Monday, October 26, 2009

What Goes Around

I am a "fan" of Smith College on Facebook.  Many days there are very interesting articles and news for us alums.   A few weeks ago, however, I got embroiled in a discussion with other Smithies about the propriety of Smith having cheerleaders.  I am not opposed to the cheerleaders although I still cringe at the thought of girls cheering on those who are actually doing the sports.  I went through this issue already with my daughter who wanted to cheer in middle school and high school even though I preferred she play soccer, a sport she played well for many years.  She did cheer for a while but eventually gave it up.

The problem I had with the discourse about cheerleading on the Smith fanpage was a comment by someone who said in substance how can anyone object to women cheering on women.  Get out of the 1970s.  I had to reply that young women enjoy the rights and equalities they do because of those of us who in the 70s insisted that we needed to do it differently from our mothers' generation.  We would work and have families.  We would get "real" professional jobs, not jobs like secretary and teacher.  We would insist that we be treated equally.  And it was not always easy.  We were underpaid.  We were not given childcare leave. We were treated with disdain if we got pregnant because we obviously did not take our careers seriously.  I lost my secretary and almost lost my office when I gave birth to my daughter because of the belief that I clearly would not come back to work, even though I already was a working mother.

So I found it annoying to be treated like a fossil of the 70s because I would rather see girls play than cheer others playing.  Girls did not play sports when I was growing up so those of us who worked to ensure our daughters would have that choice should be celebrated, not denigrated.

Then I read a passage in Gail Collins' When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women that pointed out that before the 60s a professional woman could not be described in the media without making a feminine reference such as female doctor or lawyer and grandmother.   I use that description for myself on this blog and it did not even occur to me that in years before I came of age, such a description was ultimately denigrating to a woman who could not be seen solely as a professional.  I chose the description because I have the luxury of having both the career and the family--even grandchildren--that others fought for me to have.  I am proud to be able to have both.  I also hope I appreciate the frame of mind of those who made it possible for me to have both, just as I would like the young women today to understand the viewpoint of those of us from the 70s.

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