you noticed how often when women gather we talk about
how full our plates have becometoo many things
going on in our lives, too distracted, way too tired?
Are we bragging, complaining, or getting ready to revolt?
We women are expert multitaskers, but our expertise
works both for and against us. We juggle well because
we've had to keep so many balls in the air, because
we've been trained to do so and to view our overloaded
plates with pride. Because that's what women are supposed
to do: "Men work from sun to sun, but women's work is
never done." Most of us grew up hearing that phrase
or something similar and internalizing the message.
As if being harried was a state of grace for women.
And besides, women's work-most of it unwaged--is not
only undervalued and taken for granted by society, but
by us, as well.
here we are, frantically struggling to keep more and
more balls in the air. Society assumes that we will
be the primary caretakers and caregivers when it comes
to our children, our aging parents and relatives, our
partners. And society is organized on the assumption
that we are available to take up the slack. The education
system functions as if women were always in the home,
and so the school day ends at 3 p.m., schools shut down
all summer, and close for holidays, in total disregard
of the realities of our lives. Child care remains a
mess because it is assumed that women who work outside
the home are being selfish and should be penalized rather
than supported. So instead of a system of universal,
affordable, quality care, it's catch as catch can. The
situation is equally dire when it comes to elder care.
And time and time again it's women who are expected
to fill the breach.
in the waged workplace, despite the move to create more
family-friendly environments, the simple truth is that
we are not working smarter. And I am not even sure that
we know what "working smarter" means. Does smarter mean
making work the center of our universe? Working longer
hours? Getting more pay ? Having less time for ourselves
and for others? Is it smart to continue to allow our
lives to be ordered in keeping with the idea that women's
work is never done?
ago, I realized that I hated it when someone called
me "a strong black woman," because it seemed to imply
that my worth was based on my ability to bear all burdens.
And if I didn't--did that make me a weak black woman?
But I still find myself going along with the assumption
that, like Sisyphus, I have to roll the stone up the
hill. That being a multitasking diva is a good thing.
That if I say, "can't," "won't," "I pass," "NO," I'm
failing to be responsible. And yes, I admit, it's also
about ego gone awry-"look what I can do, aren't I terrific."
But I worry that what I don't do will simply fall on
another woman's shoulders or that it will distance me
from my sisters. Maybe we are all dying to say "enough
already," but each of us is reluctant to be the first
to step off the treadmill for fear that we will lose
face and that the sky will fall.
it's important to make a world where women can do what
men can do, but it's more important to make a world
where we question and challenge all the assumptions
about what all people do-including our understanding
of ourselves as women-and the way in which society is
ordered based on those assumptions. What if we refused
to carry the load, would the sky really fall? Are we
complaining, bragging, or ready to revolt?