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Women in our society

Engineer Patricia Galloway believes that serving as the first woman president of the 151-year-old American Society of Civil Engineers - a historically male bastion if there ever was one - makes her a role model to women in the industry.

It's high times for women leading construction-related engineering groups, with three others currently in high office. The same goes for construction organizations. Nova Group's Carole L Bionda is chairelect of Associated Builders and Contractors.

Meanwhile, the US House Education and Workforce Committee last month passed the Family Time Flexibility Act (H.R. 1119) which could undermine workers' most basic rights by altering the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which currently requires employers to pay overtime to certain employees when they are required to work beyond the normal 40 hour work week.( Peterson 98)

At home, we're aware (perhaps painfully so) that men and women often have different communication styles. But it's easy to forget that such differences can show up at work, too. To do an effective job of communicating, keep in mind gender-related communication styles.

Young boys are socialized to give an immediate answer or solution to a problem. Young girls want answers, too, but tend to talk things over to solve problems. So while a man might prefer to work things out for himself, a woman is more likely to want to discuss them. According to researcher Deborah Tanhen, author of Talking from 9 to 5, when a woman starts to discuss an issue with a man, his initial reaction is to supply an answer.

This plays out in the workplace in potentially significant ways. Women may be more likely than men to nurture relationships and work out issues. Men, on the other hand, can be involved in bitter workplace battles, but still socialize together. But for some women a major disagreement can destroy a relationship.

Gender isn't the only influence on communication styles. Cultural and other differences also have an impact. But if you don't understand such distinctions, there can be significant miscommunication. Exemplary leaders are translators; the more you're aware of nuances in communication, the more effective you'll be.

I was intrigued by how differently each group defines the problem of gender violence and its elimination and how differently each envisages ideal gender relationships. The first, based on feminism and a concept of rights, foregrounds women's safety and advocates an egalitarian gender order. Women who are in danger are encouraged to separate from their partners. Husbands and wives are taught to negotiate decisions with the promise of increased trust, love, and sexual pleasure for men who refrain from violence. This approach criminalizes the batterer and encourages the victim to think of herself as having rights not to be beaten regardless of what she does.

Those who end up in such self-management programs have failed to constitute themselves according to the demands of modernity. They are in some ways living outside the disciplinary confines of modern society. The technologies they are taught seek to protect women from male violence but also to produce better workers and citizens. These technologies are resisted, of course..

This analysis complements and expands Nicholas Rose's work on the formation of the soul in modern society. He argues that new systems of governance have emerged in the postwar period that seek to control individual behavior through governance of the soul (Rose 1989; 1999). Individuals come to see themselves as choice-making consumers, defining themselves through the way they acquire commodities and choose spouses, children, and work (Miller & Rose 1990). Social ordering occurs through processes of choice and self-definition, while those who slip outside the bounds of appropriate behavior typically find themselves in a program or institution that encourages them to learn to manage themselves and their feelings. In the liberal democracies of the postwar period, citizens are to regulate themselves, to become active participants in the process rather than objects of domination. Thus, citizen subjects are educated and solicited into an alliance between personal objectives and institutional goals, creating government at a distance. Rose dates the formation of this self-managing system of governance to the 1950s but sees a major expansion during the current era of neoliberalism and the critique of the welfare state (Rose 54).

Although I agree with Rose that an increasing emphasis on governing the soul is characteristic of modem society, I see the transformation not as evolutionary but as the product of social mobilization and political struggle. It is formed through particular movements that establish institutions, attract clients, and achieve recognition. The changes are not simply discursive but are also institutional and practical. People adopt new ways of talking about how to change behavior in order to secure funding to carry on a program or to attract contributing members. Moreover, such a transition encounters forms of resistance, often inchoate and focused on refusal to participate or failure to comply with the new expectations.

Yet, while fairy tales tend to shore up traditional views, and circulate the lessons of the status quo, they can also act as fifth columnists, burrowing from within; utopian yearnings beat strongly in the heart of fairytale. Many writers, Salman Rushdie included, hide under its guileless and apparently childish facade, wrap its cloak of unreality around them, and adopting its traditional formal simplicities, attempt to challenge received ideas, many of them to do with the expectations of the sexes. Feminism and the fairytale have been strongly associated, in the saints' lives which are entangled in many stories, in the writings of the French precieuses and their disciples, like Marie-Jeanne L'Heritier, Marie-Catherine d'Aulnoy, Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve, and Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont, who all campaigned through their fairytales for women's greater independence, and against arranged marriages.

In many famous stories, like Beauty and the Beast, the absence of the mother from the tale is often declared at the start, without explanation, as if none were required. Thus Beauty appears before us, in the opening paragraph of the first, elaborate version by Madame de Villeneuve in 1740, as a daughter to her father, and a sister to her six elders, a Biblical seventh child, the cadette, the favourite: nothing is spoken about her father's wife.

One reason for this is historical, for the wonder tale, however far-fetched the incidents it includes, or fantastic the enchantments it relates, takes o the colour of the actual circumstance in which it was told: while the elements remain familiar and the tales' structure dependably dialectical, the variant versions of the same story often reveal the particular conditions of the society which told it and retold it in this form: the absent mother can be read literally as exactly that: a feature of the family before our modern era, when death in childbirth was the most common cause of female mortality.

Both the psychoanalytical and the historical interpreters of fairytale enter stories like Cinderella, Snow White, or Beauty and the Beast from the point of view of the protagonist, the orphaned daughter who has lost her real mother and is tormented by her stepmother, or her sisters, sometimes her stepsisters; the interpreters assume that the reader or listener naturally identifies with the heroine - which is of course commonly the case. But that perception sometimes also assumes that because the narrator makes common cause with the protagonist, she identifies with her too. This may be an error. Fairytales are not told in the first person of the protagonist, and though she engages our first attention as well as the narrator's, the voice of the latter is located elsewhere.( Kirkus 18)

If we imagine the characteristic scene, the child listening to an older person telling this story, we may find the absent mother present in the narrator herself When the mother disappears, she has been conjured away by the storyteller, who dispatches the child listeners' natural parent, replaces her with a monster, and then often produces herself within the pages of the story, as a good old fairy, working wonders on their behalf. Thus the older generation speaks to the younger in the fairytale; pruning out the middle branch on the family tree as rotten or irrelevant, and thereby lays claim to the devotion, loyalty and obedience of the young over their mothers' heads: this is the classic Cinderella story.

The stories of Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White have directly inherited features from the plot of Apuleius's romance, like Psyche's wicked sisters, the enchanted bounty in her mysterious husband's palace, and the prohibitions that hedge about her knowledge of his true nature. At a deeper level, they have also inherited the stories' function, to tell the bride the worst, and shore her up in her marriage. The more one knows fairytales the less fantastical they appear; they are vehicles of the most grim realism, expressing hope against all the odds with gritted teeth. As Angela Carter has written, they are marked by a mood of 'heroic optimism'.( Snelson 1473)

The proliferation of mother figures in the most conventional literary fairytale does not only reflect wishful thinking on the part of children, though I would not deny that fantasies of gratification and power over parents play their part; the aleatory mothers of Madame de Villeneuve's Beauty and the Beast reflect the conditions of aristocratic and less than aristocratic life in early modern France. Beauty, the heroine, was brought up in a foster home, discarded by her biological mother, like many other protagonists, when the fairies cast her out (the fairies figure as thinly disguised Versailles mignons and schemers) and compelled her to give up her child. For his part, the Beast has been cared for by his mother's closest friend. When he grows up she attempts to seduce him and then does him violence when he rejects her.

The experiences fairy stories recount are remembered, lived experiences of women, not fairytale concoctions from the depths of the psyche; they are rooted in the social, legal and economic history of marriage and the family, and they have all the stark actuality of the real, and the power real-life has to bite into the psyche and etch its design: if you accept Mother Goose tales as the testimony of women, as old wives' tales, you can hear vibrating in them the tensions, the insecurity, jealousy and rage of both mothers-in-law against their daughters-in-law and vice versa, as well as the vulnerability of children from different marriages. Certainly, women strove against women because they wished to promote their own children's interests over those of another union's off-spring; the economic dependence of wives and mothers on the male breadwinner exacerbated - and still does - the divisions that may first spring from preferences for a child of one's flesh, a child to whom the mother has been bonded physically. But another set of conditions set women against women, and the misogyny of fairytales reflects them from a woman's point of view: rivalry for the prince's love. The effect of these stories is to flatter the male hero; the position of the man as saviour and provider in these testimonies of female conflict is assumed, repeated and reinforced - which may be the reason why such 'old wives' tales' found success with audiences of mixed men and women, boys and girls, and have continued to flourish in the most conservative media, like Disney cartoons.( Lynch, Jason 133)

Sure, those fairy tale days of early American skiing were romantic, but now there's nothing sweeter than seeing a girl rip a big fat arc on a 50-degree Alaskan face, or drop a cliff with pigtails whipping in the wind. You'll see what we mean in this month's all-girl photo essay and in the stories dedicated to women skiers. In Alison Gannett's "Indian Winter," four intrepid women journey to the Himalayas to climb and ski an un-skied peak. They do not wear stretch pants. For "Raising the Bars," contributor Peter Oliver roams Breckenridge with a harem of hard-charging and hard-partying women, along the way shattering the apres-ski cliche of a gal sitting demurely by a roaring fire with her leg in a cast. In every story, you'll see there's one thing that hasn't changed: These real-life adventurers ski happily ever.( DeMont, John 55)

Works Cited

DeMont, John. Maclean's, The Empty Seas. 11/3/2003, Vol. 116 Issue 44, p55

Lynch, Jason; Every Witch Way. Driscoll, Anne. People, 11/3/2003, Vol. 60 Issue 18, p133

Kirkus MIRROR MIRROR (Book). Reviews, 9/15/2003, Vol. 71 Issue 18

Rose A challenge to Barbie., 4/19/2003, Vol. 367 Issue 8320, p54

Peterson Owning a Piece of Your Childhood., Thane. Business Week, 5/5/2003 Issue 3831, p98

Snelson Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Karin. Booklist, 4/15/2003, Vol. 99 Issue 16, p1473