Power or Responsibility?

Several years ago, a local arts centre ran an ad for the position of General Manager.  It caught my eye – for a second, I must’ve thought of applying.  But then my conscious self must’ve recognized it as being out of my league and I read on.

But then I thought, wait a minute!  I’m 37 years old, I’m a multidisciplinary artist who has published books, produced and marketed cassettes, and run music and dance studios, I’ve been Chief Negotiator for a union, I’m intelligent, I’m efficient – surely I’m capable!  Even though I’ve had no experience specifically as a General Manager, surely I have the skills “to be a team leader, to balance the arts and business, to be sensitive to multiple art forms, to be a host at ease with the community and the industry….”

So why then was I reluctant to apply?  Well, I thought, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of responsibility (the ad said the centre was “a $1 million venue”) – and that daunted me.

But – and this is the point I want to examine – a man with half my background, and probably ten years less experience, wouldn’t think twice about applying.  Why is that?

Perhaps it’s that women see responsibility where men see power.  Women see burdens where men see benefits.  Women see work where men see privilege.

Hm.  And why is that?  One, women haven’t had a lot of power – so they’re not used to looking for it, seeing it, using it.  Two, women have had a lot of responsibility – so that’s what they’re used to noticing.

Wait a minute – men haven’t had a lot of responsibility?  But they run the government, big business –   Yeah.  Ironic, isn’t it.

What I mean is, consider this.  As girls, we got jobs as babysitters: that’s a lot of responsibility – what if the house catches fire, what if the baby starts choking?  On the other hand, as boys, men got jobs as ‘paper boys’: they were responsible for getting a bunch of paper onto someone’s porch.

The trend continued in adolescence: the women became camp counsellors and recreation leaders, while the men worked on maintenance crews; the women were entrusted with the physical, social, emotional, and artistic development of children, while the men were entrusted with shrubbery.

Then, or later, in matters of sex, it’s the woman who has the responsibility – for deciding yes or no and for contraception.  Men have the power – to rape.

It goes on.  Which parent is primarily responsible for the child?  The woman.  Sure, the man is responsible too, but his responsibility is usually limited to financial matters (and even then, more to getting the money than to managing it).  It’s the woman who is primarily responsible for emotional matters – for providing attention, affection, love; and for physical matters – for seeing that the child doesn’t get hit by a car, for seeing that it doesn’t put its finger in a socket; and for intellectual matters – for seeing that the homework gets done, for planning and making trips to the library.  The men’s responsibility can be fulfilled in 8 hours each day; the women are responsible 24 hours each day.  And yet, should he decide to make his car payment instead of his child support payment, he affects, in a big way, the quality of life for at least two others besides himself.  That’s power.

So it’s no wonder we see responsibility where men see power.

And it’s no wonder we don’t apply for the positions higher up.

[Hell Yeah, I’m a Feminist is a feminist blog, often radical feminist (radfem), always anti-gender and anti-sexism.]

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