A big reason I started this site is to contribute to an alternative narrative about women’s capabilities. I describe this on the “Why Freelance Women?” page, and I hope to reiterate it frequently in different ways over time on this blog.
So here’s me reiterating it: Women are awesome!
I’m talking big picture here. Not every woman is individually awesome, of course, but as a group it’s about time we got a little more credit.
The general message we get pretty much everywhere on this earth (some places more than others) goes something like this: Men are awesome! Women are lacking.
Right? To put a finer point on it, it’s like: Men are strong, capable, clear-headed, and honorable, while women are fragile, incapable, over-emotional, and deceptive.
The big exception is in the domestic sphere, where pizza and laundry commercials frequently portray men as idiotic, inept children and women as do-everything, overbearing supermoms. But this is a trick, since it actually reinforces the bigger picture: The idea that men — whose default is supposedly competency — are clueless at home is simply an indication of the lameness (read: woman-y-ness) of domesticity. Why should they bother?
This script is so fully ingrained in our societies that we take it for granted. It requires taking two big steps back to see it. And even then, it’s hard to imagine what an alternative would really look like.
The alternative starts with us saying out it loud without caveat, the way our society says it for men every single day in so many ways: Women are awesome.
But beyond being a mantra, this statement is the truth, in a boots-on-the-ground way.
Research shows that for every dollar women in the developing world earn in income, they spend 90 cents on the needs of their families, compared to just 30-40 cents men tend to return to the family coffers. That’s right — women spend up to three times more on the support of their families than men do and give their families nine times the amount they spend on themselves.
Research also indicates that across the developing world, female agriculturalists get 10% higher crop yields out of the same amount of land as do male farmers. And around the entire world, countries in which women control more than 30% of the seats in the political body are more inclusive, egalitarian, and democratic than countries in which they hold less political power.
Right here at home the evidence is all around us. We have a society-wide discussion about women trying to “do it all” — can they or can’t they? Should they have to? If you “do it all” can you “have it all”?
The fact that these questions seem reasonable to ask about women — but never about men — tells us that women are not only expected to do it all but are also actually attempting to.
And you bet your bottom dollar a lot of them are succeeding at a good amount of it.
My friend Jane is good example. She currently makes more money than she thought possible as a freelance writer, is a hands-on parent, the financial manager for her household, and an occasional floor sweeper and bathroom cleaner. She’s also an activity scheduler, household supply tracker, travel planner, kid’s clothing updater, and doctor visit scheduler.
Her husband is wonderful and does a ton, too, but for Jane managing daily life is like trying to do a jigsaw puzzle in a windstorm. She’s always trying and succeeding and failing and trying again. And she’s really tired. But being able to do as much of it as she does makes her feel awesome.
And her story is not unique. Almost every woman I know has some version of this same thing to report, some of them without the same supports — like a supportive spouse and a decent income — to help them. But regardless of their resources, every single one of them is managing to do a remarkable — almost astounding — amount for themselves and their families.
The awesomeness is practically blinding if you look to actually see it.