Saturday, March 21, 2009

Children's, and Others', Resilience

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

"The Changeling" and "The Secret Life of Bees"

This afternoon, I was reading the scholarly version of realities I've known all my life: Women, historically, have been expected to spend their time, caring for others, whereas men have not. The journal articles were on gender and time for the Time & Learning class I'm taking this semester and they brought to mind *The Feminine Mystique*, which I read in a day at my widowed aunt's home in Israel when I was 20.

The articles alienated me mostly, and made me feel different than many women. When I was 20, I didn't yet know that I'd have no children, though I knew that if I did the right thing, I'd have no husband.

The articles spoke exclusively of heterosexual women and their power struggles with their husbands and families for time to themselves, and how even when they got it, they couldn't enjoy it for feeling guilty.

Last night, Pat and I watched "The Changeling," and tonight, "The Secret Life of Bees." Slight spoiler alert: Both were about children who got insufficient attention from their mothers; that the fathers were absent and abusive respectively was not the focus, but rather, the characters of the women for needing to take the most survival-oriented next step in each case.

Pat watched tonight's film and turned to me at one point, saying, "Watching this movie, I'm reminded that it's a miracle that black people will even talk to white people." Watching the behavior of many of the adults in the two films, I wondered how kids could even stand to talk to adults, and seeing many of the men in the two films, and reading the academic articles this afternoon, similarly, I wondered how women could even talk to men....Now, if I spend just a moment re-reading those sentiments, I see how destructive they are; instead, I need to focus on the good people among every gender, race and age. Children, people of color, women and other historically-underrepresented groups have been resilient, and tribulation -- like the violent cold of Chicago winters -- has tended to galvanize our energy ultimately.

This afternoon, I spoke with a schoolmate, who's in the doctoral version of my program, and who's planning on writing her dissertation to feature sexual orientation. She had contacted me to talk about my experience of being openly lesbian at IBM; I told her that it has been a great experience so far and that since there are ~400,000 IBMers in 170 countries worldwide, when we do good things in the countries where we work and live, including being inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients and colleagues, I believe it's possible for IBM even to have a positive societal impact.

"What inspired you to focus your dissertation on sexual orientation?" I asked her as we were hanging up.

"First, of course, I have a personal interest in the topic, but second, there's really not a lot of research out there and I figure that like what you said about IBM, if I can make an impact even on someone out there, that would be terrific."

This schoolmate and I are prime examples of women whose voices were not included in the gender and learning articles I read this afternoon....

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