Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lessons for Girls, Number Three: Be Independent

Reassigned Time: Lessons for Girls, Number Two: Opting Out

This is a meme that started with Historiann's Lesson Number One, which was basically that anger can be a good thing. Lesson Number Two just went up today over at Reassigned Time, and is basically that it is equally ok not to engage. I am going to try for Number Three, Be Independent.

Boys never are raised to think someone is going to take care of them. Girls need to always think in terms of supporting themselves, owning their own property, having their own bank accounts and lines of credit, paying their own way.

Instead, we are raised to believe that men will buy us dinner, movie tickets, gifts, a home, car, clothing, vacations. They will make the big bucks: Whether we work or not, they will be capable of and responsible for supporting the family. This is nuts. This leaves girls dependent, and in an unhealthy marriage it means women will be trapped.

It ought never to be a question of whether we will work. It should be assumed that we will be completely self-supporting, whether we are married or not. We should never, ever be dependent upon a man again once we're old enough not to need parental support any more.

Even a few lesbians occasionally fall into this trap, where one expects the other to support her, and where one uses her ability to support the other as leverage. As far as I know, it's a woman thing: At least I can't think of any gay male couples I've encountered where that is the dynamic.

Although I am a feminist, and my mom raised me to have an education and a career, I have never managed my money as though I were an independent financial entity. It's amazing how subtle this kind of internalized sexism can be: I just never took myself seriously in the financial realm. It's only recently that I have begun to think differently about what I deserve to make--and keep.

Of course part of that was the whole anti-materialism thing of the '60s, but not all.

It's such a new idea to me that I was astounded to learn the other day that a small business owner (female) up the street grosses $2 million a year. I know, of course, that there are a lot of women out there making bunches of money. But she's an ordinary woman like me, see, that's what was so amazing about it. I have, without realizing it, had it in my head all these years that real (ordinary) women never have any money of their own.

So anyway, I'm starting to ask for--and expect--more money for my work. And last week I opened my own checking account. For no reason other than that I felt I should have one.

So endeth the Lesson.

Simply,

5 comments:

Susan said...

I was raised by a single mother, so I always knew I had to be able to support myself. But taking money seriously -- I think that's a huge step for many of us.

red rabbit said...

My mother was left a single parent when my father died unexpectedly. She never got over having to support herself. To this day she is looking for someone to take care of her, be that a husband or my brother-in-law, or me.

I never got over being six and entirely dependent on someone who couldn't balance a chequebook.

Belle said...

Financial independence is so tied to the other kinds of independence - too bad we still have to fight to be adequately compensated, to justify ourselves as workers. I've always taken money seriously, and being responsible for my own future is scary when we encounter institutionalized barriers to equal pay. Maybe if we all knew your lesson, we'd have a whole new group of young women to help us fight.

profacero said...

Susan's right.

I was raised by a married non working mother and I feel terrible guilt every day about not having dared to be one too. It just didn't seem safe, but my not following in my mother's footsteps hurt her and my father a lot.

The point isn't that you should work, the point is that you shouldn't feel guilty about making real money. It's not crass (I was taught it was), and it isn't selfish to spend it (i was taught that too).

Good post.

profacero said...

Susan's right. I also identify with Red Rabbit: "I never got over being six and entirely dependent on someone who couldn't balance a chequebook."

I was raised by a married non working mother and I feel terrible guilt every day about not having dared to be one too. It just didn't seem safe, but my not following in my mother's footsteps hurt her and my father a lot.

When I was six I took my mother out to coffee and had her sign a contract whereby, if my parents divorced, my father would have custody. I explained that as a girl I would not feel safe being raised by someone as committed to dependency as she.

The point isn't that you should work, the point is that you shouldn't feel guilty about making real money. It's not crass (I was taught it was), and it isn't selfish to spend it (i was taught that too).

Good post.