By Mara Reifman
I am what I do – is this who I am?
Am I or am I not defined by what I do?
It took me a while to decide what to write about in this week’s blog.
Myself? Nah, I already do that in my personal blogs. Life? Hum … boring, doesn’t everybody do that? Other issues occurred to me but they would have already been discussed here, some to exhaustion.
An issue that talks to my heart came to me, derived from a lovely conversation over dinner with a former lecturer of mine whom I hold in very high esteem, my chosen thesis examiner, one of my education gurus.
Tell me what you do and I will tell you who you are.
Are you defined by what you do? ‘Doing’ needs to be defined here: ‘doing’ as in ‘work’; ‘my behaviour’ as in my actions; my status; my worldly possessions; men and women and their doings.
I am, in a way, what I do. Not my job, that is only a title. My work is what is important for me; it is, to a certain extent, how I define myself. “Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Mara and I’m a teacher.” I love what I do. I am passionate about it to the point of contaminating other people – or alienating
them. Engaging is the word most students use when evaluating me and my classes. But is this what and who I am?
Am I not the person who smiles as they greet passing colleagues or a neighbour or a friend? Is it my kindness to others or the fact that I am moody or rude that defines me? Is it my behaviour and my values?
Does my status in society define who I am? Am I what I have, the house I live in, the car I drive?
Am I seen by others as through my origins, who my parents were, my grandparents, the country I was born in, the family environment where I was brought up? What influence does my doctor mother and engineer father have in the way people see me?
And my marital status – single, divorced, married, re-married, de-facto? Is that how you see me? She is popular. Or. She is on the shelf. Or. She missed the boat. How do you see me?
Man and woman. Men and women. Is a man defined by what he does while a woman is defined by the children she has or has not or will not have? If one looks at men’s traditional roles in only 50 years ago, it would be concluded that man’s pride was derived from work in which they defined themselves. The sole breadwinners of the family at the time, men have had a long journey of trying to get away from the model of “protector, procreator and provider” as described by Friedman and Greenhaus (2000).
Have we, feminists, found ourselves yet, in this search for liberation and individuality? Or are we, instead of being an equal contributor to life’s earnings and children rearing, a simple slave of double shift work having to accumulate work responsibilities with homework and laundry and the daily slaving in the kitchen? All that while men are lost, forever trying to find out what their roles are now – neither here nor there, lost amongst our feminine and feminist quests.
Having said all that, religion, last but not least, comes to mind. Am I Jewish religious, ultra orthodox, secular, non-observant? How do the other layers who make me define who I am in the face of my religion? And how does my religion shape the other layers of my ‘panim’?
I do not have the answer. I am still searching – who am I, who are you?
Deberg, B (1990), Ungodly Women, http://atheism.about.com/b/2006/06/05/men-defined-as-not-women-book-notes-ungodly-women.htm , Mercer University Press, accessed 24-10-08.
Kansas, L, (2008), ‘Men’ and ‘Mankind’ apparently not being defined by being Ambulatory Wombs,
Friedman, S and Greenhaus, J, (2000) What Happens When Business Professionals Confront Life Choices, Oxford University Press, US,
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=fevFQmjzVAAC&pg=PA12&lpg=PA12&dq=men+defined+by+work&source=web&ots=6Nf1BrMu3M&sig=7icJ7jNFEu_C74KxYtVXUX5xdgA&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=2&ct=result#PPA12,M1, accessed on 24-10-08.