A Woman’s Place

Posted on June 15, 2010


After that title, are your hackles rising, just waiting for me to say it? Are you shaking your head, sure something provincial is about to land with a thud in front of the slow-moving train that is gender progress? Good. You’re after my own heart. But read on, I might have something surprising to say.

Six thousand years of recorded history has, for the most part, a pretty sorry record on the treatment of half of the race. The relative openness of our era, in the west at least, regarding a great many issues, is a thing to be treasured. An unmarried woman can own property, work, be acknowledged, serve as a political leader, and run a company. Even more, a married woman can do so independently of her husband, with assertiveness, confidence, and courage. Nobody wants to turn the clock back on this. The world has been enriched by the joined voices of the other half of the race.

But despite the fact that these obviously powerful and, dare I say, masculine traits, are admirable in all of us, women bring more to the table, if they choose to access it. Diplomacy, culture, patience, inclusiveness, and collaboration are valuable in those powerful, assertive women. And obviously, you roll your eyes, in men as well. Nothing new here.

Yes, there is. We acknowledge the truth that we are all best when we are yin and yang in balance, a union of  strength and reticence, courage and caution, individuality and inclusiveness, … but we still aren’t very good at it. And we need to be.

A popular figure in my faith’s historical record is a man named Captain Moroni. He was of such high capacity, moral character, courage, and intelligence, that a commentator said of him, “if all men had been and were and ever would be” like him, “the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever.”

Whether or not you believe in the existence of a man named Captain Moroni, or are even religious at all, still, aren’t there people you look at and think, “if more people were like that, the world would be a better place”? And if those values are gender-neutral (as all enviable values are), then what if you saw women like that? What would they do?

I know women like that. They head agencies. They serve in public office (I know, but there are some good politicians out there.) They run companies. And they stay at home and raise people to do that.

We have such an artificial line drawn around our work, where that which earns money is valuable, and that which does not is unworthy, where that which is public is honorable, and that which is private is unworthy. It’s not unworthy; it’s just not rewarding for those whose motive is themselves.

Today’s shout-out is for the unseen dignities given little children when nobody else sees, and that provide a foundation for a stable, giving adult … the collaborations with others that build capacity when it would be easier and faster to do it alone … the cheerleading and the organizing that goes on behind the scenes so that someone else shines … and the quiet corrections that make possible a shift in behavior, undamaged by public humiliation.

The hand that rocks the cradle does rule the world, and the hand that caresses the neck of the one who rocks the cradle holds the world as well. It has stopped being about which is male and female. It has become about all of us being those kinds of people who are rattling the gates of hell by standing against the rattling of our homes and communities.

We are mistaken in believing that the most valuable work we do has monetary remuneration. The most valuable work in communities is in homes, in volunteering, and in public service. Unpaid experts are more passionate, more comprehensive, and more committed than people who are doing a job, and study after study backs that up. Both women and men serve equally in shoring up what is weak, making the world a better place, paving the way for people to be better, stronger, and safer than they might have been. This isn’t about gender; it’s about applying individual power for the good of all.

What is your expertise, and what are you doing with it? Quantify your impact, and magnify it. What part of hell’s gates are you rattling? And if the hounds head for you, stand firm, and roar back. Pearls optional. It’s a woman’s place too.

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