Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Right or Requirement

There seems to be a misunderstanding in our culture between the definition of a "right" and a "requirement". I find, especially in my particular profession, that the misunderstanding goes quite deep. Merriam Websters defines the two with the following:

right: An abstract idea of that which is due to a person or governmental body by law or tradition or nature

require(ment): Consider obligatory; request and expect; make someone do something.

In other words, one gives you freedom while the other takes it away. In case you aren't following my train of thought so far, the two words mean very different things, and are not interchangeable.

Now, what does this have to do with me, my profession, and our culture at large? I am so glad you asked! I believe there are a great many people under the faulty assumption that the right of a woman to earn a college degree, procure gainful employment, and stand on equal footing as men in the professional and academic world is also a requirement for that same woman to obtain all of the above in order to be a contributing member of society, and ultimately personally fulfilled. It is a subtle transition between right to requirement, but it is there nonetheless. And ironically the more determined players in this game tend to be the women themselves! Because the fight for professional and academic equality took such an emotional cost in the women fighting on the battlefront many of my gender think the only way to honor their work is for all women to participate in the corporate or collegiate dream. I must have a higher degree because it is available to me. I must pursue financial independence because the law says employers are not allowed to discriminate against gender. And if I don't see the value in these pursuits I am ignorant, wasting my life, keeping our society in the "dark ages", in short single-handedly undoing the work which took so long to establish.

Right or Requirement? If what those men and women fought for in providing the means of literacy and financial gain to women was about requirement then I am indeed in the wrong. But I don't believe that was the point. I believe the point was to give women the choice to pursue their God-given talents without the hindrance of culturally defined stereotypes. The problem now is that much of our society has swung to the opposite end of the extreme we fought against years ago. Ask the average American woman whether she feels like she can be a contributing member of society staying at home and tending to her family's needs, and I bet you will get some version of the following answer:

I think that it is great if a woman wants to stay home while her children are young.

Hmm, so the first assumption is that a woman can only stay home if she has children, and the second is that those children must be small to boot. But a family is more than small children. A family can be older parents in need of care, a self-employed husband in need of bookkeeping, teenagers requiring gentle guidance through the last phase of adolescents - in short, it can be as diverse as the educational and financial choices now available to those same women. But I don't think it is often seen as a choice that stands on equal footing with the others.

I stand in opposition to this way of thinking. I don't see that a college degree necessarily guarantees any future success in life, and it certainly is no guarantor of happiness. I don't believe that my daughters must pursue financial independence in order to play an important role in their marriages. I don't believe that any woman should feel the pressure to leave their home and families in order to satisfactorily contribute to society, or fulfill their own personal sense of accomplishment. The only thing I recognize as a requirement for success in any pursuit a woman endeavors to achieve is an acknowledgement of Christ as Lord in her life.

"So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corinthians 10:31

1 comment:

  1. Carolyn8:56 PM

    To be a "stay at home mom" and care for my family is one of the greatest blessings given to me by my Heavenly Father. Thanks for making this mom feel good about what she is doing!!