The other day, my friend sent me an article via email. While my friend’s words were inspirational (“This will totally be you some day!”) the feature only left me feeling unaccomplished and inferior.
Why, at 24, have I not figured out some way to insert whatever here? The lady boss in this particular profile had managed to distinguish herself and rise to the top by the time she turned 28. The pressure for us young female professionals is on.
Modern-day feminism has given women a lot of amazing things, including a platform for demanding social equality, in the form of issues like equal pay and equal hiring (and firing) opportunity. Through today’s thoughts on feminism, we’ve also gleaned a number of inspirational female role models that we women can look up to.
It’s because of feminism that we have the likes of Beyoncé, Hillary Clinton and Melissa Meyer, and can hope that one day we’ll have their empire-building skills and become moguls ourselves.
But with all the feminism-inspired “girl power” that we women have going on, it’s easy to get caught up in our role models’ mode of doing things.
We trick ourselves into believing that their successes can be easily mimicked, by “leaning in” or repeating the popular Pinterest mantra, “you have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé.”
That’s where feminism might lead us wrong — because every woman’s story is different, and while the value of hard work can’t be overestimated, women shouldn't feel like they have to sacrifice their real dreams or a personal life in order to be on the same level as the boys.
Feminism needs to drop the façade: Perhaps, “I woke up like this” should be replaced with “I struggled very hard to maintain this.”
It’s easy to forget our initial aims, and feel like if we’re not striving to be everybody’s boss or the first female president, we’re somehow failing the movement of empowered working women.
We have a tendency to believe that if we’re not making millions or morphing into Oprah overnight, we’re a disappointment to the female trailblazers who fought so hard for their own senior-level positions.
But that’s the best part about feminism — it simply enables women to achieve everything they want, on the same terms and with the same opportunities as everyone else in the game. Feminism shouldn’t dictate what women want; it should just help them get there, feeling good about it along the way.
Whether your notion of success is making just enough money to be a stay-at-home mom or inventing the next big thing, your desire to attain that goal — no matter how diverse or unlike, say, Angela Merkel’s career trajectory — is something you should never have to justify.
Women can want things that differ from the traditionally masculine notion of power and money as the best indicators of success, and can still be considered feminists.
Because feminism isn’t about being a slave to a man’s (or anyone else’s!) idea about what “making it” means; it’s about the opportunity to figure that out for yourself, and having access to all the tools you need to achieve those goals.
In her column that appears in Glamour magazine every other month, “Girls” actress Zosia Mamet provides insightful commentary on the topic. She said:
“…We’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms… The solution, I think, is to ask ourselves what we actually want — each of us personally — and stop putting so much pressure on one another.”
I might have combed through that Q&A with that 28-year-old, whose accolades list longer than my measly post-graduate résumé, for nuggets of advice, hoping it would contain the key to my own success.
But really, that information can’t be achieved from others’ stories, because success is a subjective standard. We should all be more ready to admit that, while women may want and deserve to achieve great things in life, that definition of “great” varies person to person, and that’s perfectly OK.
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