for his “social skills.” Why? Because I am a leader, and I am raising a leader. You say “social skills;” I say “conformity.”

My son marches to the beat of his own drum and is fiercely intelligent. Perhaps he would have been like this even if I had been shunting him off to nursery from the day he turned six months old. Having a strong belief in environmental factors, I tend to think not. Staying at home with him is not the only option… it is the best option! Not because I am a weak woman who has dropped out of the work force…. because I am a leader. A leader adamant about raising my own little leader.

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com

 

 

Then Why Did You Have Them?

William Hogarth, Gin Lane (1751)

I have just read an article on The Telegraph website written by a mother who chooses to work whilst a nanny raises her children. She openly admits that having to push her own child on a swing would drive her to suicide. She also goes on to run down stay-at-home mothers who are “living in the 50’s” and are not interesting enough to have a conversation with. She says her children hate that she works.

First, I shall address this idea that people who believe that mothers should be looking after and caring for their own children are regressively stuck in the 50’s. For most people, the choice to bring – or not bring – a child into this world is the most far-reaching decision they will ever have the opportunity to make. Most of what we do in our lives is meaningless and will die with us or wallow in obscurity. Short of becoming Gandhi, curing cancer or committing murder and other violent crimes, most human actions have very little impact on any other human being. Make the decision to procreate, and you have done far more than affected another human being. You have created them, and in so doing assumed the responsibility of seeing the creation through to adulthood.

I find these people with a stereotypical, one-size-fits all mentality for those who believe that motherhood is a full time and exceptionally important job to be the ones who are regressive! It is both a full time and extremely important job. The more parents there are who hold this belief, the brighter the world’s future will be. To hold this belief does not disqualify you from believing in women’s rights! However, in a culture where women have the right to say no to sex and forced marriage, where they have the opportunities of education and careers, where they have access to contraception and the last resort of abortion (or giving up for adoption)… how can we claim that a person is being derogatory towards women’s right simply because they believe the child should come first?

I’m not even going to attempt modesty… I’m a fascinating person! I have an enviable life filled with diversity and little adventures. Motherhood has not robbed me of my life, nor has it slowed me down. I always have six or more projects on the go at any one time and an international trip on the horizon. Yet, we have managed to raise my son with a minimal use of babysitting in a best-of-both-worlds scenario. He has never been to a nursery. His care, his needs, his wanting to play with me are not tedious tasks that depress me. On the contrary, I have struggled almost my whole life with depression and find even sadness literally impossible in his presence. He is a fascinating creature, and although his vocabulary is still very limited, he is his own person with his own interests, likes and dislikes.

If a person can not find something interesting and engaging about their own children, it is not the fault of parenthood and certainly not the fault of their children. The fault is within themselves. The woman who wrote this article had NO BUSINESS bringing three little lives into this world that she clearly considered nothing but a burden to be farmed out to people not as financially well off as she is. (People who may even have their own children who they would rather be with and would give anything to trade places with her). In my eyes, she is no better than the “mother” who “breeds for a free ride.” (Women who abuse child support, benefits, etc. by having children they constantly pawn off to other family members, friends or anyone who will take them). I have a regrettable sibling who does this, and although the woman who wrote The Telegraph article is financially much better off than my sibling, they are of the same ilk: irresponsible and selfish.

Some of the comments on the story equated the 25% of women who just want to be wives and mothers with the Victorian era. If a woman genuinely only wants to be a mother and a wife, is it not against her “women’s rights” to condemn her pursuit and fulfilment of her own dreams? We don’t all need to be career women.

In reality, however, this idea of Victorian mums at home is a fallacy. During the industrial revolution, woman in the droves had to abandon their children to work in the factories. (Of course, it wasn’t long after infancy that those children were sent off to work in the factories as well). The same happened any time the men were all off at war.

Lastly, I would like to add that the importance of stay-at-home fathers is often forgotten, and societies should value the dads who stay at home with the little ones whilst the mums are off at work just as much as if it were the reverse situation.

Here is a poem written by Morris Rosenfeld (1862 – 1923):

My Boy

I have a little boy at home,
A pretty little son;
I think sometimes the world is mine
In him, my only one.

But seldom, seldom do I see
My child in heaven’s light;
I find him always fast asleep…
I see him but at night.

Ere dawn my labor drives me forth;
‘Tis night when I am free;
A stranger am I to my child;
And strange my child to me.

I come in darkness to my home,
With weariness and–pay;
My pallid wife, she waits to tell
The things he learned to say.

How plain and prettily he asked:
‘Dear mamma, when’s ‘Tonight’?
O when will come my dear papa
And bring a penny bright?’

I hear her words–I hasten out–
This moment must it be!–
The father-love flames in my breast:
My child must look at me!

I stand beside the tiny cot,
And look, and list, and–ah!
A dream-thought moves the baby-lips:
‘O, where is my papa!’

I kiss and kiss the shut blue eyes;
I kiss them not in vain.
They open,–O they see me then!
And straightway close again.

‘Here’s your papa, my precious one;–
A penny for you!’–ah!
A dream still moves the baby-lips:
‘O, where is my papa!’

And I–I think in bitterness
And disappointment sore;
‘Some day you will awake, my child,
To find me nevermore.’

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TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com