This is a scene from the BBC movie North and South (I read the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell this semester and loved it!) These were the days when a woman was rarely associated with property or career the way women are known today. The most a woman could hope for was the satisfaction of a good reputation. Her reputation, in fact, was under constant scrutiny. The slightest indiscretion could cost her the chance at a profitable marriage. A moral or social misstep and the Miss could be rejected by all good society.
I’m so glad times have changed!
Or have they? It seems to me that our reputation is still the primary signifier for a woman. The ironic thing is that we are constantly trying to further our educations or move up in our careers because we can, and all the time, it is still our reputation that defines us. Doctor, senator, athlete, artist, what we do is not nearly as important as how we do it and with what kind of attitude.
Maybe a die-hard feminist might argue that we’ve accomplished nothing as a gender if we haven’t managed to transcend this definition, but I think it simply reinforces the truth that Paul believed when he wrote, and I paraphrase: “I can have it all, do it all, and be it all, but if I don’t have it, do it, and be it with love — I’m nothing.”
This stuff has me thinking. What is my signifying character trait? How do people describe me to their friends? What will my daughters say about me when I’m old? What is the reputation that defines me?