This series of blog posts began here/:

So what are some of the consequences of the images and roles that women learn to appropriate, and what kinds of conflicts and losses are thereby created for a woman herself, for her family, and for society as a whole?

For the woman herself, I would venture to say that the greatest loss she suffers is the loss of self-esteem. If a woman is lucky, she may be repaid for some of her losses by leading a life that is relatively protected and less demanding than she might otherwise be forced to endure. These days, less than half of the female population is so lucky.

Her family, too, pays a price. The children spend the majority of their time during their young and formative years with someone who doesn’t have a very high opinion of herself, and this is likely to make them feel quite insecure. The husband may pay a greater price than even he realizes. In addition to being legally attached to someone who does not value herself highly, he often comes to value her less and less as years pass, believing her story about herself. Moreover, he is often the victim of the sort of passive-aggressive tactics so commonly used by people with no power or authority—by slaves, disaffected employees, and women. These tactics consist of such maneuvers as doing something destructive because, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know any better.” Or allowing something to become irrevocably damaged because, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know how to fix it.” Or not doing something that really needs to be done because, “I’m sorry, that’s not my job.”

As for society, well, the loss to society is manifold, particularly in this technological age when it is crucial to have competent individuals operating the many gadgets and machines with which we are surrounded. When the females in the population are convinced that they are not competent to operate anything more complex than an on-off switch, there’s certain to be trouble. The loss of mind-power and creativity available to society when half the population has learned not to live up to its potential is staggering. And the genetic loss to society by forcing women to choose—or by making them think they must choose—between family and career, can hardly be measured. Many of the most intelligent and talented women of years past did not reproduce; this may have resulted in an irretrievable brain-drain.

So, the key question is: How can a mother teach her daughter to become a woman and a real person, a person with genuine self-esteem? Perhaps the most important gift a mother can give her daughter is the sense of possibility, the sense that she can do or be anything she chooses if she is willing to work for it. I used to think that my motivation and ambition were primarily the influence of my father. My father was from a poor family, but he worked his way through college, and he worked his way into one of the top executive positions in one of the major corporations in this country. But over the past few years, I have come to appreciate increasingly the role my mother played in allowing me to appropriate some of my father’s ambition.


(the final installment here)