This weekend I attended an alumni event for the university I completed my under graduate studies. The event was specifically for women of the university. It was the first women's event organized by this university and it was taking place in Chicago. I thought "what the heck" I haven't attended any alumni events for my under graduate school so maybe this could be a start.
First I need to say these are right now only thoughts and observations. I haven't had much time to really put everything I observed into a concise reflection, but maybe this post will evolve into it as I share what I experienced.
The event had about 200 women in attendance and took place at a very swanky club in Chicago. The energy in the room was high, but for me it was a nervous energy. I had not connected with anyone from school in a really long time. Well that's not true a few of my closest and dearest friends are from my under graduate years and I still stay very close to them, but they do not reside in Chicago so I guess I could say that outside of those few people I haven't done anything in reconnecting. Plus I am terrible at walking into a room where I don't know people. My husband is the best at "working a room." He just has a knack for it, but I am not that way at all. In fact, I love to meet new people, but I look to do it in a more controlled atmosphere like sitting down and really talking. Maybe its that I am really bad at small talk and love to really engage for a much longer period of time. Plus I am really an introvert and don't feel comfortable stepping in and simply introducing myself and trying to come up with something clever to say. I do however, really enjoy leading events and speaking in front of groups...odd I know...okay I have digressed :)
Finally, after the meet and greet time, we all sat at our assigned tables. My table consisted of a wide range of women from those in their early 70s all the way down to recent grads at 22 years of age and everyone in between. It really was an incredible mix of women who all graduated from the same university. It was amazing to me as each woman began to share her story that they seemed to all relate to the same identity, obstacles, questions, and concerns for careers, graduate school, family life balance, and personal reflections. I don't know what background in religion each of these women came from so when they began to share on a more "main stream" view point that many of the "traditional" aspects which have held women back in the past still seem to be very real and present in today's young female professional I was shocked.
Although, I knew the glass ceiling and now what I have coined as the glass box existed I was shocked to find that these women were feeling the internal pull of not fully understanding what it meant to be female and the ability to find success in a society that is so male dominated. It broke my heart to hear one young graduate share that she knows she is being treated differently because she is female and that she is now looking for a new position. She shared how she has felt humiliated, hurt, and marginalized. She shared that she didn't want to do anything for fear of retaliation and she said she wanted to prove that she could handle it. We all at the table said that she needs to speak to her HR department because what is happening within her department is wrong and illegal. But as I sat and reflected I understood what she was saying. We as women sometimes take the "crap" because we think we have to prove something or show ourselves worthy or strong enough to take the insults. I understood her confusion in wanting so bad to fit into her male dominated office and to show her self worthy for the position and responsibility.
Why do we continue to try and mold ourselves to fit into a position? Maybe this is our generational women's movement fight to stop trying to blend and make ourselves fit into male management, but to create and establish female management styles...
I thought it was Evangelical Christian women who truly missed the modern day women's movement, but maybe this next generation as Turtle Woman has pointed out have missed the struggle and don't know the history behind everything that has occurred for women. Perhaps for all the victories, we as women lost the ability to encourage and pass along the desire to continue to fight for equality to my generation and the next generations to come.
I sat in a room filled with successful highly educated women from all different backgrounds and they still shared stories of not knowing who they were outside of the societal labels and expectations for "traditional" women. Maybe its time to work on women from a more personal aspect as the fight for legal rights on a broader sense have been accomplished.
I probably need to reflect some more on my observations and conversations...