Wednesday, January 23, 2008


This editorial has me wigging out, on a number of fronts. In particular, this one sentence:

"Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.

Professionally, this doesn't seem to apply to me in any way. Because my profession is overwhelmingly female-dominated, my gender has certainly not restricted me. For now, let's leave aside questions of whether I would get hired by a school that was really hoping to increase male role models in an elementary school. Practically speaking, there are enough teaching jobs to go around for all qualified candidates, male or female. And let's also leave aside the question of why I might choose to be an elementary teacher in the first place, rather than an IT professional or a rocket scientist.

Educationally, I was accepted into the college of my choice as well as the graduate program of my choice, and while in school, I perceived no restrictions on my work or progress that stemmed from my gender. Any problems I had with fellow students or professors along the way were certainly the result of my own work or lack of work, and I believe I was never discriminated against in any way. Likewise, in my family of origin as well as in my current nuclear family, I have been treated as one with full rights to all the goodies: intellectual, material, recreational, and so on.

Personally, however, it's a different story. Here we must pause and give this some serious thought. When I think about the things I am interested in doing, the projects I've pursued, the interests I've spent my time and money on, I have to say it looks like I'm choosing from the girl list. In other words, while I have not been limited by outer circumstances because of my gender, it looks very much like I've limited myself from within.

Here's what I've done for pay: taken care of other people's children, baked bread, answered phones and worked the front desk for a university museum, worked in marketing for a scholarly press, and taught elementary school.

Here's what I do for fun: knit, sew, bake, read fiction, write journal-like prose and a little poetry, do yoga, play music.

See what I mean? I'm choosing from the girl list.

Even if you include my athletic pursuits (it's so easy to forget about those in the middle of January) there's nothing there that really bucks the trend. It's all gender neutral at best. I like to camp, canoe, walk, bike, and swim.

Then I have to ask myself if that's really so terrible. Isn't it just as intellectually rigorous to figure out a complex sewing pattern as it is to figure out how to fix a toilet? More so, probably. It's not that hard to fix a toilet. I used to tinker with them, back before Joe and I got together. But now that there's a man in the house, I hardly ever rouse myself to investigate. Embarassing, but true.

And how else do you explain that this* is as easy for me as simply sitting down and figuring it out:

While this:
is a project that's been languishing for months, in spite of very helpful advice from online friends, and the exhortations of Dave, a real-life friend who has assured me that fixing this is as easy as pie.

I'd rather make a pie. Gloria Steinem would not be proud.

*This, by the way, in spite of my careful calculations and the dutiful use of an actual, smaller swatch, is a giant swatch. 280 stitches per round, and still the thing measures only 32". Back to the pattern books.

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