It’s 2010 and sexism isn’t dead, no matter what you’ve read.
Women are on the verge of making up the majority of workforce, but will still earn less. Female voters are being wooed, but recent female candidates have either been portrayed as eye candy or just plain crazy. With everything that’s going on, it seems like it’s not easy being a woman.
That’s why Abigail Goldberg and Tienya B. Smith have established a sisterhood in the Long Island City and Sunnyside, Queens communities. There isn’t any pants swapping, instead this group, called the Strong Women’s Group, plans to have monthly gatherings where women from these two communities can come together to talk about women’s issues.
After the group’s first official meeting at the Long Island City Library, the two ladies sat down with me to talk about strength, the dreaded double standard and why we need more Mary Tyler Moores on TV.
You use the word “strong” in the name of this group. What to you symbolizes a strong woman?
Tienya B. Smith: A woman that’s taking care of herself, that’s taking a stand in her own life.
Who to you is an example of a strong woman?
Abigail Goldberg: The other day we were talking about Vanessa Williams. She overcame adversity and she just continues to be composed and continues to know herself and embrace herself and her fame.
You brought up adversity; do you think that is a necessary component of strength?
Tienya: Most definitely. With everything that’s going on in the economy you definitely have to step up and be a strong person.
In 2010, women are being told they can do everything, but then there’s always that question of can the woman really handle it. Why do you think there is that double standard?
Tienya: The woman is looked upon as being the docile nurturer. When she steps out of that role she gets the B-label. I think that it’s time to say that we can be more than that. That’s why I like Hillary Clinton and what she’s doing. She’s stepping out of that role and not allowing them to limit her. Remember, when she was in a press conference and they kept referring to her husband and she said, “No, I’m the Clinton here.” She’s challenging that every day. I think that’s what women need to do to break that stereotype.
As a kid was there someone who inspired you to be a strong woman?
Tienya: Interestingly, it was my father. When my parents separated I got to live with my father and he said, “You know you really have to learn how to do these things on your own.” He showed me how to change the oil in my car and the tire. I had a mouse in my apartment in college and he said, “You have to take care of that. It’s not fair for you to put that responsibility on your boyfriend.” And he said, “How would you feel if you went over to his apartment and he showed you a sink full of dishes?” That made me think of things differently.
Abigail: Probably, Mary Tyler Moore because she wasn’t the wife of. She wasn’t the daughter of. She wasn’t the mother of. She had her own job, her own career and the sitcom revolved around the workplace. She had her weaknesses and she had her strengths. Certainly that’s not a role model I saw on other TV shows so it influenced me a lot.
Do you think there are any strong female characters on TV now?
Abigail: I think we have more fantasy figures like Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think women are more comfortable seeing strong women in fantasy roles, then every day real roles.
Tienya: [Every day women] don’t fit in everyday reality. We have Hilary Clinton, but when she steps out of the box, we throw eggs at her.
What is the overall goal for the Strong Women’s Group?
Abigail: Sharing and finding solutions. Even if the feeling is sadness, if at the end of the workshop there’s a bit more feeling of comfort, than the workshop was a success.