It’s difficult for men to appreciate the extent to which the imperative to be perfect, to be good, to get things right, rules womens’ lives. It’s difficult for men because it’s difficult for women.
Occasionally, a woman, here and there, will get a glimpse of its effect on her life, and then five minutes later, unconsciousness takes over again, and soon enough, she’s squirming at the thought of a boo-boo she made in an email, or the fact she didn’t remember so-and-so’s name or didn’t ask about their recent operation.
The desire to be viewed as perfect, good, right, gives most women their lives. And what a life it is. Small, fearful, anxious. Better to call it “death” (though not “little death”, too much abandon that way lies), or “suspended animation”.
Academics and feminists speculate about the reasons women do not figure largely in the top echelons of organisations, governments and so on. They cite the absence of practical child care, maternity leave, women not promoting themselves, etcetera, etcetera. All of these factors – matters of content – play a part. No doubt of it.
Far more powerful, far more determinative, however, is what’s happening at the level of context, which is another way of saying the ontological level.
At the ontological level, the woman is being “I must do it right”, “I must be perfect”, “I must be good”. And while ever a woman is being this, she will not put herself in a position that would threaten it.
The way out of the trap? Start aiming to make mistakes, to stuff up, to be imperfect.
Consider this. If you are a woman and you haven’t made any mistakes in the last week, you are in the trap.
Image: Poster by Peter Hurzeler, 1967, courtesy of Galerie Montmartre, Melbourne Australia
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