At the International Women's Conference, held in Beijing in 1995, Hilary Clinton said "It is time for us to say here in Bejing, and the world to hear, that it is no longer acceptable to discuss women’s rights as separate from human rights ." And I agree wholeheartedly. This type of thinking comes up a lot. For instance, the proposed/actual "Jewish History Month." (courtesy of SaraK)Really? Jewish History Month? Or excuse me, "Jewish American Heritage Month." Pardon me while I hurl.
You see, while I love Jewish history, Women's history, African American history, Military history, etc, etc, but I hate the fact that we separate it out. I don't really think that you can talk about "Women's history" as women make up half (or 51%) of the world population. Where were they during history? If Women's history exists, does that mean that "standard" history is only (and should continue to be) White, American Men's history? You can't have history without context, and all of these stories should be intertwined. Yes, I think that you can, and should be able to talk about specific groups' contributions, but by having a separate discipline and month you make it seem like that is enough. Kudos, you have a month! Now you are recognized! Please stop trying to change our textbooks. It cheapens the discipline of history, and the contributions of the minority group, and continues to marginalize them into a particular story. After all, if there is African American history, shouldn't it only be for African Americans (with a few exceptions).
This has me riled up because I hate "separate but equal." I know that sounds weird coming from a woman who considers herself Orthodox, but let's ignore my religious beliefs for the moment. I believe firmly, strongly, and determinedly that I should be treated the same in the workplace as a man in my position would be. My gender should never come into play in the office unless I so choose. I shouldn't have to choose between a fulfilling family life, and a fulfilling career. I should be paid the same, have the same advancement opportunities, and respect as a man with my same qualifications.
While the last two are an ongoing battle for the feminist movement(s), the first statement is the one that has been a problem lately. You see, the Jewish world suffers from a lack of gender parity far worse than the secular world. We are ages behind in terms of women being given positions of respect, running organizations, and chairing/sitting on boards. Many mainstream organizations don't have official maternity leave policies, and individual women have to arrange their own careers in a "catch as catch can" fashion. After years of fighting this, I can understand why a woman my mother's age would be tired. And more willing to make concessions. But I'm still full of the fire and passion and idealism of youth, so I will not.
Why do I care about this now? Recently, a co-worker gave me (and a female co-worker who is approximately my age) a bouquet of flowers, each, for completing a difficult and tedious project. Sweet, right? Well, let's add in that he is my father's age. And then consider that he would never have given them to men. Gee, thanks, that was sweet, but must I be reminded of my gender in the office? Thanks for rubbing it in with your well-meant, but paternalistic gesture. An older woman in my office suggested to just let it go, because the co-worker will never change. Fine, I didn't say anything to him, but just because someones behavior "won't change" doesn't mean that they should just get away with it.
If I worked in a large office/the corporate world I could go to HR and file a complaint. One of my friends suggested that the reason that the corporate world has made such advances in terms of sexual (and other) harassment is because it is CYA, or "cover your ass." That's fair, I don't care how it came about, the end result is preferable. However, in the Jewish world (NB: I don't technically work in the Jewish world) everyone is a "family" all the organizations are interconnected, so one comment about sexual harassment to the wrong person could deep-six your career.
End result? I have a beautiful bouquet on my desk, and I am stewing in my own juices while applying to corporate jobs. Is it any surprise that talented young people are leaving non-profit?