Search Articles: Home About Us Our Community Contact Us Article Submission   Advertising Info  
 
Auto Savvy

Business and Finance

Creative Cooks

Family and Parenting

Health and Nutrition

Legal Information

Beauty and Fashion

Sports and Fitness

Women Of The Month

Home and Garden

Relationships

Motivation and Inspiration

Travel and Adventure

Technology Today

Society

The Feminine in Feminism
Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, Colorado Supreme Cou

Women have made great strides in gaining acceptance into the professional world. For example, most law school classes are now approximately one-half women and one-half men. Law school professorial ranks include more and more women. Law firms of any size have some women partners - although not a proportionate number. Women are recruited to the judicial bench in greater numbers as well, although again, appointments do not mirror percentages of women practitioners in the profession. But we have made strides. Hence, although the signposts may not have been quite as close together or as plentiful as we might have wished, we have passed a number of them along this road we travel. We have, at least in part, succeeded.

However, we have simultaneously failed. We have failed because we have sacrificed too much. We are not dissimilar in this way to the immigrants who came to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They left many parts of their culture of origin behind in a rush to conform, and to achieve success. Some of the richness of who they were was temporarily lost. We have done much the same. We have given up some very important aspects of womanhood and my thesis here is that they can and should be reclaimed.

Historically, the woman has been the keeper of the hearth and the nurturer of the family. There was a reason for that role. We had, and continue to have, some true gifts that we ignore. For example, as a gender, we tend to be better listeners than our male counterparts; we can have more compassion and empathy for the plight of others; we can be less vested in position and more vested in relationships; and we can be better facilitators of conversation and cooperation among divergent interest groups.

Of course, even listing those few differences pinions me to a gender-based differentiation that is, of itself, controversial. Who is to say those are feminine characteristics and by saying so, do we devalue ourselves and at the same time devalue our male colleagues? Initially, the women###s movement was very reluctant to ratify a scheme that attributed certain characteristics to women, because history has taught us that those stereotypes contributed to a scheme of domination. I posit that we have now moved beyond needing to stand on those kinds of concerns. Let us now dare to recognize the importance of the feminine in feminism and elsewhere.

There is always a danger in generalizing. Our fractionalized and fractious culture resists generalization at every turn. I do not, therefore, mean to convey that all women are nurturers, listeners and facilitators and that all men are not. What I do mean to convey is that those traits are valuable in our society, and we need accord them value overtly in ourselves, in others, in our daughters and in our sons.

As we have surged forward toward prestigious goals previously held (and valued) by men, we have devalued those pivotal roles. Whether the roles are undertaken by a man or a woman, or by a combination of both, the roles deserve esteem and their own prestige.

I must begrudgingly admit that some of the dire prognoses of our elders (mostly males) in the 60###s and 70###s as younger women forged out into the working world in greater and greater numbers have come to pass. There are indeed more divorces. There are more neglected children. Although I am not willing to castigate working women with responsibility for that change, clearly the changing climate and changing paradigm have played some role.

Someone needs to be watching the kids, watching the "hearth," keeping the home. Women do not need to be the ones to fill that role; men can do it too. But, in the end, someone needs to do it, and it needs to be a valued role in society. The home and the family are the seeds of success or failure in a person, organization or society.

Let me hasten to add that I am not advocating that one parent should always stay home or that someone should meet the kids every afternoon after school with warm, home-baked cookies. That is not true, anymore than it is true that both parents should always work. There are no absolutes as to the roles people choose to fill. The only absolute is that traditionally feminine attributes deserve to be extolled and celebrated.

We should never contribute to an ethic that devalues that role. We do not know where that might lead. If we look at MTV videos, eating disorders, and mass advertising, we may conclude that young women have somehow received the message that they are not wanted in society - that they have to become something other than who they are in order to fit in: that femininity somehow is tied up with violence and self-abnegation.

How have we allowed that to happen? We who only wanted to assure that gender was not to be a bar to any goal? Part of the answer lies well beyond anything any of us did or could have done. Part of it relates to the culture in general - violence, disrespect and disharmony. But I attribute part of the blame to us as well. Somehow we have subscribed to a thesis that if one chooses to be successful professionally, one must not display feminine characteristics.

In the 1970###s and early 1980###s, the ethic among women lawyers in large law firms was that our families were not to be mentioned. If the reason that we had to leave the office at 6 p.m. rather than at 8 p.m. was to fix dinner or pick up the kids from day care, we did not dare to say so. We did it, but we did not admit it. Similarly, attire was distinctly conformist: bow tie-scarves and austere suits. Attitudes were also plagiarized. That need not be.

It is my view that the inclusion of women into the work place has changed and should continue to change the ethic of the work place - not the ethic of the women who work there. We must carry into the boardrooms and the courtrooms the message that a work place that honors family commitments is a work place that will itself be honored.

Perhaps we have come far enough in our progression toward personal and professional equality to recognize and honor those traits that historically represented the feminine in society. We need those traits as people, to be whole. Our chosen professions need those traits as we struggle with increasingly complex problems and systems. Our world needs those traits as we seek to mend deep rifts and reach common solutions.

This article is taken with permission (modified slightly) from The Advocate, the publication of The Colorado Women###s Bar Association.

Rebecca Love Kourlis has served as a Colorado Supreme Court Justice since 1995. Prior to her current position, she was an Arbiter with Judicial Arbiter Group, Inc., Chief Judge of the 14th Judicial District, a Judge with Water Division 6 and a District Court Judge in the 14th Judicial District. She has practiced law with firms and as a private practitioner. While working as a private practitioner in Craig, Colorado, she specialized in natural resources.