Thursday , 17 April 2014
Inspiring Lives

Is Intelligent Dialogue with Other Women Missing In Your Life?

Recently, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon among women my age.

Gen X is the term often used to describe our age group, loosely referring to anyone born between the 1960s and early 80s, though a hard line in a generational shift is always difficult to draw. Rather, we see a gradual movement happening over the span of several years towards characteristics unique to a generation—characteristics that can be best understood within the context of the significant cultural events and changing values of the time.

So what defines us?

As women, we are perhaps the first generation ever to have grown up believing we could do anything with our lives. I was told repeatedly as a child that I could “do anything a man can do.” Raised by a mother who was fully behind the women’s liberation movement of the 60s, I was given the message that my gender did not matter at all—the only thing that did was my intelligence and diligence to pursue my interests. If you think about it, this was quite radical. Never before had girls been raised to question their role in life, and even encouraged to see their future success as a person outside the role of just being a good mother and wife.

That’s pretty colossal. But as I’ve listened to a lot of women my age, I’ve realized that many of us still feel we haven’t quite reached that golden zone of fully realized potential or even attained a clear vision of what that might look like. We’ve had several years in a career, been married, and had children, but still something is missing.

I’d like to suggest that engaging in intelligent dialogue with other women our age may be one of the missing pieces. After all, as women who were told that our gender doesn’t matter, it might not be something we’ve deeply considered. I know I didn’t until a few years ago.

It’s time to create a culture of women who discuss what matters most.

It’s been extremely heartening lately to see Gen-X women in the media spotlight begin to question, for example, the strange obsession with trying to look like we are forever in our sexual prime. The entire Miss Representation movement ignited by actress Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and the recent stand taken by actress Ashley Judd against assumptions of plastic surgery, are much-needed beginnings to deeper conversations among women in contemporary culture.

Is it a sign of our generation wanting something more?

Over the past few years, I’ve found myself much more interested in speaking with women around my age and older about anything that has intellectual weight. And I’ve been surprised at the gratitude expressed by my friends after we’ve journeyed together into new insights and rich intellectual terrain. There is a mutual recognition of just how fulfilling it is to speak this way with another woman.

For most of us, this kind of dialogue had been something in the past we’d only found with men.

Intelligent dialogue with other women seems to be something missing from many women’s lives, robbing us of the opportunity to reflect on who we are and where we are going together as women. In myself, I found that I’d been isolated in some sense from my own depths before stepping into an appreciation of the role that dialogue with other women plays in my life. Reflecting on the world we live in together with our higher rational mind enables us to step back and to see our lives in a much bigger context. A liberating joy is released in such a greatly expanded perspective, revealing space to move forward in ways I never could have before.

As we move through the themes on this new blog and I interview women on different subjects—from this month’s investigation into the environment to next month’s look at work-life balance, and more to come through the year—there is an overarching intention that I want to hold no matter what we are speaking about. That is to fill this hole in many women’s lives with the joy of shared inquiry with other women, and liberate the greater potential in each of us that is the fruit of this kind of sisterly engagement.

So I encourage you to respond in the comment section, and speak with your friends about what is happening here. After all, the more of us that are really able to give to life from our highest potential, the better off everyone will be!

7 comments

  1. Awesome post! I completely resonate with the desire to engage in deeper, quality conversation with other women. And as the first generation to have enjoyed the freedom to “be anything we want to be,” it seems appropriate that we lead this cultural shift in values for the generations that follow. Looking forward to engaging with other sister Gen X’ers on these important subjects!

    • You are welcome Amy. It is interesting to reflect, at this time in our lives, on the larger cultural shifts that have shaped us. It takes some life experience to look back from and see their impact. I never really thought of myself as a feminist and still can’t really identify with that word, but there is definitely a lot of meaning to be found in reflecting on our history and future as women. Thank you for responding, and sharing your thoughts!

  2. As a fellow Gen X-er and lover of fine conversation, I can honestly say I’ve never faced a time in my life when I have NOT had deeply intellectual engagement with other women. Certainly I value rich conversation with men and women, but I do rejoice in those all-female explorations of thought. The blogosphere has only enhanced this element of my life. Perhaps as an only daughter (I have all brothers and male cousins), my hunger for dialogue with smart women was honed at an early age. As such, I’ve always sought it out, and have always been blessed with incredible feminine voices to nurture my heart and mind.

    • Thank you for your post Chrysula. You are a lucky woman. I’m happy to have your voice here to help cultivate the dialogue, especially since you are practiced. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

  3. Thanks for this article, Meg! I think this post is just as relevant to ‘Millenials’ such as myself as it is to ‘Gen Xers.’ I look forward to engaging with other women to talk about topics that are meaningful to me. As I listen to women’s voices in TED talks and through media, I can’t help but be inspired! Any ideas on how to identify other women with similar outlooks?

  4. “We’ve been raised with the believe that we can do anything that men can do.”

    I really struggle with this statement as it implies, at least in my opinion, that men’s achievements are somehow the golden standard that women need to rise up to or above it in order to gain recognition and respect. While I understand that this is well meant and empowering advice, at the same time it sends young women to compete in an unfair race. Men and women are not the same as they have different set of strengths and weaknesses. Having been on both sides of the perceived gender binary I can only attest to this fact.
    The truth is, as long as we have the patriarchal world order and the resulting male “golden” standards, women will always be falling behind in reaching the expectations and gaining the respect of the society because the standards are being tailored to the advantages of men.
    The ability to bear children alone is just one of many unjust stumbling blocks in that kind of race.
    So, the question is how to change the societal norms that favor men’s standards, preferences and opinions? Why should the ability of bearing children be perceived as a stumbling block in the race for success? Why isn’t the motherhood being seen as a pinnacle of success, that men can only dream of such an achievement, for instance. Even in the eyes of feminists who have decided to take on men at their own game, being mother is being seen as somehow less than when it comes to the success in one’s carrier. I just read about how mothers are being advised to leave their stay at home time off the resume when reentering employment and fill out the employment gap with some volunteering activities.
    Now, add to this the old boy’s club rules and a woman has been completely disadvantaged in competition for executive positions.

    The question, in my opinion, is how to change social norms that favor men’s perspective above women’s? Do we need to, and how to, introduce the matriarchy as the more just standard in the world where the respect is not being earned by, for instance, greater physical ability, or speak about success in strictly quantitative language which generally favor men and male dominance.
    If the society had standard of achievements that would better reflect our female values and abilities, given the circumstances that we know what they are, perhaps we would find greater satisfaction and fulfillment when looking at our own achievements. Perhaps having been married, having children and or having a carrier would then feel more fulfilling too.

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