I don't typically call myself a feminist. Feminism got a bad rap when it turned into misandry, and I prefer to be associated with something far more positive than feminism has become. So I won't blame the patriarchy for repression, but occasionally prevailing attitudes towards women really get under my skin.
Last Friday I attended the Engineering College's ACET dinner. The ACET council is made up of highly successful engineering professionals who act as mentors and oversee the function of the college with an eye to preparing students for work in industry. Its members are recruited from among the best in their field, and it is a great opportunity to be able to learn from their experience.
After the dinner we had two breakout sessions with members of the committee. The first one I attended was on entrepreneurship. A bunch of engineers and their wives crowded into this classroom to talk about how to make millions of dollars by starting your own business. We were joined by three engineering businessmen, all millionaires, who started their own companies when they were young and did quite well for themselves. One of the men brought his wife.
The purpose of the session was admirable, I'm sure, and the council members were well-qualified. But the dynamic in the room was so offensive that it made me sick.
The wife harped on money. She gushed over how much money her husband made, how he hasn't had to work since he was 30, how they lived comfortably and could keep her home with their seven children and had plenty of money to travel and take nice vacations. She singled out a girlfriend of an engineer in the room and told her the match would be a positive one, since engineers have such high starting salaries, and she was confident this would be a great encouragement to her in deciding to marry this young man.
Moral: Women are gold-diggers. Marry an engineer for his money.
When they opened the floor for questions, one of the student's wives raised her hand and asked the businessman's wife, "How do you...pretend to care about what your husband is studying/involved with? It just seems so geeky, and I try to care, but I get lost." She laughed, and admitted frankly, "I don't care. I don't even pretend to care. I find that the engineers my husband works with have really cool, cute, fun wives, and when we get together our husbands go off and talk about their ideas, and we sit around and have girl-talk, and have a lot of fun together." There was no mention of coming to any understanding of what your husband does for a living. There was no mention of women being engineers, just the cheerleader wives of brilliant businessmen. There was no indication that women talk about anything requiring any degree of intelligence.
Beautiful. Now not only are we gold-diggers, we're also stupid. We can't think, but boy, can we ever shop! And do our hair. And nails. And fawn over how strong and smart and wealthy our husbands are.
Why would vapidity and stupidity be an asset in the marriage market? I'd like to marry a man who wanted a wife whose IQ exceeded her body temperature. I'd like my children to be intelligent, and to know that their mother is intelligent.
And I care so little about money, it's silly. I wouldn't know what to do with millions of dollars. My parents weren't wealthy, and my father will never be a millionaire, but he came home for dinner every night. But I knew that my parents loved each other and their children, and that was what mattered in the end. Our home was small and cluttered--the basement flooded every year and the furniture didn't match, but people were drawn to it because of the special spirit they felt there. We never went to Tahiti on vacation, and my father can't golf. My parents won't have a wing of a hospital or a chair in a college named after them--but our family has created ties that bind. If engineering entrepreneurship means what I saw that night--wealthy brilliant men with beautiful, oblivious, money-crazy wives--Barbie couples who have so little meaning in their lives--then I want no part of it.