In my Postmodern America class a couple weeks ago, we were talking about the 50s in America, talking broadly about some of the big cultural changes associated with that decade. Someone brought up The Feminine Mystique and "the problem that has no name," and I made an offhand remark about how women were bored because machines were doing all the work they used to spend all day doing, like laundry for instance.
A woman in the class, a graduate media student, said, sharply, "Actually, that's not true." She said that there were some recent books and articles pointing out that that was a myth, that, with automation of housework, expectations of what housewives could accomplish had been raised so high that any benefit of the new appliances was lost.
We left it at that -- we had other things to discuss besides the women's movement -- but the exchange left me feeling a suddenly very specific lack in my life of close women friends. I guess I mean close mainly in terms of proximity, because I do have a few intimate women friends but none of them live within a thousand miles of me. My sister and I are close, but sporadically in touch, and it's only about once a year that we get to have anything like real conversation. But I don't have a woman friend that I just hang out with, have coffee, talk about whatever's on our minds. (Actually I don't have men friends like this either, except J, and I feel that lack, as well. I don't have many friends here, but that's another story.)
I thought about this again while I was reading this article. I have lots of ideas about this. I always have opinions. I wish I had someone to bounce them off of, a woman friend who maybe has had some experience with this stuff, who might forgive my insults born of ignorance -- for instance, when I say, rhetorically, "why is it some women feel it's so important to be able to simultaneously give birth and raise a baby and maintain a career outside the home? if you're going to have kids, have kids. it's not sexism making women unhappy, it's multi-tasking" -- who might be willing to tell me what she thinks I'm right about and wrong about.
It's hard to have these conversations in a classroom, where so often people have a desire to express a strongly-held view instead of listening and examining an issue with an open mind. I'm just as guilty of this as anyone. And there's the whole "sensitivity" issue. Most of the kids in my classes are encountering the expectation of sensitivity for the first time in their lives, I think. Sensitivity to sexism, homophobia, racism, etc. And that's a good thing, especially here in Texas. It's just not where I am with these issues.
Well, last week I made a couple new male friends. Maybe women are next.