“I was taking a law school admissions test in a big classroom at Harvard. My friend and I were some of the only women in the room. I was feeling nervous. I was a senior in college. I wasn’t sure how well I’d do. And while we’re waiting for the exam to start, a group of men began to yell things like: ‘You don’t need to be here.’ And ‘There’s plenty else you can do.’ It turned into a real ‘pile on.’ One of them even said: ‘If you take my spot, I’ll get drafted, and I’ll go to Vietnam, and I’ll die.’ And they weren’t kidding around. It was intense. It got very personal. But I couldn’t respond. I couldn’t afford to get distracted because I didn’t want to mess up the test. So I just kept looking down, hoping that the proctor would walk in the room. I know that I can be perceived as aloof or cold or unemotional. But I had to learn as a young woman to control my emotions. And that’s a hard path to walk. Because you need to protect yourself, you need to keep steady, but at the same time you don’t want to seem ‘walled off.’ And sometimes I think I come across more in the ‘walled off’ arena. And if I create that perception, then I take responsibility. I don’t view myself as cold or unemotional. And neither do my friends. And neither does my family. But if that sometimes is the perception I create, then I can’t blame people for thinking that.” Hillary Clinton
Yesterday, I saw this quotation on my adult niece’s Facebook page. It reminded me of my own experience (and, no, I am not comparing myself to Hillary Clinton, I am observing our shared experience.). Clinton started at Yale law school in 1969. I started UVic law school in 1988, 19 years later. Still, at my going away party in Regina in June 1988, I was told by a friend that she did not support me going to law school because I was taking the place of a man who would have a family to support. Our society is so full of overt and covert messages about what women should and shouldn’t do. It continues to this day as so many American voters oppose Clinton for president, in whole or in part, on the basis of her gender.
I agree with Clinton that there is a quiet strength that comes with keeping steady during these storms, a strength that is often misinterpreted as being emotionally cold. This criticism of a woman would most likely bring praise to a man.
For those of us post menopause and returning to the intense creativity of our girlhood, I feel we need more than ever to find words and deeds and understanding to grow and nurture our strength as the foundation of our intense creativity. It will come from deep within us from our life experience, from our lost and found children, from our foremothers, and from our community of JPPers. I believe this is the next step to JPP.