At the start of this week, I began to write about all the media reaction to Sheryl Sandberg and her ideas about supporting women. Something along the lines of you'd think no one had ever written about the mix of women, work, success and social attitudes before. I fell asleep before I could finish it. I'd also had a friend tell me I don't understand because I didn't grow up with a housewife mom.
Even back when people were having the conversation when I was young, I was a little, like, really? When I was a teen, a reporter came up to me at an event where my mother was being recognized for her urban planning work. The reporter wanted to know what I thought of my mother being the first woman to receive the honour. I found the question so embarrassing, I didn't know how to answer it. No one talked like that at home or at the parties and work functions my brother and I would be hanging around at. It just seemed so... yesterday. Like, a bit uncool.
So when I stepped in this week to help my mother manage some of the details on two upcoming events where she's being recognized in Montreal, I got that same old icky feeling. Seems we'd been a little slow getting her bio in so someone else wrote it, citing a couple of sources online where she is identified as a woman architect who achieved a number of firsts, largely womanly firsts. The fact is, my mother always avoided the woman thing, never took part in feminist discourse, never self-identified as a woman architect, though she was mightily opinionated and had a lot to say about architecture and urban planning. She (gasp!) never was a supporter of women architects as a subset of all architects, until after she'd retired from the University of Toronto. Her mother, my grandmother, was an ardent feminist and fiercely proud of my mother. For my mother, on the other hand, it was just about work. She was post-femisinst already, way back.
What kind of feminist are you, anyway?
I'm sure there are women who would criticize her for not championing woman, as they're criticizing Sheryl Sandberg for not championing the right kind of women. Does it matter? No one actually hired or elected Ms Sandberg to represent women. My mother has always been smart, strong and willful; and has accomplished a lot. I admire her and also admire Sheryl Sandberg. The way either of them choose to slice the woman thing is up to them.
Here's a photo I love of my mother, from before she'd even thought of me. It's from the year that she was chosen – and I can't believe I missed this on her bio til yesterday – Woman of the Year by Mademoiselle magazine in 1956.
Brenda van Ginkel
Every brand that is making a difference to people or the planet deserves to stand out and be noticed. I write about creative direction and brand strategy for entrepreneurs and those supporting them, packaging concepts with messaging for growth and audience engagement in a crowded, noisy digital space.