A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....
Macintosh Computers – The Great Equalizer August 4th
When I was growing up in the 40's and 50's women and girls in the US were second class citizens. We were kept in this state through the munificent use of cotton batting. We were frail creatures with fragile sensibilities who had to be protected. Girls did the cooking and cleaned the house. Our brothers cut the lawn in the summer and took out the garbage. We were raised to expect to marry and have a man provide for us for the rest of our lives. In return we would cook, clean, and bear children. We wore white shoes only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. We did not go out in public in pants. Our skirts were measured in high school to make sure they weren't "too short". Employers decreed what we could and could not wear to work. We were not expected to do well in math or science. With rare exceptions, we did not participate in team sports. We could take homemaking classes, but not shop. We could not have credit in our own name. It was common practice during job interviews for employers to ask if we were pregnant or planned to have children and reject us on that basis alone. We did not make the same salaries as men for the same jobs because "men have to support families." We could be secretaries or nurses, but not CEO's or doctors. We had to learn to type in case we needed to work until we got married. On the other hand, men rarely learned to type. In fact, my father worked in the typewriter business for 30 years, but he never learned to touch type, because he didn't have to. There were always women around to do it for him and the other men of his generation. We deferred to the male for all major decisions. If you weren't around then you can get a picture of what it was like by watching all the old sitcoms from that period. Mom stayed home, wearing dresses, pearls, and high heels all day. In the neighborhood where I grew up a woman's prestige was based on how early in the day she got her laundry on the line. At this point you may be asking, "what does this have to do with Macs?" I'm getting there.
The fight to achieve equality started when I was a young woman and occurred on several different levels. Women were standing up, demanding equality, and achieving it even while parts of society told them they were leading the country to rack and ruin. (Come to think of it, some bastions of those old rules of society - like most white, male, Southern Baptists - still feel that way.) Many of the things those early pioneers achieved are taken for granted now by younger people, including my children. These young people won't accept inequality. However, even while I rejoice in all that has been achieved, I see in myself and others my age, an ongoing problem of being caught between the rock and a hard place. This is particularly true for those of us born between the two world wars; i.e., prior to the baby boom. Sometimes that old programming of who and what a woman is supposed to be, still lingers. Not only that, there is an absence of training that many of us have been forced to either overcome or get around. By that I mean math and science, management skills, self-determination, and team dynamics. If one has spent their whole life engaged in solitary past times (pajama parties don't count), learning to get their way by 1) crying, 2) pouting, 3) deviousness, or 4) playing on their looks; the concept of contributing to, and benefiting from a team effort, is about as foreign as it gets. Nevertheless, to succeed in most business settings this is a major requirement. At this point you may be asking again, " but, what does this have to do with Macs?" I really am getting there.
Back to that rock and hard place I mentioned. Many American women in my generation have struggled between the two roles of what we were taught was right and what we wanted out of life. Some of us were, in fact, pioneers even when we didn't start out to be. Many of us had to work because the happy-ever-after that was promised never came true or didn't last. Many of us had to single handedly support children for that same reason. Many of us fought to make a decent living for those same children. Some of us shot ourselves in the foot because we didn't have some of those skills I mentioned above. Primarily we didn't have self-determination. We still believed much of what we had been taught. We didn't think we could be CEOs or doctors. Some of us, like me, woke up one day to discover that because of the way we did our jobs and/or our knowledge, others wanted us to be CEOs. And so, I found myself to be superintendent of a large institution for the mentally retarded, working in a western state where the chief of security rode a horse to work and hunted grizzly bears with a bow and arrow on his vacation. Needless to say, neither he nor the other 400 employees had ever worked for a woman – but there I was and the well being of 250 handicapped persons was dependent on how well I did my job. So you are asking again, "but WHAT does this have to do with Mac?"
What I have found during my long career is that Macs have been an equalizer. I could use a Mac without knowing much about math, science, technology, or computers. It didn't, and, still doesn't matter, a hill of beans whether or not I understand how they work, I can still make them work. They have allowed me to compete on an equal level with everyone else and at times, allowed me to excel. As a woman I have skills that are a great advantage when using any computer. For one thing I am patient. For another, I am not afraid to be creative. And, let's not forget the 100-wpm I can type because of all those years as a secretary (on manual typewriters)! With a Mac I have designed systems that helped reorganize large institutions. I have created visual supports for speeches that helped me present a sophisticated and professional image (such as the time two busloads of state legislators showed up unannounced for a tour and presentation). I have used Macs to gather and present data that solidified efforts to debar an unscrupulous provider from a Medicaid funded program that not only protected the individuals receiving services from that provider, but sent a clear message to the rest of the providers that we could and would do what was necessary. I used Macs to get a Master's degree with a 4.0 GPA. I have used Macs to learn how to do statistical analysis that meets industry standards. I have used Macs to communicate routinely with my grandchildren who live on the other side of the state (in Texas, that is a really long way.) I have used Macs to institute internal systems that help to create a positive working environment for a large staff. I have used Macs to find old friends.
Yes, I know that all of these things can be done on any computer and are not limited to Macs. However, my point is that I couldn't do all of these things on any computer. I didn't know how to make those other computers do what I needed to do. In some cases, the only software available to do what I needed to do was on the Mac. The Mac became a tool that supported my needs and goals rather than requiring me to conform to its limited parameters. For instance, in the middle of a court case, when a judge asks for a comparison of A to F in addition to the A to B and A to C that I have already prepared; I can get the new report data to run, have it graph, and show the criteria used. I don't have to ask for help, call information services, or wait days to respond to the courts request. This can add a great deal of credibility to our case.
My Mac has given me skills, confidence, and authority. These are blessings I wish for every woman and man of my generation.
If you have any tips, hints, or thoughts on these topics, make sure you write me so that I can share your thoughts with other readers.
Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping. To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.
Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color,
covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.
Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.