Wednesday, December 31, 2014

WHAT DO YOU CALL THE PRESIDENT’S HUSBAND?


The Presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Chile today, and in the 70s

As I take stock of 2014, one of the things I am not so proud of is how I asked this question. I asked from a point of weakness, a point of defeat and surrender. I argued that few female presidents ever had successful marriages and I limited myself. I dreamed too little, I fell short in my ambitions and I allowed social norms and labels of a woman to define me and how I viewed women. I did not dare to lose sight of the shore.  I hesitated to walk in the school farm because a man told me that it was not safe for women to walk there alone. I had many opportunities to be the only woman in many things I did, but instead of seeing this as my strength, I took second place. Like Sheryl Sandberg puts it, I did not sit at the table, I did not lean in. I viewed feminism as a bad thing; I wanted to be ‘a stay at home mum’. My friends told me I would never make it as ‘a stay at home mum’, they said I was too ambitious, they added titles to my name and they were right, I am very ambitious. I talked to girls and encouraged them to dream, to come to the edge yet, when I came to the edge, I did not jump. 

Now that I look back, I am thankful for the New Year; for the opportunity to venture into wider seas and lose sight of the shore. I identify with my favourite quote from Marianne Williamson,

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, “Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous?” Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people don’t feel insecure around you. “

I am grateful for the lessons on womanhood learnt throughout the year. More importantly I am proud of the few times when as the only woman, I did not shy away from my feminism. I am grateful for the girls who looked up to me: those that made me realize that I would be responsible for the thoughts I passed on about womanhood. I am grateful for men who encouraged me not to allow my star to dim. I admire men like Dave Meyer; men who support their wives. I am proud of all ambitious women who do not shy off from being first, those women we look up to: the Deborah’s of our time. Women like Deborah Spar; Barnard president,  who reminds us that, “Feminism wasn’t supposed to make us feel guilty, or prod us into constant competitions over who is raising the children better, organizing more cooperative marriages or getting less sleep. It is supposed to make us free- to give us not only choices but the ability to make these choices without feeling we’d somehow gotten it wrong.” 

I encourage you to come to the edge, to venture on wider sea shores, to lose sight of land and find the stars. Success and likeability are negatively correlated for women only as long as we women do not support each other and men do not embrace the notion of an ambitious woman. What do we call the president’s husband? We call him what we choose to call him, as long as we embrace the idea of having the ‘president’s husband’. Like Sheryl Sandberg says, “Let’s raise the ceiling and the floor. In the future there will be no female leaders; there will be just leaders.”  Cheers to more ambition in 2015! Let that woman free!





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