Monday, January 20, 2014

21st century feminist: The language towards women

Today's post centers on contemporary vernacular surrounding women and their careers. I've observed that many talented women my age have chosen to give up their careers while their husbands pursue their goals. Male peers I've discussed this oddity with are not bothered by this probably since they are wife-hunting so their notion of women is limited to their expectations of how they wish to relate to them. It should matter that when a woman gives up her career a voice in the boardroom or classroom or courtroom is lost from the professional world. Women step-back partly from our own lack of confidence and partly due to the language that fuels primitive ideology of different expectations for women and men. This fosters a culture where it's acceptable for women to give up their careers, yet unacceptable for men to do so.

I am extremely blessed to have worked with wonderful bosses, physicians, professors, and mentors (most of whom are men) from my engineering career, through my time in Boston, and now my graduate work at Case Western. They support my career goals and this encouragement has prevented me from succumbing to the derisive language that I've encountered. Yet, I am also connected to a number of male peers who urge me and other women to relinquish their goals citing that it's more economical for women to not become doctors or telling us to just do nothing and relax. Paraphrasing the Times, if you're not willing to take my science seriously because of how I appear to you then that is your problem. These comments are not said to other men and nudge women to pursue an unequal position instead of being equal contributors to a field. We need to stop accepting language that dissuades women from their goals. How would you feel if someone discouraged your mother/sister/daughter?  This language is rooted in a culture where it is acceptable for women to back down as they allow their male peers to rise through the ranks without them.

The pursuit of a woman's own career serves to establish herself, becomes an example to following generations that success is possible regardless of gender, and offers a unique perspective that progresses a field. It also enables women to be self-sufficient and maintain cultural and financial status independent of their husbands. Without self-sufficiency, women become at risk of remaining in lower income brackets, lower employment positions, and eventually lower social classes with little or no influence on social and public policy. These circumstances quickly shift our position back to a voiceless gender just trying to make ends meet instead of powerhouses trying to better the world through politics, medicine, finance, business, academia etc... Women of success bring an alternate perspective to the table. If there's reluctance to accept that fact then read this article. The more we collectively establish ourselves the more strength we gain to make an impact in industry, culture, and society. We can only make this impact if we rule out the possibility that women should not or do not need to participate (or worse, don't have the ability to participate.)

Language that accepts that half the population can be precluded from certain roles needs to be perceived as antiquated. Most of us are keenly aware of what is tactful when it comes to race. Yet tact seems to literally have blurred lines (reference intended) when it comes to gender. Let's stop discouraging and dissuading powerful women (out of fear of competition? being unwanted? our egos?) Let's stop the slanderous remarks towards females who trail-blaze ahead and are dubbed arrogant, cocky, annoying, too aggressive, man-ish etc... Success in medicine is achieved when a patient who needed medical care received it and has regained their health. Who cares if the doctor that contributed to that success was a man or a woman? Shouldn't the focus be about the patient and their illness instead of preserving the male ego? If different minds and skill-sets are involved wouldn't that contribute to overall progress in the field (and even expedite said progress)? Men in my generation must get used to the fact that women have something special to offer that helps all of us achieve our goals.

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