A Nation of Men and Women

October 28, 2009 | NeW Staff

It was a Thursday afternoon when we ran through the sprinklers, hand in hand, giddy with excitement and dripping with the Florida sun. We were eight and five—three years apart—but my sister and I never miss a beat. Fourteen years later, she lives in a world where email is for “old people” and I still write a rough draft by hand. She reminds me of this every time we stand in front of the mirror, on our toes, filling our lips and curling our lashes.

But we can’t stop asking each other, what is next?

In a California-proclaimed “Woman’s Nation,” women have reached the top and managed to alienate and confuse men every step of the way. Women make up half of U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners in four in ten American families. Change has happened, yes, but where is it actually taking us?

Maria Shriver boldly proclaims that a “woman’s nation changes everything,” but how can we define a nation by gender when that kind of definition is exactly what our mothers fought so diligently against? Where are the red flags of hypocrisy when women turn around and proclaim a single gender’s dominance after generations of the other gender’s lead? Have we resorted to the same methods we once despised and resented?

The Shriver Report does.

Filled with pages of colorful graphs, black and white photos and “real stories” from men and women, The Shriver Report hits a nerve but misses the entire point.

Women are better off today when measured according to standards that ignore women entirely. The Report measures women with a yardstick created by men and for men in the first place. For women, it should be different.

Where are the measurements for mothers who give birth to the next generation of scientists, artists and engineers? Women break through the glass ceiling and declare “the war of the sexes is over!” but have forgotten other measures to define success.

What about the woman who supports her husband with grace, polish and understanding? She deserves a banner of success just as much as the woman whose gait lands her a corner office. The wife beside the husband who discovers alternate energy, or owns the local dry-cleaners has succeeded. Where is her report? Where is her shiny graph?

Shriver’s nation is more concerned with the legacy these women leave behind rather than the steps actually taken to achieve a future. And children? They are merely the punch line to ensure equal maternity leave.

What is more, the generation who married their Blackberry is waking up unhappy, unfulfilled and dissatisfied. If, as Shriver says, there is actually more “to do,” then this time, let’s not limit the scope of female success. Women today can create new measurements of success that are unique to them and not made by men. Measurements that reclaim female happiness and embrace femininity—however it looks and wherever it shines. Studies should celebrate the mother who chaperones the field trip to the Space Coast because she knows that she may be raising the next Dr. Sally Ride. This is the call for women. After all, daughters celebrate the legacy of their mothers, just read Shriver’s introduction, so as mothers let’s celebrate the future of our daughters.

This next generation brings a new face to challenges that never seem to go away. Instead of ignoring a nation made up of both men and women, let’s embrace it. And who knows, we may actually like it and wake up happy. When my daughters run through the sprinklers, hand in hand, I will share with them a world in which women are happy to be women and no longer look to men for measurements of success.

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