Maybe Being a Woman is Just Good Enough
As part of Rania’s recent visit to the Republish of Georgia through the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, she keynoted at Ilia University on March 19, 2015. Two students were selected by the university to speak during the program. If you missed Larisa’s speech on championing for gender quality, you can read it here. This is Mariam Perishvili’s powerful speech and personal story about being a woman!
“People don’t want to see women doing things they don’t think women should do.” – Joan Jett
This is a quote by Joan Jett, a wonderful, rebellious and independent woman, one who I very much admire; but I am not writing this piece about her, I am writing about my experience of being a woman, one who has decided upon a profession in business, and in Georgia, no less. Unfortunately that quote very aptly manages to summarize my whole experience so far. But for you to fully understand what I mean, I’ll take you to the beginning.
The beginning – also known as reality – for me, started with school. Beforehand I had lived in a world of rainbows, ponies and unicorns where gender inequality wasn’t something I was at all aware of. When you’re four or five, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, you just have to be good at playing games – and I was!
Then when I entered school, I remember the very first lesson I had was math, and I most likely will never forget my teacher’s words: “Well, boys will get this much easier, girls, just try to keep up,” as she explained the first problem. She rationalized her remark as girls and boys having different types of brains, out of which the first was more advanced.
“Boys will get this [math problem] much easier, girls, just try to keep up…”
You’ve got to understand that I come from a family of two sisters who’ve always been driven and concentrated, mother who juggled raising children and working 9-to-5 at the same time, and a father who had so much appreciation for women that even the dogs we had were always female. I’ve been raised with the idea that being a woman is a blessing. That is why I spent next four years trying to prove to my teacher that maybe girls are just as good as boys, maybe we’re not so different. I spent day after day and year after year working harder than ever just to prove my point. At the end of four years she was supposed to teach me, I heard her saying to other teacher, “That girl, that one, she’s very clever, she thinks just like a boy.”
But I didn’t give up, I went on, years passed and I grew up. As the last year of school approached, I realized there wasn’t any particular type of job I wanted to do, I was interested in everything and I wanted to do and try it all. So I decided on business, or more-so the management. I wanted to learn how the world of it works, to learn and understand how one can manage effectively in hopes of one day having something of my own. I thought long and hard on how to effectively illustrate the feedback that I got when people around me heard my decision. So I’ve decided to tell you a bit of a story. Bear with me and this will all make sense, I promise.
The same summer I made the decision to go into business, I also decided to I start running. I had never done it before and it was never something I was very good at. As soon as I’d run for a few minutes, I’d be out of breath and my heart would be pumping harder than ever, so I decided to tackle that. The place where I used to run at that time didn’t have many women in the morning, but a lot of men.
So as I was figuring out at which pace to run, how to breathe, as I was becoming better, I’d have different man coming up to me each morning with notes on how I “should do better”, how I should run, what I should or should not do! Comments varied from, “That’s not how it’s done”, to “You shouldn’t be doing this”. I heard exactly same comments from people when I made the decision of going into business. Each step of the way, everyone kept trying to “help out” or give me notes or advice in order to make the transition better.
In both of those cases, people were sure I am not set up for either of those activities: running in the field where man did, or going into the field where man ruled. I realized they saw me as a fragile little creature that needed help, that could never in million years commit to something and make it happen. But that is not true.
“I am the only person that can define what I am and I am not cut out for; and YES, I am just good enough.”
You know what’s the real problem? To answer that we go back to the very first quote, “People don’t want to see women doing things they don’t think women should do.” And people in Georgia have these fixed ideas of what woman should be like and whenever she outsteps those boundaries even a little bit, they get uncomfortable. But that is what I’ve been trying to do all these years, when I spent hours and hours studying math, just to prove that I am good enough; working out every day and running not just as fast, but faster than men, to prove that I am good enough; and now, pursuing a career in business fearlessly, because I am the only person that can define what I am and I am not cut out for; and YES, I am just good enough.