Prejudice for working women starts at birth. I am amazed at how I have instilled it in my own daughters. I am amazed at how it’s an accepted part of womanhood. At how we ourselves propagate certain roles through our behavior, advice, lack of advice, and example. In the name of all that is holy the church is found guilty as well. Somehow the command to respect your husband is used to influence young girls to believe that they are to always come in second. That God could never have ordained for them to be strong, independent, intelligent beings who can conquer whatever they set their mind to. I know different. I know that God makes strong, independent, and intelligent women, because that’s how He made me.
I was given the example that women are second to their husbands. They can have careers, hobbies, and interests, but they come after their husbands and children. You do everything around them. Careers need to wait until the kids are raised. Hobbies and interests are encouraged as long as they don’t interfere with a mother’s chief purpose in life-to cook for her husband and kids. I really want to hold a protest against whoever came up with that idea. I am all about good food and ensuring the kids have great meals, but how did that become my main job and why isn’t it presumed to be a shared responsibility?
“Don’t tell me, what is your wife fixing, isn’t a prejudiced question.”
So it wasn’t bad enough to be given that example for 18 years, but then I go and put it on my daughters. Spending more time teaching them how to cook and clean then I did my sons. Having conversations with them about career choices that would work while raising the kids. Completing neglecting career choices that didn’t offer the flexibility to be at home more and work less. Showing them an example of a wife whose main duty was to have dinner ready at 5 and happily accepted a marriage where mom did women stuff and dad did man stuff like sit on the couch and wait for the dinner bell to ring. Where mom put off everything in the name of good parenting and completely let go of herself for many years to ensure the kids got every penny we had. Mom’s raise kids. They could have mom jobs, but they didn’t have careers until the kids get older.
“Don’t tell me, that doesn’t ingrain a prejudice from the start.”
I actual remember having a conversation with my oldest daughter about career choices. I encouraged her to consider whether she wanted a career that would work with raising kids or just to be a career woman. I was already establishing that a woman had to choose. That she couldn’t be a wife, mother, and a career woman. I set her up with a skewed view of life. Luckily, she hasn’t taken to the adage that women put their life on hold while they raise kids. She wants to raise and love children and at the same time pursue a career. She plans on sharing the responsibility of rearing children and managing a house with a spouse. She doesn’t see children as the sole duty of the wife. She doesn’t plan on putting her passions on hold for anyone. I applaud her for that.
A nice church lady asked me why my oldest daughter hadn’t signed up for the nursery. I told her watching kids wasn’t her kind of thing. She wasn’t one of those girls that adored babies. She knew that she would have them one day, but until then she had other interests. I was informed that the nursery was the churches way of ensuring that the girls had some experience with how to care for babies. They were concerned that my daughter wouldn’t get the experience she needed to be a mother. I don’t know where to start with the dysfunction of those beliefs.
For starters, why weren’t the boys in the church required to do the same thing? Weren’t they going to help take care of their own children? Did the women also need cooking classes? Did all of this come under the umbrella of respecting your husband? Do all men feel respected when the wife stays at home and doesn’t make any additional income? Mine felt disrespected when I initially expected him to make all the money on his own. What do other husbands want? Lots of questions.
“Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly.”
There are societal expectations, cultural norms, religious doctrine, work ethics, philosophical beliefs, and family influence that affect every human being. We are each brought up with a certain set of expectations. Assumptions are made. Those can change depending on the extent of our growth and exposure to new ideas and ways of doing things. In the end it’s ultimately up to us how we live our life. We are free to shred everything we have learned and adopt a new set of standards. We are free to move and adopt new norms and values. We can leave institutions with doctrines that we don’t agree with. We can learn and grow and become the people we want to be.
While all that is true we must understand that our influences have started us out in life with a certain amount of prejudice. With a handicap. Some are greater than others. Our personalities have a lot to do with how much we absorb from external forces. So even when we plant the seeds of prejudice in our children’s lives they can be plucked out, but let us see what exists in our lives and what we propagate towards others.
Let us be aware of what we say and do. The ideas that we propagate through our behavior. Why does it feel like we are handicapped before we ever start? Should we be surprised if later employers don’t pay us equally. I doubt many of us truly expect to be given equal consideration anywhere.
Originally published at https://www.thetodayswoman.com on October 29, 2019.