WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Laura Owens, who writes words for empowered living at http://Laura-owens.com
The first word submitted by someone with whom I am not personally acquainted.
“All Men are created equal”
— Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”
— George Orwell, Animal Farm, England, 1945
“Equal Opportunity Employer”
— Civil Rights Act, United States of America, 1964
Language, vernacular, defining roles, shaping expectations: Women “succeed”. Men “win”.
Professional clichés: Old Boy Network. Men’s Club. Prick.
“Bitch” muttered with murderous breath, or flung with defiant pride — unlike “cunt”, which requires a dramatic lowering of the voice, the “t” a whisper — heard over and over, “My boss is a bitch.” “The bitch threw me under the bus.” “Could she possibly be more of a bitch?”
As professional women, body is not the only language to which we are highly attuned.
For us, our tribe, the in-between generation, coming of age after the first flowerings of female choices but before working women morphed into economic necessity, we assumed opportunity, our Equal Opportunity. Unlike our mothers who toiled in traditional jobs — teacher, secretary, bookkeeper, nurse — we embarked on careers.
We worked hard, or smart, or both. We assumed — because our girlfriends were all within the same payscale — we had salary parity with our corporate peers, promotion potential parity, partner track parity. Faulty baseline assumptions produce imperfect theorems.
We rose through the ranks, accepted incremental raises, pushed for bonuses, asked for assistants. We agreed to share — office, staff, credit — we worked longer hours than those who worked for us. We reveled in our very vital-ness to the success of our organizations, as our bosses tapped us to represent the company at a client-hosted weekend boondoggle, the emergency out-of-town meeting, or lead the overnight presentation crunch. These mandates from on high, surely nothing to do with our not having families, no clamoring children to attend to, we who were not yet mothers, with little to nurture other than our professional aspirations.
We leapt to other companies, opportunities for career advancement. Downplayed our reproductive abilities — we dare not think of them as biological advantages —in interviews, as we crossed the threshold from late twenties to early thirties, and early thirties to late, we danced around the unasked biological clock questions, our ticking time bombs, we walking, working, Moltov cocktails.
Our male peers had babies, back at work the following day, shell-shocked or beaming, passing cigars.
We soldiered on through the corporate kerfuffles, mergers, reorgs, acquisitions by overseas conglomerates. We made lateral moves in the wake of the 2001 dotcom bust, the 2008 economic collapse. When we grasped our first rung of the corporate ladder, we assumed an upward climb, steady ascent. None of our childhood books depicted ladders laid horizontal.
We tell our young female staff that everything is possible, and they believe us, because they have spent their young lives medaled and certificated for participation.
We assure them of their assumptions, even as we bemoan their requests, twelve weeks into their first job, to discuss their opportunities for advancement. We are flattered by their view of us as the success to which they aspire.
We assure them, even as we begin to examine our own assumptions, experience breeding observations too uncomfortable to quash.
We, who are the embodiment of The American Dream.
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