Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Women’s Liberation

Growing up as a kid in the sixties and seventies I was given many mixed messages which I am still confused about today.

As written in an earlier post, my up-bringing was very much “Leave It To Beaver.” My parents had very traditional roles. My father was the bread-earner accountant and my mother was the great cook and perfect hostess home maker. In a lot of ways I even took on the role of the “Beav”……remember the episode when Beaver decided to cut his own hair and kept cutting to fix it? Yup, been there, done that.

All around me were the traditional roles, but in the media were bits of pieces of news such as women’s lib and burning bras. Gloria Steinem was a name I was curious about. There were even Virginia Slim cigarette ads. “You’ve Come A Long Way Baby!” (Although they weren’t for sale in Canada) The hit song on the radio was Helen Reddy “I Am Women Hear Me Roar.”

There was never any discussion about my education. My parents expected I was going to university. I was not to even “settle” for a community college education. It was assumed I was going to graduate with a degree. I was always told I could do whatever I wanted with my life..... as long as it was a nurse or a teacher or some other traditional female role. In grade 13 (yes we had grade 13 in those days), ater taking my first flying lesson, I got up the nerve to confide to my high school guidance counsellor I wanted to be an airline pilot. He politely, but matter of factly, told me girls could not be pilots. It was 1978. I believed him.

Off to university I went to get my B.A. I went to Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo. My friends and I laughed at the girls who went off to Western or Queens to earn their MRS degrees. (Western and Queens Universities were reputed to be the best place to meet rich husbands) I had no desire to even think about such things. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be independent. I wanted to do something unique.

About to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree, (double majors of history and sociology and a minor in physical education) I realized I wasn’t really qualified to be anything. I panicked. So I applied to teacher’s college (they call it the Faculty of Education now) thinking at least I would “be” something within the year. I also decided to get married.

What was I thinking???

On the eve before my wedding, my mother took me aside. I was cringing as I thought it was going to be “the talk”. I guess it was. My mother flatly told me, “I hope you are going to teach a few years before you decide to have children. We spent a lot of money on your education and we would hate to see it wasted.”

Hmmmmm…..Women’s Liberation all around me, but what did it really mean?

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