Hey there! So as I shared last week, I have set myself a summer reading goal: I’m reading a book a week for 15 weeks. I started 4 weeks (and 4 books!) ago and will go through to the first week of September.
On my second week of this challenge, I finished When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins. I was recommended this book by someone as a counterpoint to some really dumb things said by Fox News about women in the workplace. So I headed to my local library and hunkered down for some good girl power history lessons.
I have to admit, after a couple weeks to think it over, I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book.
Part of me (the lady empowerment part) was in awe of the tireless efforts of generations of women in securing our current position in society. This book detailed a the stark contrast of today’s ladies with a woman in the 50s whose post-high school options were mostly limited to finishing school in the guise of college, marriage or (oftentimes) a career as a secretary or teacher. The equal rights movement, which continues today, was furthered by these remarkable women.
Another part of me (the self-focused Gen X’er part) felt pretty guilty. Comparing my current situation to those of the women who are only a few generations removed from me, I have life pretty cushy. It’s never occurred to me that I might not be able to have a career AND a family. In my work, I’ve never felt direct or overt sexism. I take it for granted that gender plays no role in how seriously my work is taken (though I do often think about the role of age in being taken seriously in today’s workplace). Sure, I probably have it easier than some, being in a more female dominated industry, in the happy bubble that is the Pacific Northwest.
And finally, a tiny sliver of myself (perhaps the long-suffering journalism major part) had a hard time with the structure of this book. This book relied heavily on anecdotal examples to make its point. While these stories and individuals did make for a more engaging read – and humanized a movement that, in my perspective, seemed so much larger than my comprehension- it also felt at times like one person’s point of view, backed up by her friend’s collaborations. Direct quotes from women were given, but the context and background of these women was never explained in a way that quite satisfied me. I was sometimes left wondering who this woman was, and why I should listen to her opinion (something that I can so clearly picture the commentators on Fox saying that I am cringing at myself).
Overall, however, I loved this lesson in women’s lib. It sparked interest and conversation with my fellow ladies, and has given me a new appreciation and understanding of the world my mother and her mother may have lived in- and how different their worlds were from my own.
For a more thorough (and helpful!) review of this book, I enjoyed the NY Times article.