Friday, April 20, 2012

Firestorm of Fury: Fabulous, Feisty Me

I have three amazing children that I love and adore and occasionally annoy.  Rarely, if at all.  They each have a slightly different viewpoint about me.  This is true more because they are each at a slightly different stage of adolescence and early adulthood, more so than the fact that I have ever wavered or altered the basic tenets of my parenting and or the basic sense of myself as a person. 

At the core, would be a feisty and fitful advocate of human rights, that may appear focused on feminine/feminist/female issues, but that is simply because I am a female and I seem to bump into a great deal of  issues related to being female, head-on, every day in one form or another.  Some cause a minimum of discomfort, others a firestorm of fury, a few a ho-hum what-else-is-new apathetic disturbance.  Of course there are so many other qualities, traits, quirky and dorky peccadilloes, ( I hate that word, which is in itself a peccadillo), and all around swell components of me as a person and parent but I will focus on the feminist feisty fabulousness of me for this particular entry.

My youngest son, who suffers the fullness of me, alone and unarmed has a heightened appreciation of me, or so I like to believe.  It may be more of a tolerance or acceptance or a ho-hum what-else-is-new apathetic disturbance in relation to me, but I think not.  Recently, he asked how my day was.  I shared a thing or two about work and the unprofessional fact that yet another person was assigned to work with me and my class in a supportive role and had naively shared that he had heard something along the lines of “difficult”,  “challenging”, ah what the hell, “bitch” in relation to me and a feisty fabulous feminist colleague.   My son, without missing a beat said, “Why does that surprise you?” or “What else do you think would be shared?”

When you are finished gasping, raising your eyebrows or standing up and shouting “Amen!”  Just settle down and be assured, very assured, he was saying something altogether different.  He adores my feisty fabulous feminist friend and he is able to see me differently through his observations of her.  And I was altogether, validated, humbled and perhaps a little bit ready to strut like a fine-feathered rooster or a proud….Bitch.  My son thinks I’m a little much on occasion, but he also knows that I am strong, capable, reliable, unwavering in my love and care, determined, careful and thoughtful in my decisions.  He knows that I have high-expectations.  He also knows that the expectations I have of others in my care have always been individualized and thoughtfully supported.  He knows that when I put a plan into place it has been viewed and examined from every angle and that it will be quickly altered or tweaked and reexamined at the sign of any stress points. 

He knows all of those traits can be attributed to, and summed up quickly and easily as “difficult”, “challenging” and at times, “bitch”.  "Why do you let it bother you?" he muses. He also knows and shares, this is the easy way out and it says a great deal more, (less, really) about the person saying it than it says about me.   He, like his siblings, have enjoyed the fruits of these traits.  They have also grown to be strong, determined, challenging individuals that expect much and will have difficulty settling for little.  A curse and a cherished gift, me, as their mother.

In my job, I need to rely on the support of others to keep my program functioning smoothly.  I have the honor of co-teaching with the like-minded fabulous, feisty, impeccably professional colleague, and consulting with a superb psychologist and supportive friend.  We occasionally need the support of additional administrators and “support” staff, for the most part we’ll call them.... “a few men”.  Support can’t occur unless there is a shared sense of what is being supported, why it is needed and how it is implemented.  The minute this is questioned  and second-guessed it is no longer support.  Or supportive. Being in a position as women needing the support of men, often brings out all sorts of deeply entrenched and damaging dynamics.  Certainly these can be overcome, but only with the support and collaborative acumen of all players at the table.  The fact that "the few men" are in positions that allow or block us from the game, has not been very helpful, to put it mildly.

The reality that we have worked in challenging programs for over ten years, each with a great level of success is rarely considered.  Disciplinary referrals, minimal need for behavioral intervention support overall, and the ability for the students to progress within our program is easy enough to review. But that takes a wee little modicum of effort.  It’s much easier to peg us as.... “women”. It's much easier to go with hearsay and rumors, to call us "difficult".  It is true, we are strong and capable.   Recently the word "confident" was bandied about  like a disease or negative strain of some such threatening pandemic in reference to my colleague.  I have been referred to as "serious" and "strong" with much disdain.  It is quicker to apply culturally acceptable norms and refer to us as “bitches”.  We are challenged at every turn.   And we are then seen as challenging.   Go figure!  We are frequently excluded from meetings, at times in misguided attempts to protect,  thereby perpetuating the very stereotypes that diminish our abilities to be treated professionally.   Other times we are excluded because we may have something to say.  Or we may actually want to improve our program and place expectations on others in an effort to make things better for all.  We don't make flip decisions or appreciate help that is self-serving or violates the very core of our educationally sound program philosophy.  Easy to work with, not always.  Easy to see how we may be seen as bitches?  Yes.  Quick approach  on the surface?  Yes.   In turn, condescending,  demeaning,  undermining.  Yes, yes, yes.  

Bitch?   No.  That’s not my name or my style or my professional standing.  Calling me such, is unethical and protected under some major legal system that I also don't have access to in a way that will support or illicit change.  And so this continues and demeans, and undermines.  

Fabulous, Feisty, Feminine Feminist?  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Woman?  Oh, Yes!  Strong, capable, reliable, unwavering in my love and care, determined, careful and thoughtful in my decisions,  yes, that’s me.  Call me anytime.

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