Wednesday, January 4, 2012


I grew up in the Title IX generation - schools had to offer all the same activities to girls as to boys.  I played sports and joined other extracurricular activities.  My mother was a housewife for most of my childhood, so I was modeled the traditional division of household duties at home, but this did not serve to make me think I should assume those roles - though it did ingrain in me how much I would like a housewife myself!  I truly never had any idea that there were perceived limits as to the roles of men and women.  It helps that I'm just shy of 6'0 - none of that patronizing "little lady" stuff was coming my way - and I am more than capable of expressing myself.  It never occurred to me that there were jobs I couldn't (or shouldn't) pursue or that I should play dumb or not express my opinions. By the time I got to law school, most law schools were graduating roughly 50% women.  From talking to my friends over the years, I realize that my life experience is very different than many women my age.

One experience gave me a view at what my friends talked first husband and I went car shopping for a new car back in about 1989.  When the salesman came out, he focused himself completely on my husband; when we were in his office making an offer, he didn't even look at me  - which really infuriated me since I was the one with the job and the salary that would be paying for the car - and we made an obnoxiously lowball offer and then walked when he "went to talk to the manager". 

I am grateful to have been raised to believe I am equal to anyone.  I am even more grateful that I still believe it.


  1. I love that Sarah - I hope I've raised my daughter to be strong and confident.

  2. I hear ya'! The first time my husband and I opened an account together, the CSR talked almost exclusively to my husband, though I was the one with the income and he was a student. He gave my dh the papers to sign, and then I signed the "co-applicant" spaces. Ever since then, that has been our running joke, that I am his "co-applicant in life".

  3. I'm glad I wrote, "Yes Virginia, Men Do Clean Toilets." I am a firm believer in the concept that work acknowledges no gender boundaries. Im my world women use chain saws, and men clean refrigerators, unless circumstances dictate the opposite. Whatever gets the job done.

  4. My husband and I joke that he's the family's spiritual leader, after reading about that concept somewhere. I know that works for some people's marriage, but it's not our reality.

  5. What strikes me Sarah is that your mother modeled traditional roles and yet you felt none of that pressure. Perhaps your height insulated you from that...which was great. Although I think I would love to see you with an apron and vacuum cleaner and making a casserole for dinner!!
    How were you able to not get the culture's message of compliance and submission? I would love to be able to pass this on to Bella. I know that I 'preached' it to Becky while fitting the role of tradition personally. I was (or maybe still am) a split personality.

  6. I can only imagine that I was lazy and appreciative of my mother's efforts, and it never occurred to me that I should aspire to the same. If you've seen my home, you will appreciate that I haven't a bit of interest in "keeping house". My mom forced me to do chores, but the same ones my brother had to do...I think we were just really spoiled and entitled when it came to having things done for us...

    I also think there have been times where someone has tried to pull some gender-crap on me and I just don't even acknowledge it (often I don't even realize it until later) or acquiesce to it.

    I'm sure it helps that I'm taller than most men and that I'm not afraid to speak my mind. But I also think that I've had to give up the other side of this equation because while a door might get held for me, I'm unable to play the feminine wiles game and by a 'blink blink' have things done for me. Except with my husband, who only lets me get away with it because he's nice that way.

  7. Interesting post, Sarah. It made me reflect back on how I came to be the - take it or leave it word coming - strong feminist that I am. I was raised as the oldest daughter in a big family with many of the customary gender roles in place. I left home via an early marriage in which the husband came to expect those roles from me. The feminist movement was just starting up and I found my strength at the newly opened Women's Center on the SJSU campus. I don't even know if such forums exist on college campuses these days - perhaps not needed? But the consciousness raising that happened for women of my age was a forever gift. Since that time, I have maintained my ability to view gender roles as not in concrete but rather what will meet the needs of the situation. See Mark's comment above. :)
    PS - I gave up my birth name in that first marriage and seizing it back was one of the first things I did when I realized the marriage was not going to work. I have embraced it ever since as a firm stand on who I am, not who I am in relation to my husband. Also, in the real world, I go by JT - something that got firmly attached to me when I was in college. I really like that way of identifying myself, in part, because it is so androgynous. I love that a person who sees my name written somewhere - JT O'Neill - can't tell if I am male or female. I love it when people at work assume I am a male and I get to knock their socks off when they discover that I am no boy - it is fun.
    Thanks for posting our thoughts. You sure set me to thinking.

  8. JT, you have likely inspired my next post - I changed my name with the first marriage, immediately changed it back when we divorced, and never even considered changing it when Sean and I got married (caught poor Sean off guard but he rebounded well). I've had many conversations about this topic, and many very interesting reactions! You aren't really a generation ahead of me, I don't think, but certainly the feminist movement allowed me the freedom to consider myself an "equalist"...

  9. Sarah, I would love to hear your name stories. I would never give up my name now. That would be so weird and it's odd to me but I sure don't understand how people just routinely do that. Maybe they don't like the name with which they were born? Michael knew from the beginning that there was not way I would change my name. He didn't care. His MOTHER did but I think because she thought I was ALMOST good enough for her son, she accepted it. Well, sort of - if she mailed us something it was always addressed to Mr and Mrs Him. Whatever.
    I am interested in reactions you have had to keeping your name. Here in this progressive corner of the country, it is no big deal. How about where you are?


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