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I am a new parent. My interests are secularism, learning, parenting, religion, career planning, and adult education.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Parenting and Feminism with Humour - A Review of BossyPants

When I first picked up Tina Fey's new book Bossypants, all I expecting was a good laugh and an insider's view of working at Saturday Night Live.

What I did not expect was an inside view of an intelligent, successful woman who has the ability to speak about important issues like feminism, equality in the workplace, the stress of "having it all" in terms of working and motherhood, and parenting with humour, compassion, and honesty - all without being preachy.

I think comedy takes the edge off when discussing important issues - even when she's being snarky. She explains it well when describing her first sketch as Sarah Palin:

This sketch easily could have been a dumb catfight between two female candidates...however [it] was two women speaking out together against sexism in the campaign. In real life these women experienced different sides of the same sexism coin. People who didn't like Hillary called her a ballbuster. People who didn't like Sarah called her Caribou Barbie. People attempted to marginalize these women based on their gender...Not that anyone noticed. You all watched a sketch about feminism and you didn't even realize it because of all the jokes.

And that is pretty much how she handles discussing many of her views in the book. I was particularly touched by her discussion about experiencing sexism in the workplace, how she handled it, and how it changed over the years. She showed through humorous stories that sometimes sexism and inequality exist because some people do not actually think that women can do what men do as well (eg. women aren't as funny as men), or they just do not understand what women are talking about (eg. a hilarious account of getting a Kotex Classic sketch produced, but men didn't know how it could be produced because they didn't know that women used to wear belts to secure their pads!). Although I haven't experienced much sexism in my places of work - with the exception of a board member who seemed to think it was my job to make his coffee because I was a woman - it was an interesting part of the book to read. Her advice is to ignore it if that particular person isn't acutally standing in your way of getting what you want, and to go over, under, through if they are. Her view is you can't change people, so don't waste your time. Focus on your goal, your talents, your accomplishments and prove you value that way. Then when you get to the top - don't hire the assholes who are stuck in the past.

I also appreciated her honesty about the struggle to balance being a mother and a career woman. She openly admits that there are tradeoffs - that there are times (approx. 3 times per year) she sits in her office sobbing when she realizes what she's missing at home. But then she remembers,

This was interesting to me because I am currently in the process of looking for child care when I return to work and I fully expect to be sad some days while I'm missing my little girl. But, like Tina Fey, ultimately this is what I need to remember:

"There are many moments of my work that are deeply satisfying and fun. And almost as many moments of full-time motherhood that stink like Axe body spray on a brick of blue cheese."
Having introduced Boo Boo to solids, I think I get the reference!

Anyway, I found the book  not only full of laughs, but interesting and thought-provoking too.
"Of course I'm not supposed to admit that there is triannual torrential sobbing in my office, because it's bad for the feminist cause. It makes it harder for women to be taken seriously in the workplace. It makes it harder for other working moms to justify their choice. But I have friend who stay home with their kids and they also have a triannaul sob, so I think we should call it even....Also my crying three times a year doesn't distract me from my job anymore than my male coworkers get distracted..."

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