Monday, May 28, 2007

The Struggle Between Power and Innocence

This is an interesting take on a woman who made her way to the top by being aggressive and power hungry, but when she found herself in hot water, turned herself back in to a "little girl."

For many, this is a grand example of the manipulative nature of women. Many will use this woman as an example for a continuance of hatred; for a perpetuation of the idea that women are not genuine or strong enough to stand up for themselves.

I am not surprised. I mean this double life is common among women because we are told to be this way. On the one hand, we want so badly to be a part of society -- we want to have the high power jobs, want to have money, make the rules, etc. But often, it seems, climbing that ladder means oppressing someone else. We were oppressed, and to move up, we oppress. It does not seem fair or logical, but that is the reality of our capitalist world. Not that this fact makes it right. More, as we climb the ladder, we not only step on people, but we also make mistakes. And in a world where women are lauded for "acting" innocent and childlike, it is no wonder that we cower back to our specified gender roles when things go awry.

We constantly walk that fine line. And, in some ways, I wonder how much of our decisions are on a conscious level, and how much of these ideas are engrained in our very core.

I will say that in terms of this article about Monica Goodling, the writers at Slate appear to be missing a crucial point, and that is the idea of being a strong (maybe overly powerful) player in the workforce, and facing the judges in court. If someone gives you power, it is easy to execute tasks while on the clock. This is your butt on the line; this is your paycheck. However, in the courtroom, where she could have faced scary penalties, why would she put on her work-place mask? Why would she walk around the chambers as if she owned the place? No one that I know would ever make such a fool of themselves in a place where judicial respect is damn near required.

The authors say that Goodling is not following in the steps of other women before her who would never have trivialized their careers by "reverting" back to this innocent girl. But I contend that it is really hard to get away from this expectation and safety point. I mean I don't like the fact that women are plastered on magazine covers, on the television, or in movies because they look sweet, sexy and innocent, nor do I like that women get talked about as if they are second-class citizens. But they are. And even powerful women like Goodling are subjected to this. She is not immune to the double bind she must adhere to in our society. Basically the message facing women in top positions is: be strong, but be scared too (in addition to being sexy, demure, feminine, a great wife, mother, organizer, friend, etc).