Women: Finding a Life of One's Own

For those of us who passed through high school in the firm belief of the future: we could have the best of our own "liberation," Radcliffe offered a particularly reassuring image of the man's and the woman's world. Mary Bunting continually stressed her image of the ideal Radcliffe girl: wife, mother, career.

Our minds formulated vague and happy pictures of warm homes with interesting tweed-jacketed or blue-jeaned husbands who "respected our minds," kiddies diligently manipulating creative playthings, and also, vaguer still, some fulfilling, creative "work."

But what's wrong with that? Since obviously one would have to be maladjusted to even suggest that such a goal would be undesirable, let me begin at least by describing how it is impossible, even for those Radcliffe women who are assumed to be of the economic elite and therefore able to employ more exploited women than themselves to do the unpleasant house-hold chores.

One of the main problems is of course our own heads, as they have been formed by our entire social education before we ever reached Radcliffe-the role of women in our own families and high schools, those roles which we were taught we must act out in order to be a "good woman" -whatever else we were .

Whatever else we might be, we were told, we must remember that the true fulfillment of a woman is through a man, that what our husbands chose to do would be ultimately more important, that we would want to marry a man "more intelligent" than we were, and that even if we were more intelligent, we should never let him know it for fear of being considered a "castrating female."

We tried our best to be sexy and interesting, feminine and creative. Why then were the Harvard guys always the more creative musicians and writers, the more dynamic political leaders, while we had the obviously inferior merit of "getting better grades?" We, accepting even the humor of male-dominated Harvard society, laughed at the Radcliffe grindiness

guarded a secret contempt for outsters who were insecure enough to work hard, and strove to be pa? of male society.

Those of us who, without realing it, were becoming female Uncle T?s succeeded to varying degrees in becoming partly accepted as equal by some of the men we knew. We ?er asked why women were more gr?dly and less interesting-why we?urselves were less interesting that ?ny number of men we knew.

I never realized the degree to ?ich I held these attitudes until I left Radcliffe, and even more important until a movement began among women which made me realize how ?sely my lot was bound up with their with the most "privileged" and the most oppressed, and just what the Radcliffe image of the emancipated fem? had done to my mind.

The important thing to reali? from the outset, is that it is impossible to be inferior and equal at the same time: it is impossible to consider y?r role as a "good woman" to be that of ten-derly supporting whatever n?e you happen to be with in what ever he wants to do, and at the same time make plans for your own cr?ive existence.

Ultimately the feeling of t?porariness included by the knowledge that you will undoubtedly live were your man wants to live, that your ?ork will of course be interrupted by children, etc., means that women o?en have great difficulty applying themselves to a long term task or occupation, and tend to restlessly take up occupations and leave them, developing what some psychologists have recently dubbed "the will to fail."

That is, women observedh? a wide variety of occupations performed significantly less well where ?en were present than in situations were there were all women. Why? The fear of being a "castrating female"

At Radcliffe the situation is more complicated, because women do have the desire to succeed academically-but it must be remember that academic success per?se is a significantly inferior quality in a community where creativity and brilliance at the ideal, where men pride themselves on their capacity to spend a semester directing plays, then walk ? to an exam and do as well as a woman who has spent the semester gri?fing.

Working hard?t tasks defined by others is the qu?ty of a submissive creature, and ? have always been taught to be the submissive than men. This in ?way means that women do not become revolutionaries-indeed, our re?is all the more profound and a?entic when it does occur, because ?ur entire lives have been spent, invariety of subtle ways, in a service oubservent capacity.

THE TENINCY of women to go into social ?k, teaching, nursing and other s?ce-type work can be seen in some?ys as a positive value in a society ?ich puts little stress on social we?e. But it results from a situation o?mdamental inequality.