Stuart Brown, 'A boy made of his family, a man contemplating life.'
A while back, I was asked to write for a friend's first internet publication namely this 'The Uncertainty Principle'. I was given the initial subject 'woman' and asked to write an article from any angle I liked.
After a few weeks of redundant thinking and dead end attempts I decided to bastardise my thought process and resort to a google search. Whilst scrolling through endless tripe I came across the phrase 'modern woman'. I asked myself what the term meant? I also wondered what other people thought the phrase meant? Back to google, I delved, looking for people's opinion's. In the end I decided, after a bolt of lightning, to ask people I knew. As the world is now a global village, I could find the unique perspectives I was looking for on my doorstep and then contrast these views with my own.
I believe that 'modern woman' refers to the female within the West (as this is where my experience lies) and her relatively new found role in a patriarchal dominated society. Meaning simply that women have more options and avenues in which to follow individual desire as opposed to the hegemonic notion that marriage, child bearing and homemaking are solitary occupations to which they can abide in modern society. In this society women can be career minded if this is their desire, a homemaker if again this is their goal. It would seem that almost endless possibilities abound for the courageous woman that intends to take on a world filled and dominated by patriarchal thought and ritual. If I am to consider singular words to describe this phrase they are 'liberation', 'independence', and 'strength'. I use the word 'liberation' rather than 'liberated' because I believe that masculine thought and dominance is intrinsically woven in current society. And that true forms of equality are yet to appear. Having thought about what the term means to myself I decided to turn to others for their opinions.
I decided the best way in which to get an informative answer from each of my chosen core was to ask for a paragraph about the individuals perception of the meaning of 'modern woman'. I contacted various female friends and acquaintances to ascertain their thoughts and feelings on the subject. What perceptions would these individuals have?
Some of the descriptions received read as follows;
'[A 'modern woman'] can have a career without the worry of finding a man to support her financially.'
'A modern woman is determined to prove people, who say 'it is too much for you, remember you are a woman', wrong and show them her real value.'
'Strong. Assertive. Aggressive. Tactful. Expressive. Independent.'
'A modern woman could ascertain her goals, achieve them, and maintain a strong household.'
A number of annotated conversations revealed that many of my friends wanted to find a partner and have a family. The views about family, if impressed, were more often than not core views. Liberation, independence and vocation, whilst in majority of responses, seemed equal to the ideas of marriage, childbearing and homemaking.
There where also a few people that entertained the ideas of physical description as opposed to societal status, goals and characteristics. Being beautiful in a physical capacity seemed to be a necessity in these opinions. Certain friends had surprising rhetoric. I expected them to exclaim various progressive ideas made possible by the giant leaps of feminism in the 19th and 20th century. A new found independence in a modern area. A sexual revolution. Career dominated intent. A far cry from the 1950's typical American/Western nuclear family. What I received/heard was somewhat surprising. Although independence was often the initial statement or similar, the end of the conversation always drifted towards marriage, family life, and children.
I was a little surprised by the lack of cohesion when collating all of the responses received. The notions of independence or liberation were nearly always present but so was the complexity in which women view their lives. It seems that whilst trying to break free of historical influence women are having trouble finding an acceptable place in their modernity, both in personal perspective and also in societal reality. I do not mean reality in a negative or condescending manner but what is plausible in modern society.
The understanding of the term 'modern woman' does not seem to be universal. It seems that the phrase is somewhat enigmatic and indeterminable. In it's simplest understanding it is a woman existing in a modern era, in it's most complex, it has multifarious aspects ascertaining to gender, class, race, politics, biology, etc. Whilst females and feminism alike endeavour to find a place in contemporary time, so do males. Men, whilst feeling the privilege of masculinity, are under intense pressure to find a new role within gender relations due to the last hundred year of feminism. And so, whilst women battle (battle, I believe is the correct word) for equality, men are equally fighting to redefine their societal status to accord with this gender transition. It seems apparent that in today's societal upheaval and constant redefinition that both sexes are struggling to find a balance in the continual gender war.
When reflecting on all the opinions received a lack of clarity in the meaning of the popular phrase 'modern woman' seems to be apparent. I wonder if I where to reverse the question and ask males their opinion on the term 'modern man' would this be as equivocal?
I have deliberately stayed clear of racial connotations within this text. I am well aware that historical/current thought on skin pigmentation has an almost limitless resonance within the role of feminism and society as a whole. Unfortunately I do not have the resources or the knowledge to make reasonable comment.
I have chosen to discuss simply male and female opposition gender and know full well that this is not as definitive as I have insinuated.
The vocation of women asked was wide ranging from teachers to lawyers, shop assistants to housewives. Age was also wide ranging. All of the women asked were above the age of twenty.
One interesting point to make is that all opinions gathered are female opinions other than my own. Maybe, if a more comprehensive piece was written a wider net could be cast, so to speak.