Lady Judgement

I have to admit, I have historically not been the most inclusive feminist; in fact, I’ve been a judgmental feminist. Younger me didn’t grasp the fact that feminism was about choice and the freedom to have choices (even if that choice is a traditional one). But older me gets it – the women’s movement has always been about being able to choose what we want to do with our lives.

So it was a real slap in the face when I sat on the other side of the lady-judgment table.

The other day at work I was talking with some women coworkers. We were just getting to know each other – gabbing about work, school, career ideals, and our big goals. My coworkers are impressive women with awesome goals which is great! But when they asked me what I wanted to do long term I took the circuitous route: I told them my interests (women, global health, west africa) and how I want to affect change. But then I said that I thought marriage had given me some perspective on what I wanted in terms of work life balance – which is, more life, less work.

and BOOM!! Came the lady judgement.

“Really??” they seemed to ask – as if they couldn’t understand how marriage could change someone’s perspective on this.

And I felt I had to backtrack and explain myself.

“Woah!” I said, “It’s not like I want to stay home and make babies – I don’t even want kids – it’s just that there are a lot of things I want out of life and my career doesn’t define me. I want to travel, become a better musician, a better chef – and sure, I am passionate about women’s health across the globe but it’s not the sole focus of my life and I won’t treat it that way.”

See, I’m a big proponent of non-traditional work schedules, and telecommuting, and, you know, having organizations function in the 21st Century. And I don’t think that’s unreasonable. But as a woman – even to other women – I still felt as though I needed to explain myself, and it was silly. Even here I feel compelled to explain that I don’t want to NOT work, I just don’t want to work in an old-school system that doesn’t appreciate or understand the modern workplace.

I’ve grown up with very high-achieving people which has propelled me forward – heck, I am 23 and have a Master’s degree which is pretty cool. But a certain level of judgement has always existed in my circles about choosing a less-career dominated life and I’ve played into it – so it was a unique experience to be on the other side of that for the first time.

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2 thoughts on “Lady Judgement

  1. Anna, I can so relate to this. I took my husband’s last name, for god’s sake! I’ve felt the lady-judgment quite a bit on that one, but I have always felt 100 percent confident in that decision. I certainly didn’t do it because I felt any outside pressure, and I didn’t do it because it was the traditional thing to do. But I suspect many people assume one of those two things is true.

    You touch on two things here. One is about determining whether you’re comfortable with certain life decisions because they’re not necessarily what a hardline (dare I say traditional?) feminist might choose. The other is more about the academic in you judging yourself (you could further explore the topic of over-achiever-judgment in a future post). That’s something I can relate to, too, but I think that pressure is gender-neutral.

  2. Jen – I think you’re absolutely right about the ‘name change’ issue, and people are absolutely making assumptions about why you did it. That’s just the nature of today’s culture around marriage! People are going to be judgmental about every choice you make (babies, travel, wedding…) especially those without insight into your relationship.

    You’re also right about gender neutrality concerning over-achiever judgment but I think I see it a lot more with young women (perhaps because I am one?). The big issue here for me is just that there’s a dichotomous model for work/life ‘balance’, particularly for youth, that seems to be based on whether or not you have a partner in your life.

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