Will Superwoman Survive The 21st Century?
By Liora Mendeloff
President & Founder, Women Speakers Association
Santa Monica, CA
When I say “Superwoman,” what do you think of? My guess is something like: “She has it all together”; “She balances work, motherhood, running a home, being a good wife, etc.”; “She fulfills her potential”; “She is happy doing it all.”
While the concept is one we all dream of, the truth is…she’s a fantasy! Superwoman is an unattainable caricature of a woman we strive to become, size ourselves up to and inevitably fall short of. Like Barbie’s 19” waist, the idea of Superwoman’s unlimited, never depleted, energizer bunny-like super-human powers – is a myth. An illusion once invented to liberate women, has in effect left us in shackles. When’s the last time you met a woman who is capable of being everything to everyone AND also able to take care of herself…really?
Yes, it’s true that as a result of four decades of “progress,” today women are more educated, and in theory, better equipped and capable of being a successful career woman and wife and mother and daughter and friend and sister and…
Although these changes, many of which have been brought to us by women for the good of women, have increased possibilities and opportunities for us, they have also added new responsibilities and stress to our lives. Not only can we do more, but now there is the added expectation that we should do more. Now that we’re “liberated”, thanks to the “progress” of the women’s movement, I gotta ask, “is this what we imagined progress would look like?
Don’t get me wrong, many women have succeeded inside this model – but at what cost? Did she get there by doing what comes naturally to her or by going against the grain? Is she left feeling her best, vitalized and fulfilled or is she left feeling overwhelmed, depleted, unfulfilled and sacrificing her own well-being for the sake of others (her family, “the firm”, society)? If you were to ask her, would she say that she is truly happy?
Who better to prove my point than Oprah Winfrey. For years I’ve watched her in awe as she’s built her empire and often wondered how the heck she manages to do it all and take care of herself. She’s just wrapped up the 25th season of her TV show, she’s got her magazine, her webinars, her TV appearances, her angel network, her school for girls, her youth ambassador program, and now her own TV network! She’s got the trainer, the chef, the cleaning crew and assistants, a huge team to support her and yet, even Oprah confesses that this Superwoman thing is simply an impossible, unattainable, unrealistic and unhealthy role to aspire to. On January 5th, 2009, during her “Best Life Week,” Oprah aired her “Weight Gain Confession” and here’s what she said:
“When you see me gain weight, it’s not about that I’m pigging out, it’s always about my life being out of balance (anybody who struggles with a weight issue, it’s about what you’re really hungry for. It’s not about the food. It’s that you’re hungry for something). Many a day I didn’t want to come into work because I was so tired! Too much work! Not enough play! Not enough time to come down. Not enough time to really relax. So, it’s about balance. When I ask myself what I’m hungry for…I’m hungry for balance.”
So, I wonder…if Oprah, Superwoman of all Superwomen, with all of her resources and support team has trouble keeping balance, then how are we, the average, normal “laywomen” expected to find balance? Is trying to live up to the idealistic Superwoman helping or hurting us, really? And, will it take firing her to live a fulfilling, abundant, balanced life?
As we begin to talk more and more about a new paradigm of “doing business” and living our lives as REAL women of the 21st Century, what do you think? Is there a place for superwoman in this new era or is it time to fire her once and for all?
Look out for Part 2 “Is It Time To Fire Superwoman?”