Our Town: Indomitable American women of Williston Park

Years ago, not too many actually, Williston Park was homogeneous, a white bread community. Not any more. We are now a multicultural melting pot. And this brings many riches to our town. Our storekeepers are multi ethnic as are our townsfolk. It is therefore time to embark on a series about the women of Williston Park who come to this town from all over the world.  

The Statue of Liberty has a poem on its base written by Emma Lazarus which states “bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” This invitation was heard by the women of the world. 

Let’s begin this week with the American woman and in the weeks to come we will try to describe in turn the Hispanic woman, the Asian woman, the Italian and the Irish woman. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful book “Eat, Pray, Love,” she describes a dinner conversation she has with some friends in Rome. One says to her that all cities can be described in a single word. The word for Rome is sex and the word for Naples is fight. They ask her what is the word for New York City and she quickly says achieve. 

She then tries to describe herself in one word and quickly rejects the words marriage, family or depression and finally settles upon the word seek. And this is what we will do in our series. We will try to seek out and distill our impressions of each group of women in a single word. Now let’s start with these American women of Williston Park.

In the 1950s we had Audrey Hepburn who could easily enough be described as the ultimate in demur. Then came the feminist movement of the 1960s, NOW and the ERA Amendment and a few years later we have Madonna, all power and sexuality. Easy to see that things have changed.

Virginia Woolf wrote the definitive text on feminism with her classic essay, “A Room of One’s Own” back in 1929. She stated that “a woman must have money and a room of her own is she is to write fiction.” Women need financial freedom if they were to escape the kitchen. 

This most certainly has occurred. Women are now educated and in careers and most are juggling the roles of wife, mother and professional. I found three such women right here in Williston Park and brought them over to my office to chat about the life of the typical American woman.

My accountant is a woman. And so is my dentist. I learned long ago that women make really good professionals. When I wrote my dissertation at Stony Brook I had three men and two women on my committee. The women were the ones who were most helpful and most conscientious. I managed to persuade Bari Cenname, my accountant, to be interviewed as well as Katherine Fascilla, my dentist, and Laurie Johnson an advertising consultant I know. These are three prototypical American females. They are all professionals with thriving careers and families to tend to. They all care about fitness and try to find time for themselves as well as their clients and families. 

It was interesting to hear that they all felt very little connection to the women’s movement but clearly were a product of it. They had educational opportunities that they used and at the same time kept themselves on the family track as well. It came up that the younger women of today have postponed having families until well in their thirties suggesting to me that new female millennials may be more interested in money and fun then in family and marriage.

We discussed the new book “Wonder Women; Sex, Power and the Quest for Perfection” by the Debora Spar president of Barnard College. The book suggests that it’s overwhelming to try to be great as a professional, mother, wife and female. There is simply not enough time or energy to do it all perfectly. They all concurred with this conclusion, admitting that having to respond to so many messages all at once is more than daunting. 

In the classic text, “In a Different Voice” Nancy Chodorow and Carol Gilligan suggested women are more connected and prone to attachment then are men. If this is true it puts women in the untenable position to have to worry about their families and their kids, husband, clients and patients. This leads to exhaustion and overwork. But you would not guess this by looking at these three American women. They looked fresh and ready.

And returning to Elizabeth Gilbert’s question of finding a single word to describe themselves, they came up with diverse, successful or balanced. Pretty good but I decided that the best word to describe these three was ‘indomitable.” These were three unflinching, undefeatable and invincible women. Of course the next step will be a female in the White House. And the word for that is inevitable. 

Until then we will still have Lady Liberty with her torch standing on the shores of New York City beckoning to America many able females looking for education and equal opportunity. Next week we will be talking to Williston Park’s Hispanic women. And let’s see what word we come up with for them.

About the author

Dr Tom Ferraro

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