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Opening Lines: Don't blame Miss Utah

Another day that ends in "y," another pronouncement about women.

Women are the breadwinners in 40 percent of households.

Women should lean in more.

Women earn 81 percent of what men do.

Empowering yourself doesn't have to mean rejecting motherhood or eliminating the nurturing or feminine aspects of who you are.

Having kids is a career-killer for women in academia.

Companies with at least one woman on the board of directors are more successful financially.

The most important factor for success for women is their choice of mate.

A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.

Women should marry in college, where they have the biggest, best pool of men to choose from.

Women should stay home and raise the children they choose to have.

Women should have careers outside the home in order to be role models for their kids.

Women should attend field trips, make organic sugar-free great-tasting locally sourced cookies for the bake sale, go through the kids' backpacks daily, sign the homework (after helping with the math and going on Pinterest to find a way to craft the coolest science project), engage in an hour of imaginative play daily with their kids, then after the kids go to bed, they should log back on and catch up on the work they missed when they left early to do all the above.

Women should never leave work early and should avoid talking about their families in the office.

Women should never roll their eyes or wear sweat pants, lest they inadvertently emasculate their men.

Older women are indignant that millennial women largely disown the label of feminist.

Millennial women are realizing that the idea of having it all is bunk, whether all at once or serially, and so are mid-career women in positions of power.

Gen X women are too tired to debate, what with simultaneously caring for their kids and for their aging parents.

We recently mocked Miss Utah for not being able to articulate what all this says about our culture. But how can one young woman answer for all this? Our culture is all over the place when it comes to women.

For myself, I try to close my ears to media culture chatter and just do what I think is best. Then the question becomes, how do I raise my two daughters so they can be successful in the boardroom and happy at home? The three families featured in this month's Floridian have wildly varying parenting styles, and wildly different kids. But is that a direct correlation? And how does a parent know which style to choose?

Should I be a Tiger Mom or go continental, a la Bringing Up Bébé? Am I a helicopter type or more Free Range? I can eschew the double stroller and wear the babies, or I can ring up a nanny, pull on a suit and go back to work before the C-section stitches have completely dissolved.

The culture vultures have plenty to say about it all, of course. They tell me I'm killing my babies if I let a sip of Similac enter their delicate systems. They remind me that if I take time off to raise kids I'll be consigned to a life of poverty when I'm old. They're having a cow about pink Legos, and they're seeing red about the heroine of the movie Brave getting a princessy makeover.

But maybe Brave's fiery archer, Merida, just wants to look her best for the camera. At least she's out there. Self-conscious about their looks, many women shun the camera altogether, or insist on being the one behind it, with the result that our kids have few photos of their beloved moms.

We adults can moan about gender equity all we want, but that misses the point. Maybe those Lego people are onto something beyond cosmetic change. For example, the toy people are more lifelike because girls want to project themselves into the action but can't relate to those blockish, yellow-faced figures. Can't say I blame them.

At my house, girls wear sparkly shoes while playing with dinosaurs, and trucks and cars are often loaded with stuffed animals en route to … somewhere.

I don't know how to raise them to become directors of the board, or if I want to. I'll start by raising them to know themselves, and go from there.

Kate Brassfield, who as a child had tea parties with her stuffed animals and also put her own worms on the fishhooks, can be reached at kbrassfield@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8216.

I am not making this up

Here is a far from complete list of sources of mixed messages about women. But you really don't have to go further than Facebook or Twitter to see a lot of these cultural messages.

Women as breadwinners

Lean In

Lisa Jackson lecture

Women in the boardroom

Finding a mate in college

Millennial feminists

Emasculating your man

Tiger mom excerpt

Review of Bringing Up Baby

Lego Backlash

Brave makeover

Motherlode parenting blog

Opening Lines: Don't blame Miss Utah 07/02/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 3, 2013 2:52pm]

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