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People Are Not Measuring Devices

I’ve been feeling rather sorry for Condoleezza Rice lately, and my sympathy has nothing to do with the fact that she will be forever associated with the George W. Bush administration.

I feel sorry for her because so many people want to turn her into a measuring device.

After her speech this past Wednesday at the Republican National Convention, the rhetoric started:

“How can the Democrats claim there is a war on women? Condoleezza Rice proves that’s just propaganda manufactured by liberals who are pandering for women’s votes.”

“Condoleezza Rice demonstrates that any woman can succeed if, instead of relying on the government, she just applies herself.”

While I take issue with those statements, I have no problem with the woman who inspired them. I admire Condoleezza Rice. She’s a smart, accomplished and successful woman. Even though I may not always agree with her politics, I do believe she is a fantastic role model for young woman across our nation.

I just don’t believe that she’s a yardstick .

The notion that all women should measure themselves against Condoleezza Rice, or any other woman, is ridiculous and damaging.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to break my innate tendency to compare myself to other women. I’ve compared my looks, my body, my talents, my personality, my lifestyle and my parenting skills to others. Instead of embracing my unique blend of strengths, weaknesses, quirks and experiences, I simply saw my flaws and failures. I don’t want that for my daughter or for any other female. And I don’t want them to judge women who don’t possess the talent, intelligence or opportunities to achieve what others may define as success.

Yet they are hearing that, because some women have reached the top, all others have to do is simply “try harder.”

That was certainly the message from those who opposed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

If only working hard were a guarantee of an adequate paycheck and the appropriate recognition. In reality, the workplace is a harsh and very unfair place. I’ve worked hard only to watch those who didn’t zoom right by me. I’ve seen pretty women take advantage of their assets and maneuver their way past others into better jobs and higher paychecks. And I’ve seen the “good old boy” network benefit those who already had the advantage.

While great strides have been made for women in the workplace, the dollars still tell the story.  In 2010, the U.S. Census American Factfinder indicates that 17.9% of families with children were living below the poverty level. That number jumped to 39.6 for families with a female head of household.  Despite the increase in the number of men who are taking on active parenting and caregiving roles, nothing will ever change the fact that women are the ones who get pregnant and give birth.  And now, their ability to even make decisions about that has been under fire by people such as Missouri Congressman Todd Akin, who doesn’t even understand the biology of  conception.

Condoleezza Rice has never married nor had children. I have no idea–nor is it any of my business– whether this was a conscious decision or just the result of the many choices she made throughout her life. I do know that she never had to make arrangements for child care, leave work early to pick  up her child  at school or  miss important meetings when a child was sick.

And I’ve never heard anyone claim that she was an underachiever or compare her to women who have careers and children.

But maybe that’s because some yardsticks are defective and only measure what the user wants them to show.