False Choices

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”.     ~Audre Lorde

“The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results”.    ~Albert Einstein


So I read the Sandberg book, after absorbing all of the talking heads weighing in on how right or wrong she is.  On the surface, I have no real issues with the book, other than she’s a ridiculously priviledged person for whom success, one way or the other, was pretty much a given. But in some respects that’s just shooting the messenger – she raises legitimate questions that shouldn’t be dismissed just because she had Larry Summers as a mentor.  While I don’t agree with all her answers, I appreciate the questions she raises.   I found most of the book thoughtful and fact-based, although I still have utterly no desire to climb the corporate ladder.

Also, I’m not a parent, so much of the book I can only empathize with – but I do empathize. My stay-at-home mom friends wish they worked and worry about what messages they are sending to their daughters, while my working mom peeps wish they could spend more time with their kids and feel guilty for missing soccer games and dance recitals. Women torture themselves with these sorts of dilemmas, while most men never think twice about being a working parent.  The stay-at-home dad is still an anomaly in our culture, and we still talk about dads “babysitting” their own kids.  Geez Louise, as I like to say.

But on a deeper level, the whole thing just enrages me. All this yapping about the glass ceiling, women still doing more work at home, perceptions of women being either too nice or too bossy…I don’t disagree, mind you, but I mostly feel like it’s been the same conversation for thirty years. Things get a little better, a little worse, but nothing seems to fundamentally change.  In the same time frame the gay rights movement has gone from the AIDS epidemic and people being terrified of homosexuals to having fairly broad support for gay marriage.  Meanwhile, we women are still twiddling around trying to get equal pay while men in suits and religious garb continue to determine our reproductive destinies.

Here’s what I want to know: if a system doesn’t work for half the population, why do we keep trying to make it work? Why do we keep having conversations about how women can make the corporate structure work for them when it’s a structure created by and designed to promote patriarchal notions about society? It’s a system designed from the get-go to keep us out.  I listen to these very accomplished women talking about their challenges as they either villify or gush about Sandberg, and think Christ, no wonder so many women drop out. *I* want to drop out after listening to them. But short of becoming a stay-at-home mother to my cat, there’s no place to drop.

Women aren’t the problem – the SYSTEM is the problem. But we continue to tinker and tweak and negotiate our way through a system designed to keep us out. Instead of “leaning in” to a system that ultimately doesn’t work for the vast majority of women, why can’t we, y’know, just create a better system?

And like Audre Lorde, I don’t think we make this shift by using the tools of the patriarchy to dismantle a patriarchal system. I don’t think asking for pregnancy parking spaces, important though they may be, is exactly the revolution we need.  I also don’t think continuing to bang our heads against the glass ceiling, hoping it will eventually break, is a particularly useful endeavor.  Frankly, my head hurts enough already.


About Lori Allen Writes

Lori is plotting to take over the world one essay, one quilt, and one hand knit sock at a time.
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