I have a list that I constantly add people with whom I’d like to have dinner; any of my now-dead grandparents, Madeleine Albright, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Marie Curie, Benazir Bhutto, Harriet Tubman, Corrie ten Boom, Jane Addams, Joan of Arc, Simone de Beauvoir, Zelda Fitzgerald, Pearl S. Buck, Eleanor of Aquitane, Sylvia Plath, Betty Friedan, Georgia O’Keeffe, Eva Peron, Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Louisa May Alcott, Cleopatra, Mary Wollstonecraft, Indira Gandhi, Audrey Hepburn, Maya Angelou, Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Gertrude Stein, all of the recent Supreme Court Justices who are women: Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayer, Elena Kagan….
It just occurred to me that outside of my grandfathers, this list is entirely made up of women. Not that I have anything against men, nothing like that, but I would rather have dinner with a brilliant, well-spoken, creative, passionate woman who I can learn from and bounce ideas around with, than with a (probably brilliant and well-spoken) man. I’m not quite sure why this is, I mean, I can probably think of a dozen men who have fascinating and brilliant ideas and lives that I would love to learn more about and from, but if I had a magic genie who could bring one person to me for two hours of dinner conversation, I’d rather that conversation be with a woman, a role model I can learn from and look up to without trying to translate their success and hurdles across a gender divide. I want to know what challenges were unique to them due to their gender, and I want to know how they managed to succeed despite living and working in a world that continues to discriminate against and even belittle powerful, smart, dedicated, and driven women who focus on something other than child-raising.
I should point out, that both of my grandmothers were focused on raising their children, and I love and adore them and would never criticize that choice. But, as it is about 98% likely that I will not spend my life raising children, I need some additional role models in other spheres.
Most of these women are public, they are political, they are leaders or artists—doers—who were not content with whatever status quo existed in their lives. They made things happen, spearheaded changes, and improved the lives of thousands. And I want more of that. I want to learn how to be better at that, at breaking free of a status quo and taking additional steps towards making this world we live in a better place, particularly for those who may not have all the advantages of the dominant population. (Is that politically correct enough? Dah!)
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be, and why? What would you talk about? What would you want to learn?