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Friday, April 19, 2024

Column: A modern woman

It’s crazy how you can be having a conversation with someone and they utter one sentence that forever changes the course of the dialogue. That’s what happened to Democratic consultant Hilary Rosen last week during an appearance on CNN. She criticized presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign strategy of using his wife to appeal to women voters. After labeling Romney as old-fashioned, she boldly proclaimed that his wife Ann had “never actually worked a day in her life.”

The remark sparked an intense debate about the appropriateness of her comment. Eventually, the conversation transitioned from being about the specific incident to a general discussion on 21st-century motherhood, making me think about my future and what kind of modern woman I would be in, say, 10 years or so.

In my dream world I would have it all: a successful journalism career, well-behaved, charming children and an ambitious, hard-working husband with a career of his own. In my dream world I would be able to effortlessly switch back and forth between my roles as a career woman, wife and mother. But that’s just my dream.

The reality is much more difficult and complicated for women with multiple life aspirations such as myself, and the world can never be critical enough, whatever path a woman chooses. If you devote more time to your career, you’re a neglectful mother who does not value what’s really important. If you choose to stay at home, you’re not earning your keep. And if you try to balance both, you’re not doing either one well enough.

All of these expectations and conflicting messages leave me, a 19-year-old undergraduate student at one of the best universities in the country, almost wishing that I lived in the old days when nothing much was expected out of women. I don’t really mean it, but sometimes I find myself thinking about the time when women came in second and were kept in the home with a bit of … nostalgia?

It was just so simple back then. You’re born a female, so as soon as you hit puberty you get married, pop out a few babies, raise them and voilà! Life complete. Sure you might feel absolutely miserable every once in a while and harbor animosity due to your lack of autonomy, but you learn to suppress those thoughts and find happiness in your situation, because you don’t have any other choice.

Being a modern woman means having a choice and having freedom. It’s kind of like going from the elementary school cafeteria, where you basically eat the same thing every day, to being thrown into the CoHo with its different stations that have their own menus with dozens of options. The freedom to choose is great and you appreciate it, but it can potentially be quite overwhelming.

I am a modern young woman. I can’t help but to want to pursue a higher education. I can’t help but to want to have a successful career. I was socialized to do so from a very young age. I was told that I have a right that women before me fought to have — the right to dream big and to have the liberty to go after my dreams. Consequently, I have a hard time imagining myself being satisfied with the domestic life without having had a go at the career life.

However, I also can’t imagine myself being satisfied with being in a situation where my job is my only purpose and the only thing I love. I’ve always wanted to have a family. I was socialized to do so from a very young age. I know for a fact that being a parent is not an easy role, simply based on my experience as someone’s child. It takes resources, mental and physical strength, patience, persistence and so much more. It really is a full-time job.

Thankfully, I have a couple more years before I have to actually make those difficult decisions instead of just thinking about them.  Although I’m focusing on getting through my remaining two years of college for now, I have hope that I will eventually figure out what modern womanhood is as defined by me.

Contact PAMELA NONGA NGUE at pamnonga@ucdavis.edu if you’ve figured out the secret being a successful modern woman.

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