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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Be a household of heroes and geniuses

I was an accident. My mother had a bone tumor in her right hip and was told that child-bearing and labor would be lethally dangerous for her. She wanted a child. She became pregnant with me and didn't tell anyone. After I was born - at huge risk and with much difficulty - my parents were told in no uncertain terms that there would be mo more babies for them. So, once it's been established that I would survive beyond the first two years, my parents started treating me as if I were a set of twins - a boy and a girl.

My mother - a dazzling, charismatic, ultra-feminine woman - supervised my musical education (piano, singing, musical theory, etc.), my ballroom dancing lessons, my English language lessons and my wardrobe.

My dad - a mechanical engineer with the concentration in airplane engine design and god's gift for envisioning and building things - got me hooked on James Fenimore Cooper, Jack London and lots of science fiction, plus bought me every construction set in creation. That was no mean feat in the former Soviet Union, considering we are talking the height of Brezhnev's "stagnation" here, when almost everything was a deficit.

I read a lot of non-girly books and played a lot of non-girly games. I didn't want to be a ballerina or a superstar - I wanted to be an astronaut. We had a Young Cosmonauts Club in our city, sponsored by the city airport, where my dad worked and I dreamed of hitting my tenth birthday and finally being eligible to join. Then Chernobyl happened, and my health went to pot, and I was not accepted because of it. Fine, I said, I can still be as smart as men and do a lot of the same things as guys do just as well or even better.

Fast forward many years. My husband Gerry and I are at a business conference. Couple after couple walks on stage, and the husbands invariably introduce their wives as "here is my beautiful wife and the brains of the operation" and the wives invariably introduce their husbands as "my hero and my knight in shining armor". That's fine. Except it does create a certain stereotype, doesn't it?

Here are all these highly successful men implying that they are idiots and couldn't find their feet without their wives. And here are all these highly successful women implying that all they are good for is sitting at home and waiting to be rescued. I know it's not true - I know many of these couples personally. So, I am sitting there and wondering, why would they say that?

You see, when I was reading all those non-girly books, I actually got rather irritated by the fact that it was always men that got to do all the fun stuff: shootouts, mad chases, duels, tournaments... It ticked me off that there was rarely a female character who did all that stuff. Why couldn't it be the beautiful lady who saved the knight from a dungeon? Why couldn't a woman challenge another woman, or a man to a duel to protect her honor, or the honor of her family? Then, of course, I discovered Ivan Yefremov and Robert Heinlein with their huge emphasis on strong and ass-kicking female characters, and my ire had somewhat abated.

It flared up again during that conference. For crying out loud, people, quit selling yourself short! Gentlemen, yes, it is possible that the wife is better at some tasks like organizing, or accounting, or recruiting, or not letting you wear a key lime tie with a fucsia shirt. That doesn't mean that she is THE brains of the operation. It means that she is running the portions of the operation that are consistent with her strengths. Guess who is running other portions that she is not as good at? You are! Isn't it possible, that your part of it also requires some brain activity, and had you lacked a brain to perform said activity, your business would fail, because who else would be doing it?

Ladies, it's ok if you still see your husband as your own personal Prince Charming. However, that doesn't make him the only hero in the family. I run a business with my husband, so I have it on good authority that when a couple forms a business partnership - he is not the only one doing the fighting. In fact, if that was the case, he wouldn't last very long. You are a hero too and a tough sword-wielding warrior goddess - don't you see that?

Let's stop this right now. No one person is the brains of the operation. Nobody is sitting in a tower like Rapunzel waiting to be rescued. If we are running a business with our spouses, then our collective brains are involved equally, and the fighting is done together. Sometimes it's the wife who finds a solution to a problem, and sometimes it's the husband. Sometimes he is the one kicking ass and taking names out there, and sometimes it's her. Be a hero. Be a genius. Be an army of two. It's more fun that way.

1 comment:

Bill Kirton said...

Very persuasive, Maria. My own stance has always been exactly that, i.e. everyone has her/his own value and skills. We should all be recognised as people rather than being restricted to 'male', 'female', 'theoretical', 'practical', 'artist', 'scientist'. I know our skills differ but mutual respect as human beings is more important than applying limiting labels to one another. And the most powerful of 'power couples' are those who reject being stereotyped.