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Superwoman, is she any happier?
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Cora



Joined: 12 Mar 2008
Posts: 1129
Location: Bremen, Germany

PostPosted: Sun Oct 18, 2009 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maternity rights have become a problem, because it makes many employers unwilling to employ women of child-bearing age. I have had applications to jobs rejected and ended up shuttled into the education sector and I bet that at least in some cases my gender was a factor in rejecting my application. As a woman who is childless and does not want children, this makes me angry. If you are childless but of childbearing age, it is sometimes even more difficult to find a job, because employers believe you are just waiting for a secure job to get pregnant (because apparently some people cannot get their head round the fact that there are women who truly do not want or cannot have any children). And women like the one mentioned by Elaine make it more difficult for all of us.

On the other hand, maternity leave is an important right to allow new mothers to take care of their children without having to fear financial hardship. One simply has to find away to prevent exploitation and to prevent that important right from holding other women back, because the last thing we need is a battle between mothers and childless women.

In Germany, fixing the problem would be relatively simple, because the maternity/paternity leave money is paid by the state and not the employer. We may have to get rid of laws which require employers to keep the position of a woman on maternity leave open for her until she returns (even though some women know perfectly well that they don't intend to return) or getting rid of the law which makes it impossible to get rid of an employee even if she gets pregnant after a few months on the job or is already pregnant upon hire (which she does not have to disclose).
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Elaine S



Joined: 02 Apr 2007
Posts: 667
Location: Rural England

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lynda said: Life is not easy for the vast majority of people. Agreed but it is relative I think. I think we are all comparing our nice first world lives with all of our luxuries and not thinking about how life is for 90% of the planet's population where life for men and women is difficult.

Lynda also said: "Compare depression rates in those societies that women have no freedom, and it jolts you back into thankfulness. How can we do this? I am thinking of strict, Sharia dominated societies where information about women is very difficult to find or, say, sub-Saharan societies where depression is far down the list of life's travails after poverty, hunger, AIDS, drought, etc. I am being provocative here but maybe having no choices means less depression. Most people I have met with (or dealt with through charity work I used to do) over the years who suffer with depression (of a non-clinical nature) do so because they have difficulty making choices because of they are overwhelmed by the multitude of options or have problems in making value comparisons about the issues that arise in their lives and so withdraw mentally from making proactive decisions about their lives.

As far as the old dental drill is concerned, if painless dentistry hadn't been invented yet, how would you know there was anything different? Maybe you would be appreciative of the pain because that was better than no treatment at all. Right now we suffer with cancer and other nasty illnesses. It may be that in 100 years no one will suffer because you will take a pill or have an injection and your cancer will disappear. It's all about 20/20 hindsight and although I certainly appreciate the rights and current progress we have made, our great grandaughters may think we were hard done by. And, let's not forget that 100 years ago men were down mines, working in heavy industry without health and safety provision and dying young from industrial poisoning and accidents, etc. It wasn't exactly a bed of roses for them either.

Finally, here is a quote I have been carrying around in my wallet for some years from the novelist Doris Lessing:

"The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests."

Although I don't fully agree, it's still food for thought.
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Allyson



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 567

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 4:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have to say, I really don't agree with that quote at all! I've heard that argument put forth, but, in general, I still see loads of criticism towards women, sometimes more than towards men. Women in politics still get criticized on their appearance and fashion in a way that men don't, and go onto any celebrity board and it's the actresses who people loathe, not the actors.

I think that physical violence of a woman towards a man is still considered funny (something I don't agree with personally), but that's because she's thought to be ineffective, not because people give women a free pass.

Maybe it depends on where you are, but overall I'd say women get criticized more harshly than men for a lot of things--less for others, true, but it balances out. So to say 'no one' would protest is just so foreign to me.

Even in fiction, male characters often tend to get a free pass where female characters aren't. Not sure why this is, but it seems pretty common.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 4708

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
[bAs far as the old dental drill is concerned, if painless dentistry hadn't been invented yet, how would you know there was anything different? Maybe you would be appreciative of the pain because that was better than no treatment at all. Right now we suffer with cancer and other nasty illnesses. It may be that in 100 years no one will suffer because you will take a pill or have an injection and your cancer will disappear. It's all about 20/20 hindsight and although I certainly appreciate the rights and current progress we have made, our great grandaughters may think we were hard done by. And, let's not forget that 100 years ago men were down mines, working in heavy industry without health and safety provision and dying young from industrial poisoning and accidents, etc. It wasn't exactly a bed of roses for them either.
.


Elaine, I get where you're coming from here on things being relative and what you're used to. I'm sure many women lead full happy lives though perhaps not what we would enjoy by today's standards.

I was just reading an article the other day on how unhappy many women are today because they're trying to balance working full time, caring for children, cooking dinner, cleaning the house, doing charity work, etc. They're trying to be 'super woman' and if they fall short they're beating themselves up. I think we've still got a little ways to go to find balance, not that I think we should go backward.

Getting back to the intention of this thread, for me as a reader I would be happier if authors didn't water down their time periods for fear of turning off modern readers. The point of reading a historical is to get lost in another time when things were different than they are now, it's not nearly as appealing otherwise. This is the main reason I stopped reading historicals and if I did look for them it was not in the romance section.

Linda
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msaggie



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 693

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Elaine S wrote:
..Lynda also said: "Compare depression rates in those societies that women have no freedom, and it jolts you back into thankfulness. How can we do this? I am thinking of strict, Sharia dominated societies where information about women is very difficult to find or, say, sub-Saharan societies where depression is far down the list of life's travails after poverty, hunger, AIDS, drought, etc. I am being provocative here but maybe having no choices means less depression. Most people I have met with (or dealt with through charity work I used to do) over the years who suffer with depression (of a non-clinical nature) do so because they have difficulty making choices because of they are overwhelmed by the multitude of options or have problems in making value comparisons about the issues that arise in their lives and so withdraw mentally from making proactive decisions about their lives.....
Elaine I do agree with you to a certain degree. When your options are to adapt and get on with life, or be left on the sidelines while the rest of society marches on, people who can get on with it just carry on. Those who can't are unfortunately going to succumb to the adverse effects of true depression - suicide, or early death from self-neglect, particularly if there is no support from family or society. And in many societies where women's lives are tough, and more about survival, there is less access to the myriad treatments for depression, from psychotherapy to medication, which are available to people who live in industrialised countries. When I came to live in the US, I was struck by how strong the attitude of "you can do anything if you put your mind to it" was - this is a good thing as it makes you try your best, etc. However, the flip side of it is that not everyone can do "anything" and make it a success - and I think the greater expectations we (and society in general) put on ourselves make us more prone to low feelings (I won't call it depression per se) when we don't succeed. When one has lower expectations of oneself (not to denigrate oneself, but to be more realistic), a degree of humility and acceptance makes us able to deal with the situation better when things don't work out the way we originally wanted. This is the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth, and when all's been said and done, life is really about adaptation, and those who cannot adapt - whether humans or plants or animals or bacteria or cells - to the environment, to the changing hardships of life, etc - unfortunately they are "naturally selected" out. We see it in the simplest medical examples of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, cancer resistance to chemotherapy, etc.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 4225
Location: Detroit Metro

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 8:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

msaggie wrote:
When I came to live in the US, I was struck by how strong the attitude of "you can do anything if you put your mind to it" was - this is a good thing as it makes you try your best, etc. However, the flip side of it is that not everyone can do "anything" and make it a success - and I think the greater expectations we (and society in general) put on ourselves make us more prone to low feelings (I won't call it depression per se) when we don't succeed.

Yes, msaggie, you said it well. Of course, we always hear the adage, "You can be anything you want to be." And that's a good thing to keep as a goal. But realistically that isn't so. There are those who truly do persevere in life and we need to hear their stories. But most people are challenged with many obstacles in life that hinder that dream. That's not to say that one should not have goals or not try to better their circumstances or their personalities; but attaining a goal does not necessarily equate with being a success at it. Or vice versa--not attaining a goal doesn't mean a failure either. The journey matters also. But try telling that to someone who feels that what the Joneses have, they can also have. And when they don't, in spite of all their efforts, it's possible to see where depression (or something related) can creep in.
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Margaret



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 881

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 9:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
[quote="Elaine S"]Lynda said: Life is not easy for the vast majority of people. Agreed but it is relative I think. I think we are all comparing our nice first world lives with all of our luxuries and not thinking about how life is for 90% of the planet's population where life for men and women is difficult.



My question is going way off topic, but how is it for children of modern first world societies? Better...worse...same? Are violence rates up among children or poverty rates, etc? I don't really know...it seems we hear about more of them, but perhaps due to constant media coverage.
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Lea AAR



Joined: 11 Apr 2007
Posts: 415
Location: Oklahoma

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In splitting this topic off from Period Mores and Etiquette in Historical Romance, please note my comments concerning our reasons (as posted on the Potpourri forum):

This thread is certainly an interesting one and although an occasional post does have to do with the original topic, Period Mores and Etiquette in Historical Romance, most now tend towards a sociological discussion of a woman’s freedom/rights/choices.

The definition of topics for our Potpourri forum is “General romance-related topics – including trends you love, covers rants, pet peeves…”

To keep this discussion live yet allow others to still post about period mores and etiquette in reference to historical romance, I am splitting this topic as of Elaine S’s post on Oct. 15th when she posed this question:

Here's something else to consider. Although there was a long fight for women's rights and equality, etc, etc, are women any happier now that they have a bewildering and often contradictory range of life choices? Is Superwoman any happier than her great, great, great grannie whose life was spelt out more or less from birth? Has women's lib gone too far, emasculated men and bitten us all in the rear?
This split topic will be moved to the Wild West forum under the name of Superwoman, is she any happier?

For those of you who have continued to post concerning the subject matter of the original thread, your comments may be moved with the split thread. Please feel free to make your comments again to the shortened, original thread that will remain on the Potpourri forum

Lea
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 2505

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think the question about being happier has an answer, but I do think women lead more difficult lives today than they did prior to achieving some equality of opportunity. In the past, they may have had fewer opportunities but were more unlikely to miss them because the state of things didn't allow them to expect them. In the past, although they might have to compete for something they usually had only other women to contend with; now they have to compete with everybody else, including men, to get it. And, unfortunately, females are the only gender (so far, at least) who can reproduce, so they automatically have a handicap which at least half their competitors don't.
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veasleyd1



Joined: 02 Dec 2007
Posts: 2064

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
I don't think the question about being happier has an answer, but I do think women lead more difficult lives today than they did prior to achieving some equality of opportunity. In the past, they may have had fewer opportunities but were more unlikely to miss them because the state of things didn't allow them to expect them. In the past, although they might have to compete for something they usually had only other women to contend with; now they have to compete with everybody else, including men, to get it. And, unfortunately, females are the only gender (so far, at least) who can reproduce, so they automatically have a handicap which at least half their competitors don't.


This may apply only to women of middle class and above. I cannot think that the life of a woman today is more difficult than that of an agricultural worker, a mill worker, or those who during the early industrial revolution crawled on their hands and knees to pull carts in the mines.

Perhaps we need a clear and distinct definition as to whether the word "woman" as used here applies only to those middle class and above in the past, or to all adult females of the period.
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xina



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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Location: minneapolis

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think women are more empowered than they were 50 years ago and wasn't that the purpose of women's liberation? Happiness wasn't what the movement was striving for. Happiness is a day to day thing and I think is an individual matter.
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Lee



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
Posts: 215

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

12 MONTHS!!! Is any of that with pay? 12 weeks unpaid here in the US. US employers need to adapt.
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tirlittan



Joined: 12 Apr 2007
Posts: 213
Location: Northern Finland

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting discussion, guys! It brought to mind a phrase my grade school teacher kept hammering into our heads to the point of exhaustion when we were nearing teenage: "With freedom comes responsibility". The older I get the more I seem to recognize the truth in that in my life and in the world around us.

Many of the things I would have tried to put into words when it comes to "women's lib" have already been written here far better than I could do it (thanks to Rike, CD, veasley and others), but Elaine's question got me too thinking about the question of happiness.

I agree, it is by it's nature relative and elusive, and very difficult to measure. It's also not restricted to women. We should also ask if men are happier today than their grandfathers at the same age? Don't the same changes (both the positive and the negative) in the society apply to them? The overwhelming amount of choises to be made, the longing for simpler times? The difficulty of combining both a carreer and being a good, attentive father and a husband? From that perspective you could make the argument that people in general are less happy with their lives today than their counterparts in earlier times. But to me that's very simplistic and glorifies the past way too much. I think this is a matter of having a different set of worries, like many here have already written.

As for happiness, I'm not so sure that being happy is what life's all about. It seems to me that life moves in phases (at least to an extent): there are times when the overriding feeling in my life is happines, at other times it might be grief, or fear, or contentment, or love, or exitement or anger. You get the point. Nobody is happy all the time, and I'm sure we all know that without the difficulties, the struggles and the annoying little details of daily life we'd be unable to recognize the moments of happiness when they come. I 'm getting off topic and simplisticly philosophical (or is that philosophically simplistic?) here, sorry fo that! The point I was trying to make is that I'm not so sure that "happiness" is an indicator that we shoud be using when we're making these kinds of comparisons between the quality of life in different times and/or cultures. It's too elusive and too difficult to measure.
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Margaret



Joined: 23 Mar 2007
Posts: 881

PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
Lee wrote:
12 MONTHS!!! Is any of that with pay? 12 weeks unpaid here in the US. US employers need to adapt.


In Canada we are allowed up to 12 months leave, and receive 55% of our wages paid thru Employment Insurance...not the employer.
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JaneO



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 19, 2009 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think there is any doubt that modern conveniences make life more comfortable. Living with indoor plumbing and central heating is much pleasanter than living without them. But being comfortable is not the same thing as being happy, is it? I don't know of any way to measure happiness, certainly not over past centuries. I simply have a gut feeling that happiness is probably more or less constant over the ages. I'm sure we all know people who seem to look for reasons to be happy and others who seem to look for reasons to be miserable. I doubt that is something that has changed.

As for available choices, I would not dream of suggesting that fewer is better than more. I am delighted that the generations that grew up after me had employment choices other than teacher/nurse/secretary (generally accompanied by "Oh, it doesn't matter. You'll just be getting married anyway."). Yes, I know that women in the 1950s were becoming doctors and lawyers, etc., but it was a lot harder than it is now.

On the other hand, every choice has a downside. If you want to make partner in a major law firm, you are going to have to put in 60-70 hour weeks. If you also want to have children, you aren't going to see much of them. This is, I think, why so many women end up earning less than men. It's not so much that they are discriminated against as that they have chosen something other than the fast track. It's still a choice.

Incidentally, back in the 1960s I was teaching in a girls' private school. The headmaster announced that he wanted to try to get some men on the faculty (all female at that point), and then added that he would, of course, have to pay them more than we were being paid. He came very near to being torn to pieces. Thank heaven that sort of thing no longer happens (at least, not in the light of day).
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