When I was ten years old, The Detroit News announced at my elementary school that it was holding a meeting for kids who were interested in becoming newspaper carriers. When I attended the meeting, I was very promptly told to leave, because I was a girl, and girls were not allowed to deliver newspapers.
The year was 1965, and that was the world I grew up in: a world where girls and women were not given opportunities and choices. We did what we were told we were allowed to do, and didn’t do what we were told we could not. Several years after this incident, when I was in junior high school, I was almost forced by my mother to take a typing class, because she told me that I needed to have a skill that would allow me to support myself. Although women were encouraged to become teachers and nurses, secretarial work was a sure-fire way for women to work if necessary, and my mother knew and accepted that.
I tried to raise my daughters differently, and to help them understand and accept that they could have, and should demand, a different world. So when my oldest daughter got engaged, my reaction was
Yes, this picture is me at her April wedding, telling the story of why I was so dismayed when she got engaged. Dismayed because I felt that marriage was a betrayal of all of the things I had worked to change, and a dismissal of all the opportunities she had that I didn’t have.
So when Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, told the graduating class of Barnard College last month that her generation of women “blew it”, and that equality for women was now on their shoulders, I totally understood. It was the same reaction, more elegantly stated, that I had to my daughter’s engagement. I felt that women’s equality was her burden, and the burden of her fellow Gen-Y-ers, and that marriage was an obstacle, not an assistive device.
I am hoping for the day that she and other Millennials prove me wrong, because they are going to do exactly what Sheryl Sandberg told them to: they are going to lean in. Their husbands or significant others are going to help, so I don’t have to hold up a sign that says WTF? at anymore weddings.
- Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: Women, Be Ambitious! (blogher.com)
- Facebook’s Sandberg: Men run the world (money.cnn.com)