The Career Path: Women & the Flame

In 1975, Annie Dillard experienced the material she would eventually write about in “Death of a Moth,” which is, in part, about the sacrifices she made for writing.  One of the things she consciously sacrificed was the role of wife and/or mother, choosing to be alone, instead.  

The sacrifice is not something easily reached, nor is it something without a fair amount of social stigma—even in the year 2015.  It is difficult to believe that so few women, to this day, are members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, according to a study by Rutgers University; it is also difficult to believe that women are still expected to want a family, without question.  

Here and now, in the year 2015, depending on where in the country you reside—a rural town or a big city, for example—you may still be expected to conform to this expectation. However, there are a number of women who can serve as examples to demonstrate that the role of wife and mother is not inevitable.  You may find this to be a given, or you may be surprised at this assertion—depending, again, on the social and cultural expectations of your family and friends.  

Because the role of women in the media is so objectified and sexualized, it is sometimes difficult to define ourselves apart from this example that is given to us. And yet, for many young women, it has become an act of rebellion to reject this over-sexualized ideal. Of course, as many have pointed out, there are contradictory images—largely as a result of the virgin-whore dichotomy problem passed down to us as a result of the Virgin Mary standard for purity and goodness, which is the role we are supposed to aspire to once we fulfill our God-given roles as mothers and homemakers.  

In the eighties, we were given the ideal of the superwoman who does it all: career, family, personal success, and familial satisfaction—all of it was possible, we were told.  And yes, it is possible, but not without a great deal of sacrifice: usually what is sacrificed is women’s sanity and personal time.  It also depends on how we choose to define ‘career.’ In light of the complicated and highly subjective nature of these issues, it is difficult for me to speak for anyone besides myself, so I will limit my discussion to my own experience.

Going back to the subject of Dillard’s essay, “Death of a Moth,” the progression of events surrounding the moth, of course, are representative of Dillard’s experience as a writer; however, although the moth is eventually extinguished by the flame, that moth serves as fuel for that flame for quite some time—two hours, in fact, which in flame-time is relatively long.  Moths are often associated with female energy, as well as with a sort of transformative power because of their association with metamorphosis and change. By the end of the essay, Dillard is alone, still, but she has an amazing story beneath her belt.  This is the lesson of Dillard’s essay: that in spite of her occasional solitude, she is also resilient; that she wouldn’t have the essay if she hadn’t experienced the sacrifice of the solitude that comes as a result of writing.   

The challenge remains for us, as women, to close the gender gap in fields such as engineering and information technology, which continues to grow as more and more businesses realize the importance of generating revenue through a strong online presence via both mobile and desktop versions of the Internet.  It is the next generation who will help determine the numbers and percentage trends over the next few decades.  It’s time to leave the tired trends of the past behind and to fully represent women in all sectors of the economy, from IT and green technology to medicine and business.  

How about aspiring to start a business helping women start their own businesses?  Talk about identifying a need and capitalizing upon it!  Female entrepreneurs are much-needed in the marketplace, especially in more rural areas in need of female role models so desperately lacking in such areas.  Because so much business is conducted online, these days, location is not as crucial to business success or failure as it once was.  Learning how to code, as well, is becoming a more viable option with the abundance of coding boot camps and online programs available to encourage students to go into coding at an earlier age or to allow professionals to more easily switch careers.

In the end, after all, don’t you want to be the one calling the shots with your budget, rather than accepting your role as a kept wife with ‘wife bonuses’ and an allotted allowance?  There are a number of educational resources available to you online, now, if you choose to keep going and get your Master’s degree after you graduate and find a job.  Do you want equality in the workplace?  Unfortunately, the only way women will be more equally represented is if more of us pursue and fill leadership positions and refuse to concern ourselves with what male colleagues, our families, or society thinks of us and our aspirations.  

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Boise, Idaho

I write. I also play the piano and sing along, go for hikes in & out of town, and I'm the host of "The Poetry Show!" every Sunday on Radio Boise, KRBX 89.9 / 93.5 FM. Follow me on Twitter @TPS_on_KRBX.

Daphne Stanford is a writer of many things: poetry, creative nonfiction, and songs for vox & piano.

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