Making of a Matriarch

Gender at Work

During the recent election I realized that many of my women friends were deeply invested in the prospect of electing a female president. Despite my credentials as a single career woman with my own business (and politics aside) I was completely indifferent to the gender of the candidates.

At one point I was explaining this to a friend who said, “Well, that’s because you are comfortable with a patriarchy.” I’m pretty sure it was intended as an insult, but it got me thinking: It’s not that I’m comfortable with a patriarchy; it’s that I’m mostly unfamiliar with the idea.

I had four grandmothers growing up and one grandfather who I never met because he was estranged from my mother. I had, and still have a father, but he had a massive stroke when I was only 12. It’s fair to say he was absent as an authority figure after that.

So growing up, if I wanted anything I turned to my mother or her mother or my paternal grandmother in a pinch. The women managed the money, they meted out discipline and praise, they vetoed my unrealistic ambitions, and they vetted my boyfriends.

Further reinforcing my matriarchal world view, I went to an all-girl’s Catholic high school where I had a strong mentor in a female English teacher and a flock of nuns as authority figures.

I also went to a women’s college, but there my professor/mentor was a man and the first real male authority figure in my life. But after 20 years of being controlled by women, he didn’t intimidate me by his gender – maybe by his British accent, but not by his gender.

Of course, when I entered the workforce I was answerable to long string of male bosses, some supportive, some just okay, some just regular sons of bitches. And I had a few female bosses as well. I hesitate to put into writing that most of them were terrible, suffering universally from a lack of mentoring while coming up through the ranks. Not their fault, but no fun to work under.

Everywhere I’ve gone work-wise there was a group of women devoted to creating a support network for women professionals. They would share stories about how often they were the only woman in a meeting, and I would think, wow, these women are keeping track of these things?

But now I realize that I was acclimatized to female leadership in my formative years, and most people are leaving them with lingering fears that women can’t muster enough authority to lead. Nothing would assuage that fear better than a woman in the Oval Office.

But thanks to a long line of strong women, I don’t share that particular insecurity – although I have plenty of others, but I’ll leave those for another blog.






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