It’s Just Natural

vmmv modern viewsI like leading. I like being in control. Every group project I ever had in college I wrestled for the lead spot, and I usually got it–not because I’m bossy or a strong personality: I’ve got a voice so small, people in a one-on-one conversation with me often follow-up my statements with a side-lean and a “what?” I usually get the lead spot because I’m organized, a bit of an over-achiever, but largely because I’ve got a strong vein of fear for unpreparedness running through me that makes me, in most situations, over-compensate so I can feel controlled. I have high expectations, and I don’t really trust other people to help me to get to that level of expectation when I can just do it myself in my own way that I know works for me. I know what I need to feel comfortable while I work, so why not get myself to that position? I guess you could call it a pessimistic view of humanity, but I’d rather be surprised by someone as prepared as I am then count on them being prepared and be disappointed, stressed out, and joining them in looking the fool when it turns out they’re not. So, in short, it’s just natural for me to fall into taking the lead.

In one specific class project I vividly remember in my Senior year as an undergrad, we were broken up in groups of three and tasked to make connections between one of Jane Austen’s novels (Persuasion to be exact) and a romantic poet of our choice (Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge etc.). If you’re not an English major, this probably sounds pointless, horrific, and dull, but there was a reason for the project which is, well, another post completely. The point is, my group broke up the project evenly into three parts and we agreed to reconvene a few days later, share our conclusions, and mutually agree on the ones we would present in our portfolio. A good plan, yes? Very “fair.” Hah. I went back to my apartment and happily charged ahead on the project–it’s no secret Austen is my specialty and my brain was already overflowing with connections. I came up with my conclusions I was assigned and then, well, I came up with all the rest too, you know, just in case. After four years of college I had had enough experience in groups to know being over-prepared is never a waste because there is always, without fail, someone to be made up for. Sure enough, by the first group meeting, three group members had fallen to two with no word from the third about the project, her absence, or her plan for getting her portion to us. “Ah yes,” I thought, “no worries at all, I’ve planned for this catastrophe.” The project was turned in with two names gracing the title instead of three, and our third “team” member concluded in creating massive drama—another story for yet another post. My point is, I led not because I necessarily wanted to lead, be the boss, or establish new, never-before-thought-of Austen connections (trust me, they’ve all been explored: Every. Single. One.) I led because I knew what I was good at: organization, planning, Austen. And I led because, well, there wasn’t much competition, so…it was just natural for me to do it.leanin.org

By now you’ve probably heard of Sheryl Sandberg…if not for her COO position at Facebook, but for her wildly popular book Lean in: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. What I didn’t know though was that “lean in” has become sort of a new catch phrase, a hot hashtag, and a whole .org site dedicated to what lean-in-ers describe as “changing the conversation about what we [women] can’t do to what we can do.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But what is so very irritating about Sandberg’s message and all her women “leaning in,” is that they’re insistent upon this idea that if you’re a woman not leading, then you’re “fearful” of being a leader and damn those misogynists, WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU? At a “BlogHer” conference earlier this year, Sandberg was re-wording some of her book’s urgings that many had criticized for being “elitist or critical of women who don’t have sky-high aspirations.” She admitted that perhaps her opinions had come off wrong and restated that “leaning in” wasn’t about every woman wanting to be a CEO but “about each one of us asking ourselves what we would do if we weren’t afraid and then reaching for those ambitions.”

It was meant to be “all-inclusive” she said, about all women, in every position, breaking out of their “fear” of…what? Being a woman? I don’t get it. I don’t get it at all. Why are we still making this about gender? If I’m “afraid” of something, I never think, “well, if only I were a man, I could do this.” No! For most things I don’t do, I’m not really afraid, I honestly don’t want to do them because I don’t think I would be good at them–not because I’m a woman, because those aren’t my natural strengths. And if I am afraid, it’s usually because I know I’m not good at it or I don’t know much about it yet. Never ever does it cross my mind that my femininity is holding me back. That group project I took control of? Sandberg would probably pat my shoulder and say “yay! Good for you for leaning in and taking control.” But I didn’t do it for that reason, I don’t want to be the boss, I just want to work to my own strengths. If a male team member had had better connections than I did for our Austen-to-Romantic-poet connection project, then I would have stepped down, held back, and given him a nod. Not because I’m suddenly afraid of the manly beast, but because hey, his ideas sound better. The content–not the producer–was better. But Sandberg? The article said she’s “concerned” about how we’re raising our daughters because “by middle school, in survey after survey, more boys say they want to lead someday versus girls.” Uh-oh, EMERGENCY!!! GIRLS ARE AFRAID!!! EMPOWER THEM!!!sheryl sandberg

Wait, what? Why? I don’t take that statistic that way, I take it that, for the majority, boys naturally have the desire to lead, that’s why even when they’re young (oh hey, in middle school) they’re already showing this tendency. Does that make me afraid? No. It’s not a rule, it’s just a majority. Some girls naturally have the ability to lead, and they will, without all of this obsession. Try and get a naturally disorganized girl to lead and you’ll have a leader who wasn’t meant to lead. That’s not forward-thinking equality and woman-empowerment, that’s a waiting disaster. My boyfriend recently asked me if I ever wanted to see a woman president. I thought about it for a long time–I knew what he was asking, if, like most women, I wanted to see a woman president because she was a woman. And I said yes, I would vote for a woman to be president, but I wouldn’t be voting based on her gender, I would be voting based on who the heck she was. How offensive to her to vote for her just because she’s got boobs. Come on ladies. Men usually get hired as high school teachers faster than women…I don’t take that as women are afraid to lead, take charge, and go get that job, I take it as school districts knowing that perhaps for the age group, men are just better at handling a room of 30+ teens. The reverse usually occurs with elementary school though, women are better at connecting with younger children…you know, just naturally. The dumbest idea employers ever had was to have rules on the types of people they had to hire. I would be more disappointed if I knew I was hired to “lead” just because they had to meet their female quota than if I was turned down because a man just did it better than I did. It’s not about being afraid, being brought up differently, or having different gender expectations…it’s just natural: Leaders are personality types, not gender specific and if we try and even out the ratio based solely on which bathroom we use, we’re going to have a really, really big problem…starting right at the top.

image inspired via

– <3 A. 

Plain Jane

jane austen sketch via mollands.netPlain Jane: “We are so vain that we even care for the opinion of those we don’t care for.”

-Jane Austen in her letters

Facebook, Twitter, and social media are something Jane never could have known about, but the human motivation to create them certainly was something she was familiar with. It seems obsession with self is something of the eighteenth, nineteenth and any century. Goodness but we are all mad!

 

Confusing a Generation of “Gentlemen”

nytimes article
This week I wandered onto the New York Times page to check out their “End of Courtship” article by Alex Williams that has quickly been broadcast across social media sites with agreeable tags like “so true!” and “ugh, so my life.” The article blames the end of the “traditional date” on a generation stuck in a “hookup culture” of college relationships that more resemble a “friends with benefits” style of interaction via quick texts, Facebook messages, emails, a tweet, or a late-night “what’s happening?” query. Women quoted in the article complained that instead of a nice dinner out, or a pre-planned date, girls should just start lowering their expectations because current dating culture is one step below a date, and one step above a high-five,” says 30 year old Shani Silver, a Philadelphia-based blog manager.

If you expect ‘dinner at a romantic new bistro, forget it. Women in their 20’s these days are lucky to get a last-minute text to tag along.’

It’s a pretty sad, very true, and very frightening article that’s worth checking out.

A logical question that follows this description of the “new dating culture” then is, are the people who are “dating” in this “modern” way happy about it? It doesn’t seem so, one 24 year old woman bemoaned the “frustrating new romantic landscape” that was full of men who say that they don’t like to “take girls out.” Instead, one man says, he just likes to text a girl and have them “join in on whatever I’m doing.” Like I said, the article points to many places to lay the blame for this new relationship ambiguity: a social media cyber culture, economic recession, and the equalization of male and female jobs and wages that makes “having the man pay” for, or plan, a date, seems a little silly, unnecessary, and for some, offensive. All those reasons for the death of the “date” may have some viability, and I think they do, but after reading another article entitled “I Don’t Want My Preschooler to be a Gentleman” on the New York Times parenting page called the “Motherlode,” I think there may be a deeper, even more troubling, cause.

In her article about her four year old son Emmett’s question about what her definition for a “gentleman” was, novelist Lynn Messina was horrified when her son’s definition was that “a gentleman lets girls go first.” She bemoans that her son’s preschool teacher allows girls to use the bathroom after naptime before the boys do, and sadly decries that her son “just got his first lesson in sexism.”  She openly admits that she might be overreacting, but quickly follows that admission up with this whopper:

But I don’t think it’s an overreaction to resent the fact that your son is being given an extra set of rules to follow simply because he’s a boy. His behavior, already constrained by a series of societal norms, now has additional restrictions. Worse than that, he’s actively being taught to treat girls differently,  something I thought we all agreed to stop doing, like, three decades ago.

Did you get that? She’s upset because her son is learning how to treat women like ladies, or, as she would describe it, learning how to give girls “empty courtesies that instill in women a sense of entitlement for meaningless things. Many women see gallantry as one of the benefits of their sex; I see it as one of its consolations.”

Flash back to the “End of Courtship” article. The women in that article seemed to think the absence of these “empty courtesies” of gallantry rather sad. Anna Goldfarb, a 34 year old author in Moorestown, N. J. said that “I’ve seen men put more effort into finding a movie to watch on Netflix Instant than composing a coherent message to ask a woman out,” and she hates it. Despite what the troubled mom in the “Preschooler” article believes, it seems the destruction of the idea of “treating girls differently” has already gotten quite a firm root in the men of today and the ladies (surprise, surprise) aren’t liking it so much. Yet, if Lynn Messina’s feminist mantra is what women have been striving for for the last forty years, when a man says he doesn’t like to “take girls out” (read, treat them differently from his male friends), why should any of us be surprised, angry, or disgusted? He’s simply treating you the way you want to be treated, right? Just like him, just like one of the guys, just like another individual with the only defining characteristic from a “man,” beyond biological differences, is that perhaps you have a prettier profile than his hulking man-roommate. He probably won’t tell you that though, in case you’re offended. So, you’re mad he put you in the friend-zone? That he texted you at 10:30 p.m. on a promised “date-night” to finally invite you to a keg-stand? Lynn Messina would probably cheer. We’ve made it ladies, we’re off the pedestal of special treatment and down on the ground to roll around with all the guys.

“Preschooler” mom says her “heart aches” when she listens to her son “proudly explain what a gentleman is — because what he’s actually so proud of is his part in perpetuating millenniums of sexism.” My heart ached when I began to see how a generation of new mothers may be creating a future world of genderless genders.  Like I said earlier, the New York Times mommy-blog “Motherlode” is where this article was posted. How terrifying is it if the opinion of this woman is the new ‘principal vein’ (which is the definition of a ‘motherlode’) of thought among young mothers? I’m hoping it’s not, because if it is, the “end of courtship” is just the beginning, relationships as we know them may be in for a similar extinction.

– <3 A.

Sources: “The End of COurtship,” Alex williams, New York TImes | “I Don’t Want my Preschooler to be a gentleman,” Lynn Messina, New YOrk Times| Images via Etsy.com

 

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youve got mail Modern Views: A Battle with the Boys 

  You've Got Mail           Battle With the Boys

Plain Jane

Plain Jane: “I have not seen it in the papers. And one may as well be single, if the wedding is not to be in print.”

-Jane Austen in her letters

It seems that the modern “Facebook-official” relationship status hasn’t changed much from Jane’s time: If it’s not publicly announced, it’s not real. People don’t change I suppose, just the venues they use to express themselves.

 

Return (some love) to Sender:

Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Skype, Gmail chat, Email, Flickr, Instagram…there pretty much are endless ways to keep in touch with the people you love that may have wandered far from where you are. Its brilliant. Photo-sharing, real-time video chatting, instant messaging. Its as if they’re not far away at all…only, they are. I love social media, its a great way to feel closer to people you normally wouldn’t be able to see often. Only, sometimes a quick Facebook message or an Instagram @shoutouttosomeperson isn’t quite enough. Have you felt it? its a sense of inadequacy, of meaning well but ending up not enough. Like giving plastic flowers to your Mum on Mother’s Day. You wouldn’t, would you? The thought is there but the love is missing. At least it seems to me like that.

Remember this though?

Its a POST OFFICE! You probably forgot about those. I do sometimes. Stamps, and letters (and yes, waiting a few days), and squeaky mail boxes. I get quite the thrill when I see a personal letter peeping out at me. It really is like spotting a friendly face in a crowd of strangers. Its unexpected and in the instant I discover who its from, I instantly feel so much love from them. Someone, somewhere, thought about you, sat down, wrote to you, and then took the time to mail you some love. They didn’t log on, search your name, and say “thinking of you.”

I can’t really think of a simpler, cheaper way to tell someone “I love you bunches and bunches” then writing them a letter.

Sometimes though, even a letter falls a little short. Birthdays and special occasions don’t stop coming around even if your loved one can’t.

When this little lady had a birthday without me, I had to take extreme measures. Facebook wouldn’t cut it. And a letter wasn’t quite enough.

 My only option was to send a party in a box:

A banner made of paper-hearts, with a different memory we shared written on each one or a quote I knew would bring a laugh, and a little gift to open on each day of the week to make a birthday-away feel not nearly so lonely. A birthday box– simple to do, and the most fun I’ve ever had creating a birthday gift.

If your dear ones are scattered far and wide, don’t forget the mailbox at your own front door is a pretty fantastic way to share, and, who knows, someone may return a little love to the sender. Happy posting!

The Linen Closet

A little update for everyone: I was quite the busy-bee yesterday, if you want to see what I was up to, go to http://www.etsy.com/shop/VintageMuses. There’s a new listing up with some seasonal colors to celebrate the fall weather that has (finally!) arrived. As soon as a cloud appears, that’s excuse enough for me to start baking. Here’s a bit of a preview of the newest apron in case you need a little something to give you an excuse:

– <3 A.